16 Oct 2018 -
Asia Society
725 Park Ave, New York, NY

Panelists explored the role of the arts in building a more sustainable future and the potential for artists and cultural organizations to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with humanitarian, social development and environmental initiatives.

Featuring moderator Stephen Stapleton in conversation with artists Matthew Mazzotta, Rashad Salim, and Razan Alsarraf. With opening remarks from Boon Hui Tan, VP for for Global Arts and Cultural Programs; Marie Paul Roudil, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office; and Stephen Stapleton, artist and co-founder of Edge of Arabia.

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Speaker Biographies:

Matthew Mazzotta works at the intersection of art, activism, and urbanism, focusing on the power of the built environment to shape our relationships and experiences. His community specific public projects integrate new forms of civic participation and social engagement into the built environment and reveal how the spaces we travel through and spend our time living in have the potential to become distinct sites for intimate, radical, and meaningful exchanges. Stemming from this approach are experiences that involve people from a range of backgrounds working together to create new models of living that contribute to local culture beyond the economic realm. Mazzotta received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a Masters of Science from MIT, and is currently a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University.

Marie Paul Roudil is the Director of UNESCO Office in New York and Representative to the United Nations. Previously, she was the UNESCO Representative to the European Union in Brussels. Starting her career as a lawyer in profession, Ms Roudil joined UNESCO in 1990 contributing to the creation of the first joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. Possessing vast experience in promotion and protection of cultural heritage, she contributed to the adoption and implementation of UNESCO’s legal instruments. Ms Roudil has a deep knowledge of the SouthEast Europe, where she developed and implemented the culture strategy of the region following the conflicts in the 90s, also overseeing UNESCO Programme for Safeguarding of Venice.

Rashad Salim is an Iraqi-German expeditionary artist and designer with an interest in the history and development of culture and technology. Rashad is an interdisciplinary autodidact who has studied at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad and Saint Martin’s in London. In 1977-78, he took part in Thor Heyerdahl’s Tigris expedition, traveling on a reed boat from Iraq to East Africa. In 2015, he launched “Ark Re-imagined”, a project questioning what the Ark would look like if it was based on the ecology and craft traditions of Mesopotamia and built using materials and techniques during that period. In 2016, he began fieldwork in Iraq and established Safina Projects CIC to deliver the project and its program of boat constructions, river journeys, research, artworks, events, and capacity-building outcomes for Iraqi arts, crafts and cultural heritage. He currently resides in London.

Robert Skinner is Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships. In this role, he engages partners for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), manages the UN’s relationship with the UN Foundation, oversees the administration of the UN Democracy Fund, and directs the SDG Advocates and the SDG Strategy Hub. From November 2015 to July 2018, Skinner was the Director of the United Nations Information Center (UNIC) in Washington, DC. Prior, Skinner was Executive Director of the United Nations Foundation in New York City, and also served in the U.S. State Department.

Boon Hui Tan is Vice President for Global Arts & Cultural Programs and Director, Asia Society Museum, New York, where he leads the organization’s global arts and cultural activities, including overseeing the Asia Society Museum’s exhibition programs and the Asia Society Museum Collection. Prior, he was Assistant Chief Executive at the National Heritage Board in Singapore, overseeing exhibitions, programs, and outreach events across the Board’s museums, institutions, and divisions. As Director of the Singapore Art Museum from 2009 to 2013, he led the transformation of the museum into a contemporary art institution featuring the largest public collection of contemporary art focused on Southeast Asia.

Razan Al Sarraf is a Kuwaiti-born visual artist based in New York. Through painting she covers the social, religious and political climate of the Middle East. She recently graduated with honors from the School of Visual Arts in New York, with a bachelors degree in Fine Arts. Razan is a fellow under the Kuwait Culture office in DC, and is the recipient of the Ministry of Higher Education of Kuwait Merit Scholarship, SVA Alumni Society Scholarship & Award, as well as multiple Kuwait Culture Academic Merit awards. She has exhibited internationally, participating within solo and group shows in the US and Kuwait. Her recent project focused on curating the Young Arab Artists exhibition at ArtX, as part of the New York Arab Art and Education Initiative.

Featured Artists


The Arab Art & Education Initiative connects contemporary Arab culture with diverse audiences across the five boroughs of New York City. Delivered by a coalition of artists, foundations, and major institutions, the city-wide, year-long program aims to build greater understanding between the United States and the Arab world. Programming for the AAEI is guided by a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 global goals set forth by the UN and world leaders in 2015 to realize a better world by 2030.

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