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The art of soft power
By  Kelly Chung Dawson ( China Daily )

The art of soft power

The Yujiapu Arts Center, which will open in 2015, is located in Tianjin's Binhai New Area, a government-designated economic zone. Xiao Chunhu / For China Daily

The art of soft power

New York's Lincoln Center is the world's leading performing arts center. Provided to China Daily

 Plans for a new performance center in Tianjin fit the country's goal of expanding its cultural influence. Kelly Chung Dawson reports.

The Lincoln Center's recent announcement that it will partner with a Chinese company to build a multimillion-dollar performing arts center in Tianjin corresponds with China's push to expand its cultural influence and promote artistic exchanges, a representative for the famed New York institution tells China Daily.

The Lincoln Center will advise the State-owned Tianjin Innovative Finance Investment Company (TIFI) in a three-year agreement to provide a broad range of consulting services, concerning planning, construction and artistic programming, the center's vice-president of public relations Betsy Vorce says.

"We will be working closely with TIFI to support the building of a world-class performing arts center that we hope will foster greater artistic exchanges between Chinese artists and organizations and their American counterparts," she says.

The Yujiapu Arts Center will open in 2015 in the financial district Yujiapu of Tianjin's Binhai New Area, a government-designated economic zone 45 minutes' drive from downtown Tianjin and 45 minutes from Beijing by bullet train. The area is accessible to about 32 million commuters, the Lincoln Center says.

TIFI has continued to engage Yujiapu financial district's development.

"We have been following the highest standards to make Yujiapu a world-class financial district," TIFI chairman Li Bo says.

"Our goal is to provide businesses and individuals settling in the area with the utmost convenience and efficiency (as well as) with a comfortable and pleasant working and living environment," he continues.

"Building a high-level arts center is an important step in our promotion of the entire region's cultural soft power."

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organizations will potentially serve as a model for future arts organizations in need of supplemental revenue streams because of waning ticket sales and donations. The Lincoln Center accepted an amount of money that will remain undisclosed, Vorce says.

Other arts organizations, such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation,

have opened franchise branches in conjunction with arts organizations in other countries.

But the agreement between the Lincoln Center and TIFI is unique in that the organization will only be involved in the development and opening of the arts center in China.

While it's the first time the Lincoln Center has provided consulting services to a performing arts project, the organization will likely seek out other partnerships.

Lincoln Center chairwoman Katherine Farley initially introduced the two organizations in her position as senior managing director of the real estate company Tishman Speyer, Vorce says.

Through the company's work in China, Farley became aware of TIFI's desire to build a performing arts center in Tianjin.

She introduced members of the two organizations around the same time Lincoln Center president Reynold Levy had been invited to address the Shanghai Cultural Festival and the Beijing Music Festival, she says. The MOU agreement was the result of these connections, she says.

"China has identified the importance of arts and culture as a national priority, and as a result, plans are under way to build an unprecedented number of performing arts centers," Levy says.

"Having nearly completed an award-winning $1.2 billion physical redevelopment of the Lincoln Center, we're delighted with the opportunity to use our knowledge and expertise to assist in the creation of world-class facilities and programs and in promoting increased exchanges."

The two organizations will cooperate on architectural planning, developing an economic model for the new performing arts center and assisting in the selection and training of staff members, who will ultimately take over when the three-year agreement expires.

"Such a cooperation is a milestone," Li, of TIFI, says in an official statement. "(It) will have an incredible impact on the community reaching far beyond Tianjin."

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