State Dept Offers $80,000 To Send Circus Performers To Central Asia

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The U.S. Department of State plans to send circus experts, acrobats or clowns to schools in Turkmenistan as part of a cultural exchange program.

The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, is offering $45,000 to $80,000 to “experts in circus arts” for a Circus Arts Teaching Program in the Central Asian country during the coming academic year, according to a grant notice posted on

“Through this program, Turkmen students and faculty of the Circus Arts Department will have a chance to work and learn from American professionals in a series of master-classes,” the grant summary says.

The State Department asks experts in circus arts, specifically those in “aerial arts, acrobatic and ground arts, and clown/pantomime arts,” to submit proposals in the form of “circus arts concept papers.”

Any submission has to prove how its circus program would “showcase American values and counter anti-Americanism,” which is a key goal of the embassy’s mission.

Cultural exchange programs are valuable to the U.S. mission in Turkmenistan because “broadened access to information and educational opportunities boost human capacity across government and society at large,” the summary says.

The circus arts teaching program is not the first cultural exchange program for the embassy. The embassy “has successfully programmed a wide range of performances and workshops in a variety of American music/film/theatre genres in Turkmenistan,” according to the grant.

Just this summer, the State Department hosted a film festival at the embassy in Ashgabat, which featured a talk by Steven “Sandy” Smolan, the documentary TV director who worked on shows like “Ally McBeal,” “Dawson’s Creek,” and numerous others.

The embassy also facilitated a loan of Turkmen artifacts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for an exhibition called “Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs.” Other cultural exchange projects from 2016 include  the translation of American children’s books into the Turkmen language and classical music training for students in Turkmenistan.
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