The Center for US-China Arts Exchange is a not-for-profit organization affiliated with and headquartered at Columbia University in New York City. It was the first organization to focus on the crucial need to connect professional artists and cultural figures from both countries when the United States and China established diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979, following a hiatus of thirty years.
Established in 1979 by the distinguished composer Chou Wen-chung, then Professor of Music at Columbia, the Center was created with initial funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation to promote mutual interest in and understanding of the arts of the United States and China. It’s early projects featured exchanges of prominent figures from both countries including violinist Isaac Stern’s first visit to China and the production of his award-winning documentary film Mao to Mozart. Working in both directions, in 1980 the Center arranged for the eminent playwright Cao Yu to make a lecture tour of the U.S. where his visit also inspired two English-language productions of his plays performed by professional groups in his honor. Over the years countless ground-breaking projects were launched in all the fields of the arts, the impact of which continues until the present day.
The Center gradually evolved into an organization that geographically extended beyond its original scope and leaned increasingly toward projects that encompassed broader cultural significance. During the 1990’s the Center developed a multi-year, multi-faceted project in China’s Yunnan Province for the continuation and development of the arts of minority nationalities. A large-scale Leadership Conference on Conservancy and Development was held in 1999 and resulted in the writing of The Yunnan Initiative, a comprehensive policy statement which adopted five principles: Conservation, Inclusion, Education, Tourism and Collaboration.
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