Diplomatic reflections through art and culture

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Diplomatic reflections through art and culture


Lisa Vershbow, 53, wife of the American ambassador to Korea, Alexander Vershbow, has maintained two careers in harmony. Ms. Vershbow has worked as a ‘cultural diplomat’ by utilizing her profession as an accessory designer in countries where her husband’s career has taken them. Only three days after her arrival here in October, Ms. Vershbow participated in a group exhibition in Insadong, northern Seoul, and presented her artwork ― necklaces, earrings and brooches, which were made of gold, silver, aluminum, and plastic.
In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Dec. 19 at the embassy residence in Jungdong, central Seoul, Ms. Vershbow said that she hopes to help make a difference in the bilateral relations between South Korea and the United States through her cultural activities.
Ms. Vershbow also emphasized the importance of her assistance to her husband, saying, “My husband and I really consider part of his job here to be our partnership.”
Asked whether an ambassador’s wife with a professional career stood a better or worse chance in performing her role, she answered, “It’s a great way to reach out and meet people, and I consider myself very lucky that I have a career that is supportable and self-generated that I can do wherever I live.”
The top envoy and his wife met when they were 16 and 15 years old in a small town in Massachusetts. Ms. Vershbow studied fine arts and art history at Connecticut College, and began her career as an accessory designer in 1997. As a founding member of the Washington Guild of Goldsmiths, she served as the president from 1994 to 1996. She held exhibitions and taught classes in London, Brussels and most recently in Russia, where the couple stayed from 2001 to 2005. Ms. Vershbow plans to actively hold individual and group exhibitions in Korea. In particular, she wants to meet and talk with young Koreans through her work.
Ms. Vershbow recently installed a worktable and shelves along with her tools in a 16-square-meter-room in the embassy residence. She spends three to six hours a day in this “biggest workroom” that she has ever had.
Ms. Vershbow, who is enjoying getting to know Korea, appreciates the traditional beauty of the embassy residence, which was built in traditional Korean style, and has tried Korean food such as kimchi. She wants to travel around the country to see traditional architecture as she was fascinated by the beauty of Bulguksa Temple, which she visited for the Korea-United States summit during this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“In Moscow, I did a lot of work with amber which I have never worked with before. I don’t know what will happen in Korea, but I certainly hope to be influenced.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Vershbow plans to transform her residence into a gallery this spring. “I plan to exhibit 25 American contemporary industrial and fine arts pieces through the program, ‘Art in an Embassy,’ sponsored by the Department of State.”

by Park Hyun-young
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