In April of 1981, the Center sponsored a delegation of distinguished artists to China at the invitation of the newly revived Federation of Literary and Art Circles (Wen Lian). Founded in 1949, the Federation coordinated and supervised all professional activities in the arts for fifteen years, making it the most active cultural organization in China. After ceasing to function during the Cultural Revolution, the Federation resumed activities in 1980 and named the Center its official counterpart in the United States.


  • Cornell Capa, photographer; director of the International Center of Photography
  • Chou Wen-chung, composer and Director of the Center for U.S.-China Arts Exchange
  • Ming Cho Lee, set designer; School of Drama, Yale University
  • Alwin Nikolais, choreographer; Alwin Nikolais Dance Company
  • George Segal, sculptor
  • Peter Seitel, folklorist, Smithsonian Institution Folklife Department
  • Susan Sontag, writer and critic
  • Robert M. Young, filmmaker
  • Michelle Vosper, Program Coordinator, Center for U.S.-China Arts Exchange

The delegation spent two weeks in China visiting Beijing, Luoyang, Xi’an, Hangzhou and Shanghai giving lectures and demonstrations and meeting with artists in their various fields.  They attended a banquet at the Great Hall of the People hosted by Zhou Yang, Chairman of the Federation, together with luminaries in the arts including poet Ai Qing, playwright Cao Yu, film critic Xia Yan and writer Ding Ling. Filmmaker Robert Young showed his documentary about undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Alambrista, to audiences at the film academies. The members split up into fields and enjoyed eight different programs. Susan Sontag visited esteemed writer Ding Ling in her home; Alwin Nikolais gave classes at the Beijing Dance Academy; folklorist Peter Seitel gave a lecture on his work at the Smithsonian to an audience of scholars and practitioners in the field of “quyi” which includes folk music, musical story-telling, stand-up comedy and acrobatics.

Follow up

Six months after the delegates returned to the U.S., they gathered together at a forum organized by Cornell Capa at the International Center of Photography to exchange their impressions of the China experience from the perspective of artists. Some of their comments were recorded in the Newsletter, Spring 1982 (Volume 3, No. 1).