Vishakha Desai


My commitment: Developing a global case for arts and culture for all

From my professional start as an an educator and a scholar of Indian art, I became a museum director and ultimately the first female president of the Asia Society, an international educational organization, where I served for 22 years. Now, in my various Columbia roles, I am delighted to be a member of a University community committed to exploring issues of global significance.

I continue to be excited about the role of arts and culture in creating a space for greater empathy and respect for divergent points of view. We live in a global community that is increasingly fractured, but forever linked. To find solutions to problems, we urgently need to develop greater understanding of our differences. Arts are uniquely positioned to illuminate contested ideas across cultural divides.

Columbia University, especially through special initiatives of President Bollinger such as the Committee on Global Thought, has the capacity to make arts and culture integral parts of efforts to address issues affecting the world. I consider it a privilege to work with colleagues on campus and around the world to argue for the importance of arts in a global arena, not just for the privileged few, but for all, and as much for their capacity to delight as for their potential to connect beyond borders.


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