Columbia Celebrates Opening of Institute for Ideas and Imagination

November 12, 2018

the courtyard of the Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris
Reid Hall, home of Columbia Global Centers | Paris, Ferrante Ferranti

Joined by France’s Minister of Higher Education and world renowned artists, the Columbia community gathered at Reid Hall in Paris today to celebrate the opening of the Institute for Ideas and Imagination. Created to challenge longstanding traditions that govern the ways in which knowledge is defined, produced, and taught, the Institute brings together scholars and artists for year-long residencies at Columbia Global Centers | Paris to engage with faculty and students while pursuing their own work. The Institute opened its doors in September 2018 with its first cohort of fellows— eight Columbia University faculty members and eight scholars, writers, and creative artists from around the world.

“The goal of combining Columbia faculty with intellectuals, artists, and writers who operate outside of American academia—in both a geographic and a disciplinary sense—is to foster conversations that introduce new perspectives to the University and, ultimately, across higher education,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger.  “By highlighting the value of ideas and imagination, we reaffirm what we share as thinkers, what makes us distinctive as humans, and, above all, what may guide us through the turmoil of the present to a better future.”

The Institute is the brainchild of Mark Mazower, Founding Director and Columbia’s Ira D. Wallach Professor of World Order Studies, and Paul LeClerc, Director of the Paris Global Center. In a message to those gathered for the Institute’s opening, they explained, “This will be Columbia’s venue where the most diverse thought traditions and backgrounds can mix and mingle in year-long conversation and where a younger generation of scholars and creative thinkers work alongside more established colleagues to develop and express innovative ideas through writing art, and research.”

Frédérique Vidal, France’s Minister of Higher Education, gave remarks at the afternoon program marking the opening of the Institute. Guests also were treated to a performance of Baroque music by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants and a conversation with artist William Kentridge.

The Institute’s first group of fellows come from China, Nigeria, South Africa, Syria, India, Cameroon, Canada, the United States, and France. 

Programming for the Institute for Ideas and Imagination centers around talks given by the fellows at Reid Hall, which are free and open to the public. The fellows will take part in other conferences and festivals, and some are planning to conduct masterclasses for Columbia undergraduate students studying at Reid Hall.

Upcoming events co-sponsored by the Institute include En Guerre pour la Paix (At War for Peace), a conference in March about the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, organized by Nadine Akhund-Lange, Associate Researcher at Université Paris 1-Panthéon-Sorbonne. In May, the Institute will welcome its first visiting scholar, Denise Murrell, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar who curated Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet to Matisse to Today at Columbia’s Wallach Art Gallery in New York. An expanded version of the exhibition will open at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, with an event at Reid Hall on May 17.

The Institute has partnerships with the Cité internationale des arts, The Paris Institute for Advanced Study, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Supporters of the Institute include the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and Judith Ginsberg and Paul LeClerc.