Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
Clear all

67 results found

reorder grid_view

Listening to Each Other? – Opportunities and Challenges in Music Exchanges between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in the Late Twentieth Century

March 4, 2024

Cultural exchanges between the United States and the People's Republic of China were formalized in the 1970s. With the ever-increasing interest in understanding each other's culture, American and Chinese governments and cultural institutions organized exchange trips in different fields. Music was among the first professions that was used to establish rapport. This essay introduces some of the early efforts to facilitate the musical exchanges, including by the Asian Cultural Program of the JDR 3rd Fund and the Center for United-States Arts Exchange founded by Chou Wen-Chung. It highlights how the American non-profit sector shaped the cultural dialogue through grantmaking from the 1970s to the 1990s. Despite the legacy of fostering interests in learning the cultural differences between the two countries, archival materials show a Euro-American-centric sentiment by expecting Chinese visitors to bring American knowledge back to their home, and that Americans have the expertise and knowledge to assist Asians to better understand their own cultural heritage. With mostly white Americans in control of the visitors they could bring in, who tended to be talented performers and artists of ancient or traditional art forms, they avoided more politicized contemporary works and discourses. Chinese immigrants in America were also limited in terms of their ability to participate in these cultural exchanges. Such a narrow approach to cultural exchange also limited Americans' understanding of China (and Asia, at-large) in the contemporary context.

Asia Society; Asian Cultural Council; Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Papers; International Relations; JDR 3rd Fund; Music; National Committee on United States-China Relations; Rockefeller Family

Patronage of Video Art: The Relationship of the Rockefeller Foundation and Nam June Paik

January 18, 2024

On October 4, 1965, Korean-born artist Nam June Paik bought his first Sony Portapak with a JDR 3rd Fund grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Introduced earlier that same year by the Sony Corporation in Japan, this device was the first portable video recorder with a dedicated camera. Paik's Portapak was among the first in the United States, which enabled him to play a central role in establishing video as a credible medium for artistic expression. By analyzing grants Paik received from the Rockefeller Foundation, this essay examines a three-decade-long relationship between the artist and the Rockefeller Foundation that enabled Paik to create groundbreaking works of art. This project will analyze how the social and financial capital of the Rockefeller Foundation equipped Paik with the knowledge and equipment to pursue his transnational projects linking South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the United States, among other countries, through his video, television, and satellite projects. The relationship Paik cultivated with Howard Klein, director of arts at the Rockefeller Foundation, reveals a complex dynamic of power, institutional interests, and global reach of works that Paik could not realize without the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. In this way, this essay will examine a series of correspondences, interviews, and proposals that reveal the commitment the Rockefeller Foundation officers, specifically Howard Klein, had in making Paik the pioneer of video art.

Art; Asian Cultural Council; Rockefeller Foundation

The Gift of Fellowship: India, Modernism, Abstraction, and New York City

December 15, 2023

From 1963, first through the JDR 3rd Fund and then from 1979, through the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), several Indian painters were granted time, stipends, materials, resources, and travel budgets to explore the United States. Krishen Khanna, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, Avinash Chandra, Jyoti Bhatt Natvar Bhavsar, Bal Chhabda, V.S. Gaitonde, K.G. Subramanyan, Paritosh Sen, Bhupen Khakhar, Ram Kumar, Paritosh Sen, and Rekha Rodwittiya each went on to have remarkable careers. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center was to look at the artists' articulation of their practice, and their desire to expand it, at the moment of their applications. Using fellowship materials and correspondence from a range of Indian artists, art historians, and critics from 1960 and 1990, I reconstruct here the significance of a year's travel and study in New York City and its implications for artistic education and practice. At the same time, I explore the breadth of correspondence between Indian artists and the ACC, which offers rare primary source materials for the reconstruction of the history of abstraction and the history of art history in postcolonial India; and indicates the significance of the shared experience and memory of applying and experiencing the fellowship as creating bonds of solidarity between Indian artists.

Asian Cultural Council; JDR 3rd Fund; Mass Communications; Rockefeller Foundation

“Developing” Intellectuals in Cold War Burma: The Production of The Atlantic's 1958 Country Supplement

July 28, 2023

This report features part of an article I am working on about development, soft power, and Cold War competition in 1950s Burma and Indonesia, from the perspective of Burmese and Indonesian intellectuals and artists.  It tells the backstory of the production of The Atlantic's 1958 supplement on Burma, one of several country supplements the Ford Foundation produced throughout the 1950s as part of its Intercultural Publications project. James Laughlin's reports in the Ford Foundation archives reveal the fascinating backstory of the issue and the agency of intellectuals within Cold War development programs, while pointing to the neglected role of "culture" in the history of development.  

Cold War; Ford Foundation; Journalism

Towards the Asian Cultural Council: Blanchette Rockefeller and Her Engagement with Asia, 1951-1986

July 20, 2023

On April 6, 1971, Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller delivered a formal talk to New York's Colony Club titled, "Amateur Collecting at Home and Abroad." Mrs. Rockefeller had visited Japan for the first time in 1951, where she spent six weeks in Tokyo with her husband, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, who served as an unofficial cultural attaché to Douglas MacArthur's Japan Peace Commission. Like his mentor— former High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations, and first US Ambassador to Israel— Dr. James G. McDonald, Mr. Rockefeller spent most of his time as part of the commission interviewing political, economic, and cultural authorities to find ways of improving cultural relations between the two countries. As a result, John devised a model based on bilateral cultural exchange—a two-way street . Toward that end, he later planned and built a conference center, the International House of Japan, where scholars and public officials from Europe and the United States exchanged ideas with their Japanese counterparts. These luminaries included the likes of Arnold Toynbee and Eleanor Roosevelt. Rockefeller's  Japanese collaborator in that venture was an internationally minded journalist, Shigeharu Matsumoto. The Rockefellers and Matsumotos formed their own two-way relationship spanning the rest of their respective lives, as well as those of their children.While this study emphasizes the evolution of Blanchette Rockefeller's interest in Asia and the subsequent founding of the Asian Cultural Council, it bears understanding how such a study fits within the field of Asian cultural exchange during the twentieth century. 

Art; Asian Cultural Council; Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Papers; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

The 1963 Ford Foundation Program for Film Makers and the Networks of Experimental Cinema

May 12, 2023

In June 1963, the Ford Foundation's Humanities and the Arts program sent out a call for nominations for their Program for Film Makers. Nine months later, in March 1964, twelve American filmmakers received grants of 10,000 dollars "to enable a limited number of creative film makers to extend and deepen their artistic experience and productivity." The documents surrounding the creation and development of this one-time grant in support of experimental filmmaking reveal the challenges facing private foundations engaged with an evolving and diverse art form. Furthermore, they counter a representation of experimental filmmaking as individualistic and author-centered by uncovering networks of support among artists and the cultural milieu that sustained their works.

Film; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation

Blanchette Rockefeller, Engaged Leadership, and MoMA, 1949-1987

December 12, 2022

This essay aims to highlight Blanchette Rockefeller's leadership style, which emphasized artistic appreciation, collaborative leadership, and institution building. As both a prominent donor to the museum as well as a fixture in leadership during the mid-twentieth century, Mrs. Rockefeller's leadership style falls somewhere between what we would think of as philanthropy and management. Not coincidentally, her husband, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, was engaged with public institutions in the sphere of Asia-US cultural and social relations and pioneered a type of philanthropy denominated "venture philanthropy," which entailed an intellectual and social commitment to favored causes that complemented financial support.[i] In some sense, Blanchette's approach to leadership drew on three key areas: an intellectual emphasis, evident in her passion for promoting artistic appreciation; a social component, manifest in her use of collaborative efforts to advance the mission of MoMA; and, finally, an investment of time, which arguably, in addition to financial support, represented a scarce resource she lavished on the various programs and institutions that she was called to pioneer within MoMA.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Papers; Art; Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Papers; David Rockefeller Papers; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Family

Berlin, a “Hollow Shell”: The City as a “Laboratory Study” - A Report on the Ford Foundation’s Cultural and Artistic Projects in Post-war Berlin

September 23, 2022

Throughout the Cold War, American philanthropic organisations founded new institutions and supported already established institutions in West Berlin. They became essential players in the cultural life of the Western part of the former German capital. After a disastrous war and the dismemberment of Germany, the ex-capital Berlin, however, continued to exist – to employ a term of a British diplomat – as a "city on leave." Partly destroyed, disconnected from the "economic miracle" ("Wirtschaftswunder") of West Germany, and dependent for its survival on material assistance from the Federal Republic, the city nevertheless gained symbolic importance in the ideological conflict between the Soviet Union and the West. On a military level, the city was, as the French political scientist Raymond Aron put it, just a "glacis" in the Cold War's confrontations. But as a cultural outpost of Western democratic countries, the city obtained importance as a showcase for new artistic movements and cultural tendencies.

Cold War; Ford Foundation; Humanities; Rockefeller Foundation

Grace McCann Morley and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs

September 9, 2022

While conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, "Grace McCann Morley and the Dialectical Exchange of Modern Art in the Americas, 1935-1958," I visited the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in order to learn more about Grace McCann Morley's work with Nelson Rockefeller and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), through materials in Nelson A. Rockefeller's personal papers. In 1940, Rockefeller invited Morley, the director of the San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMA; now San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), to serve as an advisor to the CIAA and its Committee on Art. This committee planned exhibitions such as La Pintura Contemporánea Norteamericana for Latin American audiences and Latin American Art for US audiences. Although my research in the archives did not uncover correspondence between Rockefeller and Morley, it did reveal useful contextual information about Rockefeller's investment in collecting and exhibiting Latin American art and Morley's relationship with Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA).

Art; International Relations; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

Higher Education, Private Philanthropy, and Music Patronage in the Mid-Twentieth Century

July 18, 2022

This report offers evidence of key actors' strategies to forge a new union between new music and higher education as means to solve the economic instability of performing arts organizations and artists in the mid-twentieth century. Their rationale and resulting programming established American higher education institutions as the main site of creative music-making. Additionally, their decisions implicated the style and genre of music in higher education. Specifically, Rockefeller Foundation trustees emphasized the importance of continuing high arts cultural patronage in the style of European aristocrats in the sixteenth through early nineteenth centuries; and officers of the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation advocated for improving the quality of, and access to, music education of the same repertoire. Their impacts cemented higher education music departments and schools of music as sites of elite, white culture into the twenty-first century.

Academic Research and Education; Music; Rockefeller Foundation

Life’s Networks and the American Art World

June 17, 2022

Life magazine's vast networks and the connections and collaborations between its editors and museum trustees, collectors, curators, critics, and artists at a wide range of institutions led to some of the most fascinating and innovative exhibitions, magazine articles, and programs in the mid-century American art world.

Art; Journalism; Mass Communications; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family

Designing a Pictorial Language: Rudolf Modley’s Search for Philanthropic Support for the Development of a Universal System of Symbols

May 3, 2022

In 1966, acclaimed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, and graphic designer Rudolf Modley established the nonprofit Glyphs, Inc., to advance the research, classification, and promotion of universal graphic symbols around the world. Creating a visual language and system of symbols, they believed, could transcend language and lead to greater international understanding and harmony. But despite their esteemed records and vast international contacts, Mead and Modley's ambitious and utopian vision was never fully realized, stalled by lack of financing, unclear and unrealistic goals, differences over philosophy and methodology, and competition and criticism from other comparable endeavors. The correspondence, memos, proposals and reports available in the Rockefeller Archive Center holdings -- notably those of the Ford Foundation (and its affiliate, the Fund for the Advancement of Education), the Rockefeller Foundation (specifically those of the Rockefeller-funded General Education Board), and the Russell Sage Foundation -- provide rich insight into the journey and obstacles faced by Rudolf Modley in raising philanthropic support for his ambitious vision in the decades leading up to the formation of Glyphs, Inc. They shed light on the competing effort of renowned industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss to create an international dictionary of symbols, their differing methods and approach, and their lack of familiarity as designers with the nuances of raising philanthropic funds for their ambitious endeavor. Both Modley and Dreyfuss would go on to publish seminal books on graphic and pictorial symbols in the 1970s, but their tireless efforts to garner support from philanthropic foundations were fraught with false starts and disappointments.

Ford Foundation; General Education Board; Humanities; Rockefeller Foundation; Russell Sage Foundation

Showing 12 of 67 results

arrow_upward