What is an Arts Initiative and what does it do? This was the question set forth by Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, when he launched an effort in 2004 to reinvent the role of the arts in the university, and the university's role in the arts. Gregory Mosher, who had served as Director of Lincoln Center Theatre in the past, was brought on to direct the program. After conversations with hundreds of students and faculty, the answer to Bollinger's question proved simple - "expose students to diverse work of the highest standards, and encourage them to consider and experience it as fully and critically as possible." Assuming direction of the Initiative, Mosher put into action his belief that "artistic expression - the drawings children do, the buildings we live in, the music we hum every day - is just part of living, like the air we breathe."
With the central aim to make the arts an integral part of every Columbia student's experience, the CU Arts Initiative nurtures the vast artistic energy on campus by providing support to nearly 150 Columbia art groups and departments, and by organizing and providing venues for special programs. Past projects include "Havel at Columbia," where Václav Havel was invited for a seven-week residency featuring lectures, interviews, classes and performances, "New Yorker Nights," a series co-hosted with The New Yorker that featured interviews with leading thinkers like Oliver Sacks and Malcolm Gladwell, and "On the Edge," a weekend of screenings of new independent cinema from China.
The Arts Initiative also manages ArtsLink, a resource that allows faculty to sign up their classes for relevant performances and exhibits chosen from the NYC cultural season, and Lunch with the Arts, an ongoing series of study break lunches for Columbia students, which address a diverse range of topics related to arts practice. In an effort to promote Columbia students' lifelong involvement in the arts, the Initiative also created the Columbia Alumni Arts League, a membership program for NYC-based alumni. Perhaps most importantly, their website serves as a hub that centralizes access to all of their programming, and provides the Columbia community with resources and art news that go far beyond campus.
Because a gift is always the best way to be remembered, a Moleskine notebook was produced for the Arts Initiative executive staff to give out as they travel internationally to meet with arts communities in other countries. The book's fun, colorful paperband drives home the point that the arts at Columbia are in full swing.