The Arts Initiative at Columbia University is President Lee C. Bollinger's pioneering venture to make arts and culture a meaningful part of every Columbian's experience. Founded in 2004, its diverse programs encourage students, faculty, and alumni in all fields to generate, study, and engage the creative life of the campus, the city, and the wider world.

Current Programs

A half-million annual visitors find information about Columbia’s creative community, academic arts programs, campus performance venues and rehearsal spaces through the CUarts website. Columbia alumni and students peruse notable alumni in the arts, research jobs and internships, and apply for financial support for their arts-related projects.

Passport to New York
Provides free admission for current undergraduate and graduate students to 34 NYC museums with student CUID and semester validation sticker.

Ticket and Information Center
The Ticket and Information Center (TIC) is a full service online and live box office and information center located in Lerner Hall.  The TIC sells and distributes discounted and free tickets to on- and off-campus arts events, helps student arts groups promote and ticket their events, and provides information about Columbia’s, the Arts Initiative’s, and NYC’s arts events and resources. 

ArtsLink allows faculty to assign an NYC arts event as easily as assigning a book. ArtsLink makes it possible for professors to include cultural events in their syllabi without buying and re-selling tickets. ArtsLink buys the tickets, subsidizes their cost, and sells them directly to classes that have been assigned an event.

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation Student Arts Support Fund
The Gatsby Charitable Foundation provides grants to undergraduate and graduate students to support their non-curricular arts projects. Grants are provided to both individual students as well as student group projects. This student arts support fund is made possible by the generosity of Lord David (’71BUS) and Lady Susie Sainsbury.

Columbia Alumni Arts League
Columbia Alumni Arts League (CAAL) members enjoy special benefits and discounts at more than 80 leading New York City cultural institutions, connect with fellow Columbians and artists through exclusive arts events, and stay informed about the arts while supporting the arts at Columbia. CAAL is a program of the Columbia Alumni Association founded by the Arts Initiative.


The Initiative, directed by Gregory Mosher from 2004 - 2010, was launched by Columbia's President Lee C. Bollinger in 2004. From its inception, the Arts Initiative has nurtured a strong and creative relationship with Columbia's students, faculty and staff. To read more about the Arts Initiative's nascent history visit our online 5 Year Report.

In addition to our ongoing programming, special past projects have included:

President Václav Havel's residency
Peter Brook production of Tierno Bokar
The New Yorker Nights
CU Night @ Lincoln Center


Melissa Smey

Melissa Smey
Executive Director


Eleanor Milburn
Assistant Director for External Relations


CUarts FOCUS: external relations with cultural organizations, Broadway shows, and restaurants; Passport to NY; Ticket and Information Center; Commencement Carnival; Columbia Alumni Arts League

As Assistant Director for External Relations Eleanor Milburn communicates with over 85 cultural organizations throughout NYC that participate in the Arts Initiative's programs including Passport to New York, Columbia Alumni Arts League, the Ticket and Information Center, and ArtsLink. She maintains and expands offerings such as student, faculty, staff, and alumni discounts, free ticket offers, and events. Eleanor Milburn is an alumna of Columbia College where she majored in Music and Mathematics, and a current student at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. Before college, she studied instrumental music at LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts and attended the School of American Ballet. In her free time, she plays the flute in the 92nd Street Y's chamber music program.

My parents took me to see New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker when I was 2. They were worried I would be a noisy child, but I sat mesmerized the whole time and then, once it was over, I asked them if I could see that movie again.

The arts were very important to me growing up, both in ballet and music, and I was lucky enough to attend several ballet schools and the High School of Performing Arts, so it pains me to hear that schools across the country are cutting their arts programs. I like being a part of the CUarts team so that I can help bring the arts into education and University life.

Abigail Santner
Manager of Finance


CUarts FOCUS: financial administration; Gatsby Student Arts Support Fund

Abigail oversees financial administration and coordinates the Gatsby Student Arts Support Fund. Abigail holds a BFA and BA in Sculpture and French, respectively from the Ohio State University and a Masters in Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

I've always felt the most challenged by the arts – be that when I'm creating it, viewing it, or thinking about it and it's role in society. That prompted me to focus on fine arts in college and continue with Arts Management during college. I had interned in too many arts organization during my undergraduate studies that lacked a well-supported structure and that motivated me to learn the skills that would to help support arts organizations.

Rudy Scala
Ticket and Information Center Manager


CUarts FOCUS: Ticket and Information Center; student and faculty event ticketing; group sales

Rudy's role as Ticket and Information Center Manager connects him with students, faculty, staff, and advisors across the entire campus of Columbia University. He is mainly focused on the selling, promotion, and managing of undergraduate and graduate student events. He also manages off campus event group sale requests for both faculty members participating in CUarts' ArtsLink program as well as for student and departmental groups on campus. For six years he was the Box Office Manager for Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, under the management of George Lindsay Jr., before joining the Arts Initiative in January 2008. Rudy is an alumnus of New York University (Steinhardt '02) where he studied Vocal Performance and Musical Theatre under the direction of Jack Allison, Michael Ricciardone, and Greg Ganakas.

Having lived in the city for almost twelve years now I must admit that I don't have one sole location I go to for inspiration. My favorite part of New York is that there are always new areas to discover just by wandering down a street you've never walked before. Simply finding a cool looking building I've never seen before fills me with a child like sense of adventure.

During my tenure as Box Office Manager for Tilles Center, I worked to increase student attendance at many of the hall 's classical offerings. It my belief that by working with CUarts I am increasing student activity in the arts on campus and working to increase student attendance in arts institutions in the wider Metro area.

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