Arts Initiative Global Project

The Arts Initiative at Columbia University Global project establishes a cultural arm for President Bollinger's wide-ranging efforts to increase what he often refers to as "global literacy." The effort is growing in tandem with the establishment of the University's Global Centers, and will begin in China.

Because young people live in an increasingly global environment, they have an urgent need to learn about other countries and cultures. Joseph Stiglitz has made the point that successful international relations are built on mutual understanding and respect, not just trade deals. Film, art, music, literature, and other art forms are an invaluable, indeed indispensable, way of gaining the crucial cultural knowledge that Stiglitz implies is essential.

While the project will of course connect artists, arts students, educators, and arts institutions with each other, the primary goal is to educate all Columbia students - not only its filmmakers, but also its physicists and financiers. The Arts Initiative works with schools, departments, and programs across the university, using arts and culture to train and educate not just better artists, but better scholars, scientists, historians, engineers, lawyers, and business people.

The Arts Initiative collaborates with numerous Columbia partners, including the newly-established Global Centers in Beijing and Amman. Click through the column on the left to learn more about Arts Initiative Global partners.

Featured Events

A formidable new wave of musicians has taken China’s music underground by storm. Working well outside government media channels they have, in the process, turned the ears of the international music community towards Beijing. Independent music label Maybe Mars and its sister club D-22, - led by Columbia alumni Michael Pettis (’81SIPA, ’84BUS) and Charles Saliba (’00CC) - have found themselves at the center of the burgeoning scene and are bringing it to American shores this November.  The first live US performances of five Chinese artists from P.K. 14, Carsick Cars, Xiao He performed this November during the MAYBE MARS presents: THE CHINESE UNDERGROUND INVASION TOUR in collaboration with the ARTS INITIATIVE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY from November 5 - 19, 2009. Visit the Arts Initiative Global Chinese Underground Invasion Tour website to learn more.


On May 30th, the Arts Initiative, in association with the Weatherhead East Asian Institute's (WEAI) 60th Anniversary event in Beijing, presented, "Kind of Red: An Evening of New Jazz," featuring players from Columbia University's Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program, Beijing's Red Hand Jazz Band, and special guests Wu Na and Zhang Hongyan. A reception and jam session followed after the concert at D-22. More than 300 Columbia alumni and guests took part in the event. See images from the rehearsal, concert, and surrounding AI events here:

This event was made possible by the Arts Initiative at Columbia University with additional support from:



Arts Initiative Global Project Archive

  • In Spring 2007, AI Global co-hosted - with the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALAC) and the Film Society of Lincoln Center - On the Edge: New Independent Cinema from China. Among the directors in residence were Li Yang and Jia Zhang-ke. The screening of Li Yang's Blind Mountain featured a post-screening conversation with Li Yang, Andrew Nathan of Political Science, and Carole Vance of Sociomedical Sciences.
  • Arts Initiative Director Gregory Mosher traveled to Beijing to address attendees of Beijing Screenings Film Festival in September 2008 where he met with and advised film and television industry leaders.
  • The Arts Initiative, EALAC, and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation's China project screened Ou Ning's film Meishi Street in September 2008.
  • The Arts Initiative co-sponsored - with the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, EALAC, NYU, and Reel China - a festival of Chinese documentary films in October 2008. The featured participant was Zhu Rikun, China's foremost curator of documentary film.
  • AI Global sent two Columbia School of the Arts Film students to the Beijing Film Academy for the BFA International Student Film Festival in November 2008. Columbia will reciprocate by inviting BFA students to screen their films during the Spring 2009 SoA Film Festival. View photos from the students' trip here.
  • In January 2009, AI Global and the Weatherhead Undergraduate Council presented a screening of CU alumnus Howie Snyder's film My Beijing Birthday, followed by a Q&A and dinner.
  • The Arts Initiative presented - with Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI), EALAC, the Center for Korean Research, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center - a festival of feature films April 25-28, 2009. Films were screened at Walter Reade Theater, with symposia and other activities on Columbia's campus. Several of China's up and coming film-makers attended these events. View the schedule of screenings here.


  • The Arts Initiative and Columbia's Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Group premiered an evening of new music in Beijing on May 30, 2009 as part of the WEAI 60th anniversary festivities. The concert, featuring student and faculty musicians as well as leading Chinese players from both Columbia University and China, will repeat the performance in NYC in Fall 2009. 
  • The Arts Initiative, working with Columbia alumni and Beijing club D-22 owners Michael Pettis and Charles Saliba, presented several of China's cutting-edge rock bands (Carsick Cars, P.K. 14, and Xiao He) over two weekends in various NYC music halls in Fall 2009. Read more about the Carsick Cars here
  • In association with the Central Conservatory, AI Global will send an ensemble from the Columbia Orchestra to Beijing for an evening of newly commissioned music by leading Chinese and American composers.


  • Columbia Alumni Arts League Nights debuted in Beijing in December of 2007. Columbia alumni saw the sell-out comic play Two Dogs' View on Life at the Pioneer Theater. Following the performance, the creaters, cast, and Arts Initiative Director Gregory Mosher joined alumni for a Q&A and dinner.
  • Avant-garde theater director Meng Jinghui and wife, playwright Liao Yimei, taught a master directing class in the School of the Arts Theater Department in February 2008.


  • Barnard Dance Department will collaborate with the Beijing Modern Dance Company on a new piece in New York in 2009-10.



  • The Arts Initiative continues to support Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation programs connecting Columbia and the Central Academy of Fine Arts (Architecture department).



  • On March 9, 2009, AI Global, the Department of East Asian Languages and Culture and the Weatherhead East Asian Institute hosted a public conversation with novelist Mo Yan followed by a Q & A and dinner.




  • On March 11, 2009, AI Global, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and the Department of Art History and Archaeology co-sponsored a lecture and Q & A titled 'XU BING: Recent Work' as well as a reception and dinner with the artist.


Support Arts Initiative Global

The Arts Initiative's ability to foster mutual understanding, respect, and global literacy through the arts depends on the support of alumni and friends. To learn more about Arts Initiative Global Project associated costs click here or visit our support page for information about giving to the Arts Initiative at Columbia University.

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