Why Is This Grant From Doris Duke's Building Bridges Program So Important?

Last year, I looked at Doris Duke's Building Bridges program, which uses the arts to help build a greater understanding of modern Muslim societies. Over a year later, its work is as important as ever, and fortunately for all of us, the foundation remains committed to this important cause.

Don't get me wrong — I don't throw around feel-good terms like "important cause" lightly. The foundation's efforts here are a textbook example of philanthropic organizations filling in the gaps. Our tax dollars, as we'll soon see, can work to build mutual understanding with Muslim societies, but help is needed from other quarters.

Similarly, Hollywood and television haven't exactly stepped up to the plate. From what I can gather — and I admit, I do blissfully live in a kind of cultural vortex — I don't see many prime-time television programs beaming the lives of typical Muslim families into American living rooms.

Which brings us back to Doris Duke and news that it awarded a $300,000 grant to support the third season of Center Stage, a New England Foundation of the Arts (NEFA) program that builds performing arts ensembles from abroad to the U.S. to help build mutual understanding through cultural expression and people-to-people connections. This is the second round of support for the program from the foundation.

Four to six ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania, to be announced in summer 2015, will embark on month-long tours in the fall of 2016 to communities across the U.S. and will focus on engaging youth and fostering cultural awareness and appreciation. The first two seasons brought ensembles from Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, and Vietnam touring a total of 70 communities in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

Which brings us back to the role of we U.S. taxpayers. Center Stage is actually an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that's administered by NEFA in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations. Taken in total, the grant represents a neat and tidy confluence of taxpayer dollars, federal management, and nonprofit arts programming excellence all going to a tremendously important cause.

HBO? Warner Brothers? Fox? Any of you paying attention? It's your move.