During the 1980’s the Center initiated and administered a groundbreaking multi-year project in the field of arts education. The program was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund together with China’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education, and resulted in an unprecedented collaboration between two Ministry-level agencies. The impact on professionals and institutions in both countries was significant. A major outcome in China was the establishment of a cabinet-level State Sub-commission on Arts Education.

The Center’s professional partner in this endeavor was Project Zero, a research organization based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that conducts research related to learning, thinking and creativity in the arts and other disciplines.

The program was headed up by Project Zero’s Senior Director, Howard Gardner, who until 2019 was a Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Gardner is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, but has published more than thirty books on a wide array of topics including creativity, leadership and ethics.

The idea for this exchange was hatched in 1980 during the visit to the U.S. of the Center-sponsored “Music and Arts Delegation,” which was led by writer Lin Mohan, Vice Minister of Culture and Vice Chairman of the China Federation of Literary and Arts Circles.

Chronology of Arts Education Programs

April 1980: Music and Arts Education Delegation to the United States

This was a seminal delegation, the pre-cursor of the multi-year project between the United States and China, organized so as to compare and contrast approaches to arts education in both countries. In this first exchange, delegates traveled to the United States for a four-week tour of eight American cities. The many activities included the Music Educators National Conference held inMiami and a side-trip to the Wye Plantation in Maryland for a half-day conference organized and hosted by the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. The delegation met with arts educators, artists, and arts policymakers and was exposed to a wide spectrum of approaches to the field of arts education. The involvement of Lin Mohan, Vice Minister of Culture, and Wang Zicheng, director of the Arts Education Bureau of the Ministry of Culture, proved crucial to the development of the following stages of the exchange as they held extremely influential positions in formulating China’s arts and arts education policy.

  • Lin Mohan, Vice Minister of Culture and Vice Chairman, China Federation of Literary and Arts Circles
  • Tan Shuzhen, Deputy Director, Shanghai Conservatory of Music
  • Wang Zicheng, Chief, Bureau of Arts Education, Ministry of Culture
  • Zhao Feng, Director, Central Institute of Music (aka Central Conservatory of Music), Beijing
  • Zhou Ying, delegation secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Over the next few years, the program sponsored two high-level delegations and six research teams of scholars, arts education administrators and teaching professionals. The series of exchanges began with a conference in Beijing in 1982 and concluded with a final conference in the U.S. in 1988. This program was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

After the conference concluded, the Center continued to sponsor exchanges of teachers, some of which were funded by Mr. George O’Neill and Mrs. Abby Rockefeller O’Neill under the umbrella of the O’Neill Teachers Exchange Program started in 1988.

The American delegation was led by Howard Gardner and coordinated by Lonna B. Jones, U.S. Department of Education, arts coordinator and Director of Awards in Art Education at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The conference was sponsored in China by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education.

American Delegation:

  • Terry Baker, Basic Skills and the Arts, Community School District 3, New York City
  • James L. Byars, oboist and teacher, NYC Ballet Orchestra
  • Frederick Erickson, Professor of education, medicine and anthropology, Michigan State
  • Howard Gardner, delegation leader; research psychologist, Harvard University, Project Zero
  • Joseph P. Linscomb, Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Jon J. Murray, art curricula specialist, Mamaroneck High School, New York
  • Lloyd Nielsen, President, American Association of School Administrators
  • Ann Slavit, visual artist; administrator of Artists in the Schools, Boston

May 1983: David Rockefeller, Jr., Conducts Survey of Arts Education in China

David Rockefeller, Jr., Executive Committee Chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Mrs. Diana Rockefeller, spent three weeks in Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai and Guangzhou visiting schools and arts organizations on a visit organized by the Arts Education Bureau of the Ministry of Culture.

Fall 1984: Arts Education Delegation from China

Four-week visit to observe arts education in primary, secondary and tertiary settings in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Memphis, New Orleans, the ‘Twin Cities’ of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and San Francisco.

  • Wu Zuqiang, President, Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing
  • Wang Baihua, Deputy Director, Bureau of Arts Education, Ministry of Culture
  • Ji Junshi, Deputy Director, Dept. of Primary Education, Ministry of Education 
  • Lü Zhengwu, Foreign Affairs Dept., Bureau of Education, Ministry of Culture 

March 1985: Arts Education Delegation to China 

Over a three-week period the delegation traveled to seven cities—Guangzhou, Xiamen, Guilin, Liuzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Beijing where they observed the teaching of music and the visual arts.

  • Chou Wen-chung, Director, Center for U.S.-China Arts Exchange; Professor, School of the Arts, Columbia University
  • Howard Gardner, Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University; Director, Harvard Project Zero
  • Lonna B. Jones, Director of Awards in Arts Education, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Michelle Vosper, former Program Coordinator of the Center for U.S.-China Arts Exchange

Spring 1986: Music Education Research team to the U.S. 

Spent three months in the U.S. conducting research at schools and universities on music education at the pre-professional level. Newsletter, Summer 1987 (Volume 7)

  • Yu Runyang, Professor of Musicology and Deputy Director, Central Conservatory, Beijing
  • Ru Jie, music theory teacher and principal, Shanghai Conservatory of Music’s affiliated middle school

Spring 1986: Music Education Research team to China

Spent three months in China observing music classes and discussing techniques, philosophy, goals, and administration of music education with Chinese counterparts. Newsletter, Summer 1987 (Volume 7).

  • Bennett Reimer, Professor, music; Director, Center for the Study of Education and the Musical Experience, Northwestern University
  • Lyle Davidson, Professor, music theory; New England Conservatory of Music; staff member, Harvard Project Zero, Harvard University

Fall 1986: Visual Arts Education Specialists 

Spent three months in China observing and analyzing arts education in the cities of Beijing, Xi’an and Chongqing. Newsletter, Spring 1988 (Volume 8).

  • Barbara Carlisle, Associate Dean, School of Fine Arts, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; Literary Manager, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; specialist in curriculum development in the arts.
  • Carma Hinton, filmmaker; born in China and fluent in Chinese, then Ph.D. candidate in Art History, Harvard University.

Fall 1986: Music Education Team

Spent two months in the United States observing programs at schools in New York, Connecticut, Michigan, and San Francisco; and introduced Chinese music and gave demonstrations for students and teachers. Newsletter, Spring 1988 (Volume 8).

  • Xin Guoliu, Deputy Director, Fujian Province Middle School Teacher’s Music Center Teaching Research Group
  • Zhu Zeping, music teacher, Tianmen Experimental Primary School, Hubei Province 

Spring 1987: Arts Education Researchers and Project Coordinators

Spent three months in China observing music and visual arts classes for very young children in Beijing and Nanjing; Dr. Gardner continued the research in Xiamen. 

  • Howard Gardner, Director, Harvard Project Zero; Professor, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education Newsletter: Volume 8/Spring 1988 (Program Year 1986-1987)
  • Ellen Winner, Professor of Psychology, Boston College; Senior Research Associate at Project Zero. Author of many books, including Invented Worlds: The Psychology of the Arts and then-forthcoming The Point of Words: Children’s Understanding of Metaphor and Irony.

Dr. Gardner documented his observations and musings in his publication, To Open Minds: Chinese Clues to the Dilemma of Contemporary Education. New York, Basic Books, Inc. Publishers, 1989.

Spring 1987: Visual Arts Educators from China

Spent three months in the U.S. traveling to New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Los Angeles, combining observation with teaching and demonstrating. Newsletter, Spring 1988 (Volume 8).

  • Hou Ling, visual arts teacher, Beijing’s Shangtangzi Elementary School
  • Chen Shoupeng, visual arts teacher, Shanghai’s Fangua Nong Elementary School

July 1988: Arts Education Conference 

Funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, this conference convened at the Tarrytown House Executive Conference Center outside New York City from July 7-10. The participants were arts education professionals who had taken part in exchange programs during the previous three years. The conference marked the conclusion of the official multi-year program that had been funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In China it eventually led to the establishment of the cabinet-level State Sub-Commission on Arts Education.

Panel papers prepared prior to the meetings were published by the Journal of Aesthetic Education (Spring, 1989). The conference proceedings were published in a bilingual format and disseminated widely to Chinese-speaking artists and scholars in both countries. Newsletter, Fall 1990 (Volume 9).

  • Wu Zuqiang, leader of Chinese delegation, formerly President of the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing; subsequently appointed Party Secretary, China Federation of Literary and Arts Circles—the umbrella organization for professional arts associations in China.
  • Professor Chou Wen-chung, Director, Center for U.S.-China Arts Exchange; co-chair of the American delegation
  • Howard Gardner, co-director, Harvard Project Zero; co-chair of the American delegation
Invited specialists:
  • Warren Newman, Director, Arts in Education Program, National Endowment for the Arts
  • Steven M. Dobbs, senior program officer, J. Paul Getty Trust Center for Education in the Arts
  • C. T. Hu, Professor of Education, with a specialty in the Chinese Educational system, Teacher’s College, Columbia University
  • Cheng Pei-kai, Professor of Chinese Studies, Pace University
Chinese participants
  • Ji Junshi, Department of General Education, Ministry of Education
  • Yu Runyang, Professor of Musicology, Central Conservatory, Beijing
  • Lü Zhengwu, Arts Education Bureau, Ministry of Culture
  • Ru Jie, music theory teacher and Principal, Shanghai Conservatory of Music’s affiliated middle school
  • Zhu Zeping, music teacher, Tianmen Experimental Primary School, Hubei
  • Hou Ling, visual arts teacher, Beijing’s Shangtangzi Elementary School
  • Wang Dingli
  • Zhao Yongmei

O’Neill Teachers’ Exchange Program

The Center for U.S.-China Arts Exchange also designed and sponsored an exchange of teaching practitioners in arts education to complement Project Zero’s more scholarly focus on theoretical research. Created in 1988 with a grant from Mr. George O’Neill and Mrs. Abby Rockefeller O’Neill, the program was reciprocal and sent three teams in each direction.

April 1988: Music teachers to the U.S.

The first team came to the U.S. for three weeks to observe classroom teaching in schools in New York City; Lawrence, Long Island; and the West Hartford Public School System, Connecticut.

  • Mr. Chen Shoushan, classroom voice teacher, Xiamen; Kaiyuan Children’s Palace
  • Mr. Huang Weilian, classroom violin teacher, Xiamen; Renmin Elementary School

October 1988: Music teachers to China

Two teachers spent two weeks in Xiamen, Fujian Province; and one week in Beijing.

  • James Groff, elementary school violin teacher; the Duffy School, West Hartford Public School System
  • Jerry Jaccard, elementary school voice teacher; the Bugbee School, West Hartford Public School System

Spring 1989: Visual Arts Team to the U.S.

Two teachers visited New York, Washington D.C., and Cincinnati where their visits throughout the Cincinnati Public School System were arranged by Barbara Carlisle, earlier participant in the program.

  • Mu Yunguang, visual arts teacher, Jilin Provincial Teacher Training Institute 
  • Shuai Qi, visual arts teacher, Hexi District Children’s Palace, Tianjin 

April 1994: Music Teachers to China

Two music teachers from Minneapolis delayed their trip for five years following the events of June 4, 1989. When the political climate was more favorable to continue, they went to Kunming, where they observed classroom teaching, and exchanged ideas with teachers, administrators, parents, and students.

  • Dawn Allan, music teacher; Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ms. Allan, who specialized in vocal education, gave demonstration lessons of singing classes.
  • Tom Wells, music teacher; Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mr. Wells, who is a brass and jazz teacher, demonstrated his music teaching methods, including improvisation.

Fall 1994: Visual Arts Teachers to the U.S.

Two teachers from Kunming in Yunnan Province visited elementary and secondary schools in Minnesota. Their hosts were the teachers who had been to China earlier that year, Dawn Allan and Tom Wells (see above). They attended meetings on teacher-training approaches and were introduced to a variety of local educational activities such as radio/TV classes, magnet schools, parenting centers, and band practice.

  • Mr. Chen Siming, visual arts teacher
  • Mr. Wu Xinwen, visual arts teacher

December 1994: Visual Arts Teachers to China

Two teachers from Cincinnati traveled to Kunming where they visited the Kunming Normal School (a teacher’s college) and the Normal School for Kindergarten Teachers.

  • Georgie Ann Daube-Grosse, visual arts teacher; Montessori specialist
  • Darlene Yeager, visual arts teacher; water colorist