The Center for United States-China Arts Exchange
In the early decades of this century, Western art forms had a major impact on the development of the arts in China. Soviet Russia became the principal outside influence on Chinese art, however, after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. During the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966, there emerged a regimented artistic style designed to conform to a radical ideology. But a liberalizing trend that began in 1977 has since brought a renewed interest in Western artistic achievements. At the Fourth National Congress of Writers and Artists in Beijing last October, Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese leaders voiced their support for freedom of artistic expression. Thus the coming decade should witness a major thrust in the arts in China, one similar to those we see science and higher education.
The Center for United States- China Arts Exchange was established in 1978 in anticipation of this resurgence of the arts in China. The programs of the Center are designed to stimulate public interest in the arts of both countries, initiate systematic exchanges between them, and coordinate individual projects. The Center believes that a partnership between the United States and China during this exciting period is a natural one that will reap benefits for both countries and contribute to the cultural advancement of the world.
Chou Wen-chung, Director
Friendly gestures and modest proposals
An unofficial arts exchange between the United States and the People’s Republic of China began on November 12, 1977 at the Central Institute of Music in Beijing. There, following the lecture on the state of the arts in the United States, Professor Chou Wen-chung, Vice Dean of Columbia University’s School of the Arts, presented the audience with records, musical scores, books and other publications donated by various arts institutions in New York. At the same time, Professor Chou proposed an arts exchange program between the two countries, a possibility he had discussed with Chinese officials during a 1972 visit to China. The audience, which included important figures in the Chinese arts world, received both the gifts and the proposal with overwhelming enthusiasm and presented Professor Chou with a selection of Chinese arts publications and several additional proposals.
Since in 1977 the United States and China had not resumed diplomatic relations, direct negotiation with the Chinese government was impossible. With the support of Huang Zhen, Minister of Culture, Professor Chou sent a refined version of his proposal to the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. On July 18, 1978 Wang Bingnan, Chairman of the Association, signed a letter agreeing to a people-to-people arts exchange program to begin before normalization of diplomatic relations.
Thus on October 1, 1978 the Center for United States-China Arts Exchange was established at Columbia University with support grants from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Ford Foundation and a research grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.
Form and Function
Although it operates under the administration of Columbia’s School of the Arts and receives contributions of office space and general support from the University, the Center is a national agency for arts exchange programs between the United States and China. Since the two nations renewed diplomatic ties on January 1, 1979, the Center has arranged its programs directly through the Chinese Ministry of Culture and, when necessary, other governmental agencies.
The Center’s programs of exchange involve specialists, students, materials, events and exhibitions, and special projects, and encompass music, drama, dance, the visual arts, and arts education. To carry out these programs, the Center maintains close contacts with artists and major arts institutions in China and has similarly broad contacts with artists, teachers, educational administrators, professional organizations, and trade associations in the United States.
As an information clearinghouse, the Center provides American organizations, the Chinese Ministry of Culture, and Chinese arts institutions with the information they need to plan exchanges. To take full advantage of the exchange of materials and specialists, the Center organizes conferences, research seminars, and public lectures in conjunction with the relevant departments at Columbia and scholars from other institutions. The Center also consults major American publishing companies. record companies, and performing and visual arts organizations in an effort to shape programs relevant to their needs.
The Exchange of Specialists
The Center arranges short- and long-term exchanges of artists, scholars, teachers, technicians, managers, and administrators. Americans visiting China on short-term exchanges (three months or less) offer lectures. demonstrations, and master classes. In addition, they may perform, arrange exhibitions, and carry out research. Short-term exchanges also include “exposure tours” on which specialists visit China’s major arts institutions and receive a general introduction to the arts in China. The Center sponsored two such tours in 1979: A group of film specialists toured China in February, and in March a delegation representing several disciplines made a professional visit.
The first American to visit China in 1980 on a Center-sponsored, short term exchange was Ben Stevenson, artistic director of the Houston Ballet. Mr. Stevenson spent the month of March teaching at the Central Institute of Dance in Beijing. Through the Center, the Ministry of Culture has extended invitations to Beverly Sills and Leonard Bernstein to make concert tours in China.
Short-term visitors to the United States from China will include small delegations and individual artists and scholars on fact-finding tours. In December 1979 Tan Shuzhen, deputy director of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, arrived in New York for two months of seminars, visits to major music schools, and meetings with musicians and instrument makers. In late March, Cao Yu, China’s foremost playwright, arrived for a five-week stay. A delegation of Chinese music educators will arrive in April to attend the annual convention of the Music Educators National Conference in Miami and visit major conservatories and music schools around the country.
Americans visiting China on long-term exchanges (one or more semesters) will teach, conduct joint research, or serve as visiting professors or scholars at Chinese arts institutions. Dr. Marjory Bong-ray Liu, associate professor of music at Arizona State University, is spending a year at the Central Institute of Music in Beijing lecturing, collecting research materials in music and theater for the Center’s archives, and doing research on Kunqu Opera, her area of specialization. At the Central Institute of Fine Arts, also in Beijing, Dr. Cornelius Chang, special assistant to the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, is helping to develop a program in art history research. The Chinese government has invited David Gilbert, music director and conductor of the Greenwich Philharmonia who has’ also con-ducted the New York Philharmonic thirteen times in the past few years, to spend six months as guest conductor of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing. Accompanying Mr. Gilbert will be an American violinist who will serve as the orchestra’s co-concert-master. The Central Institute of Music has also asked the Center to send several instrumental artist-teachers in 1980.
The Center is now working out plans to accommodate long-term visitors from China through extended residencies at universities and other arts institutions. These visitors will conduct research, seminars, and studio work; teach joint courses with American faculty members; and give lectures and performances.
Tan Shuzhen, deputy director of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, violinist, and maker of stringed instruments, came to New York in December 1979. Accompanied by his wife, Zuo Shaofen, also a violin maker, Tan spent two months meeting his American counterparts and attending classes and performances. At Columbia he led two private seminars, one for instrument makers and one for string musicians. Another seminar. “Music and Music Education in China.” was open to students of all music schools in New York. In February and March. Mr. and Mrs. Tan traveled to several other cities and visited the music departments of Yale. the University of Missouri, the University of Buffalo, Kent State. Oberlin College, and the Eastman School of Music. Tan Shuzhen. shown above at a welcoming reception with Dean Schuyler Chapin of Columbia’s School of the Arts and Ben Dunham, executive director of Chamber Music America. will join the Music Educators Delegation when it arrives from China in April.
Cao Yu, China’s foremost playwright, arrived, in the United States in late March for a five-week visit sponsored by the Center in conjunction with the Committee on Scholarly Communications with the People’s Republic of China. During his stay in New York, Cao will conduct seminars on Chinese theatre and meet with American theatre professionals. On March 25 Columbia’s Center for Theatre Studies opened the production of “Peking Man,” Cao’s 1940 play dealing with the breakdown of a traditional Chinese family in the 192Os. Two days later, also at Columbia, the playwright presented a joint lecture with Arthur Miller on contemporary Chinese theatre. In addition, Cao brought with him a photo exhibit on Chinese theatre that will be shown in New York at the Asia House Gallery from March 24-April 11. In April, he will embark on a three-week tour of the United States that will take him to the campuses of Harvard, Yale, the University of Michigan, Indiana University, the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Washington.
The Exchange of Materials
In February and March 1979, delegations from the Center delivered over $50,000 worth of books, records, musical scores, slides, musical instruments, and video equipment to several Chinese arts institutions. All of the materials were donated by individuals, organizations, and manufacturers.
Such materials provide an excellent introduction to American achievements in the arts while filling an urgent need in China, a need resulting from years of isolation from Western technological and cultural developments. Some of the records brought by the delegations were used immediately to present a recorded concert of contemporary American music. Other records and some of the scores served as the basis for discussions at the National Conference· of the Chinese Musicians Association in Chengdu last year. In addition, the scores gave many Chinese musicians their first opportunity to perform contemporary American music.
Among the material coming from China to the Center are recent publications and recordings as well as research and reference materials to be added to the Center’s archives. China’s three major music research institutes -the Central National Music Research Institute and the research departments of the Central and Shanghai institutes of music have agreed to provide the Center with duplicates of their research holdings. Representatives of the Center are working to make similar arrangements with other institutions.
The Exchange of Students
The Center has prepared a report for the Chinese Ministry of Culture on the major music and visual arts schools in the United States as background material for arranging student exchanges. The Center has also been working to secure admissions and scholarships for Chinese students to American schools and arts institutions.
The first Chinese students to visit the United States under the Center’s auspices were Li Cunxin and Zhang Weiqiang, two eighteen-year-old dancers, who spent the summer of 1979 as scholarship students at the Houston Ballet Academy. The two young dancers had been chosen for the scholarships that spring by Ben Stevenson, artistic director of the Houston Ballet, during a visit to the Central Institute of Dance in Beijing on a Center-sponsored tour. At the end of the summer, the dancers returned to China with a pas de deux choreographed for them by Stevenson. In October Li Cunxin was back in Houston to begin a one year apprenticeship with the company.
At present there are few opportunities for American students to pursue the arts in China, but the Center is seeking means of placement and funding.
Performances and Exhibitions
The Center’s main purpose is to foster exchanges of an educational or professional nature. Although it does not generally initiate or implement commercial events or exhibitions, the Center may depart from this policy and work with other exchange agencies when its broad contacts with and knowledge of Chinese arts organizations are needed. The Center may also assist with a commercial event if it is on a small scale and is undertaken in the context of a professional or educational exchange program or will pave the way for such a program.
The Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries had invited Isaac Stern to China before normalization. The visit did not take place, however, until June 1979 when Stern gave recitals with David Golub and master classes in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian. In Beijing, Stern appeared with the Central Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert that was televised live throughout China.
The Center assisted the Harmony Film Group and the Hopewell Foundation, a nonprofit organization, in obtaining approval from the Chinese government to film Stern’s visit. The film includes concerts, master classes, and interviews that Stern conducted with Chinese musicians as well as a broad overview of musical life in China. Profits derived from this film will be divided between Carnegie Hall and a fund to enable Chinese musicians, teachers, and students to study in the United States.
The Center promotes collaborations between American and Chinese organizations working in the areas of film, video, and the visual and performing arts. Assistance with profitmaking ventures is restricted to those that stimulate and contribute to arts exchange programs. So far, the Center has contributed to the formulation of a number of proposals and helped present them to the Chinese Ministry of Culture on behalf of museums, film and television producers, and artist management agencies. The Center also assists in negotiating and managing tours and productions.
Archives and Research Programs
The Chinese Ministry of Culture is making plans to have Chinese arts institutions send materials to the Center on a regular basis. The Center will maintain cumulative archives of materials received from China and will make reproductions available to other institutions upon request. The resulting archives will eventually serve as a central pool of resource material otherwise unavailable outside of China.
Recognizing the Center’s potential as the ideal agency for coordinated research projects and the need for serious study of the arts of contemporary China, the Henry Luce Foundation granted funds for a pilot program of coordinated research and translation projects. Through this program the Center is carrying out a limited number of cooperative projects with Chinese specialists.
The Music Education Delegation
On April 5 the Center will welcome its first delegation from China, a group of music educators. Led by Lin Mohan, Vice Minister of Culture, and Wang Zicheng, Chief of the Education Department of the Ministry of Culture, the delegation will include Zhao Feng, director of the Central Institute of Music and others. After attending the annual convention of the Music Educators National Conference, the Chinese delegates will visit major music schools and organizations throughout the country. While in New York they will be hosted by the Carnegie Hall Corporation and briefed on arts education in the United States by The Arts, Education, and Americans, Inc. They will also visit with government officials in Washington and attend a two-day seminar organized by the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.
The Center launched its exchange program by sending delegations to China in February and March 1979. The February delegation of twenty film specialists was led by Schuyler Chapin, Dean of the School of the Arts of Columbia University. The group toured film studios and visited arts institutions in Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The members of the delegation were:
- Tom Ackerman
- Jayne Meadows Allen
- Stephen V. Allen
- Rosalind D. Bonerz
- Schuyler Chapin
- Chou Wen-chung
- James Scott Cranna
- James Devaney
- Susan Devaney
- Cheryl Downey
- Barbara P. Kinoy
- Ernest Kinoy
- Jeannie Meyers
- Mark Peterson
- Edward Schuman
- Lila Everett Shanley
- Manya Starr
- Michael Welch
- Irvin S . Yeaworth
- Art Zich
The thirty-four member March delegation included representatives from all the arts and was led by Martin E. Segal, former Chairman of the Commission for Cultural Affairs of the City of New York. The group spent fifteen days in China, participating in professional activities in Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, and Shanghai. They visited the major arts institutions in these cities, attended performances, and gave lectures and master classes. The members were:
- David Bailey
- Michael Bennett
- Patton Campbell
- Cornelius Chang
- Yi-an Chang
- Chou Wen-chung
- Chandler Cowles
- Benjamin Dunham
- Ella Foshay
- Beate Gordon
- John Holmstrom
- Bernard B. Jacobs
- Betty Jacobs
- Josephine Levitt
- Sol Levitt
- Carol Luiken
- Leonard Marcus
- James Mason
- Bill Oakes
- Michael Rothfeld
- Allon Schoener
- Mary Schoener
- Martin E. Segal
- Edith Segal
- Philip Smith
- Phyllis Smith
- Anna Sokolow
- Ben Stevenson
- Louise Svendsen
- Sze Yi-kwei
- Tsai Wen-ying
- Vladimir Ussachevsky
- Michelle Vosper
- Robin Wagner
Both delegations brought with them gifts of books, records. film and equipment, and musical scores donated by the members themselves and by American museums. record companies, publishers, and other organizations.
The Center would like to extend special thanks to the National Committee on United States-China Relations for assistance in making possible Chou Wen-chung’s 1977 trip to China and for their continuing encouragement and advice.
The Center also expresses its gratitude to Mrs. Chang Hsin-hai for her help in making preliminary contacts in 1972 and to the following people for their assistance in 1977: Arthur H . Rosen, Russell A. Phillips, Jr., John Bresnan, Porter McKeever, Xie Qimei, Ma Jiajun, and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs.
The Center wishes to express appreciation for gifts and grants received from the following organizations:
- The Ford Foundation
- The Rockefeller Brothers Fund
- The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.
- The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation
- The Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation
- The Hopewell Foundation
- Exxon Corporation
The Center wishes to thank the following organizations and individuals for their contributions to the Center’s exchange programs:
- The Arts, Education and Americans, Inc.
- The Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies
- The Carnegie Hall Corporation
- C.F. Peters Corporation
- Columbia Records
- The First National Bank of Chicago
- G. Schirmer, Inc.
- Music Educators National Conference
- Leonard Bernstein
- Walter Scheuer
- Norval Welch
- Mr. and Mrs. George D. O’Neill
For their gifts to arts institutions in China we thank:
- The American Museum of Natural History
- The Brooklyn Museum
- Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The Metropolitan Opera
- The Museum of the American Indian
- The New York City Opera Guild
- The Performing Arts Program of the Asia Society
- Amberson Enterprises, Inc.
- The Shubert Organization
- The Smithsonian Institution
- The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
- The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
- The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
- The American Society for Theatre Research
- Asian Music Publications, University of Washington
- Broadcast Music, Inc.
- CBS Records
- Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center
- Composer’s Recordings, Inc.
- Danskin, Inc.
- The Eastman School of Music
- European Music Distributors
- High Fidelity Magazine
- Institute of American Studies, Brooklyn College
- King’s Crown Music Press
- Nonesuch Records
- Theatre Communications Group
- Theatre Crafts Magazine
- Translation Center, Columbia University
- Mrs. Jane Sherman Lehac
- Jimmy Owens
- Mrs. Sascha Roden
- Mrs. Louise Varese
For generous services provided:
- The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
- Japan Air Lines
- The New York Philharmonic
- Northwest Orient Airlines
- Chou Wen-Chung, Director
- Michelle Vosper, Program Coordinator
- Jocelyn Charles, Administrative Assistant
The Center for US-China Arts Exchange