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Journey to the Middle Kingdom: Part 4

Learning from Each Other: The California Delegation to China

Participating in the cultural delegation to China, a group of arts administrators led by the California Arts Council, was a career highlight. Immersing ourselves in Chinese art and culture was incredibly eye-opening and enriching. We were able to witness elements of the rapid transformation of China. I experienced the effectiveness of arts and cultural exchange to facilitate cultural diplomacy and cross-cultural understanding.

798 Arts Zone Street Art

With a population of 1.37 billion, China is the most populated nation in the world and represents 19% of the global population. By comparison, the U.S. has a population of 316 million. Understanding Chinese culture is an important element of our cultural literacy.

798 Arts Zone

China honors its cultural heritage while embracing modern art and culture. China's thriving contemporary art scene signals its embrace of new ideas and its global perspective. A former military compound transformed into a bustling center of art and commerce, Beijing's 798 Art Zone is visited by locals and international visitors. The cultural district is filled with street art, installations, museums, international art galleries, design stores and hip cafes.

798 Arts Zone Street Life

Much like the change that can occur with the success of U.S. cultural districts, we witnessed signs of gentrification with the development of high-end boutiques.

Long MuseumLong Museum

The global economy is impacting the Chinese art sector, as individual and corporate philanthropic support are emerging. The Chinese are in the beginning stages of developing a culture of philanthropy. An interesting example is the emergence of private museums in China, such as the Long Museum in Shanghai, founded by the Chinese collectors Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei. By exhibiting their private art collection, the Long Museum signals increased artistic freedom and expression, evidenced by its contemporary Chinese art, primarily paintings. The exhibition we viewed demonstrated a strong influence of Western art history. Many of the works conveyed overt political commentary. 

My deepest thanks goes out to our hosts at the Chinese Ministry of Culture and the many leaders who took the time to share their insights with us. My appreciation also extends to my fellow delegates, who share a passion for the role of the arts in transforming communities and nations. We exchanged ideas and strategies for how we can translate this experience to inform our work as art administrators. I am deeply appreciative of the CAC and its director, Craig Watson, for facilitating this exchange and providing the opportunity for representatives from California cities to participate.


Kerry Adams HarperKerry Adams Hapner leads the Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) in San Jose, California, the 10th largest US city. The mission of the OCA is to champion the arts and cultural vitality for San Jose’s one million ethnically diverse residents and its visitors.

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