Three Friends/One Spirit 三友一心

An Initiative in Three Parts

The Three Friends/One Spirit initiative is designed to foster creative exchange between contemporary Chinese and US based artists, and to engage audiences and scholars in an interwoven creative discourse. Our mission is to strengthen Chinese numen – or spirit – across disciplines and borders, and to illuminate the diverse cultural perspectives and artistic practices that thrive today. Through the promotion of cross cultural collaboration and dialogue, Three Friends/One Spirit sparks new understanding, supports emerging artists and practices, and advances new intercultural creative projects.

The initiative’s name has its origin in the Song Dynasty and the writings of Lin Jingxi (林景熙, 1241–1310), who described the “three friends of winter”: pine trees (松), bamboo (竹), and plum trees (梅). In Chinese culture, these three plants symbolize longevity, integrity, and perseverance – key virtues of the ideal scholar.

松 // Partnership & Exchange // Longevity

We are invested in nurturing ongoing exchanges between artists that embody the diversity of practices and perspectives in Chinese speaking cultures and the United States. Reciprocal partnerships are central to Three Friends/One Spirit, and the program cultivates enduring and robust relationships with aligned artists and cultural institutions in Greater China.

We envision interconnections that involve the free and sustained flow of ideas and projects in all directions, and encourage works that are collaborative in nature. Drawing together creators from different points on the globe – and in distinct cultural contexts – we promote dynamic interaction between generative artists to create shared foundations for cultural understanding, respect for divergent traditions, and encounters with respective histories, philosophies, and modes of artistic production.

竹 // Creation and Presentation // Integrity

Art-making is key, and our commitment to process is paramount. At CalArts Center for New Performance, providing artists with highly resourced creative residencies is foundational to our method and allows us to center the voice and vision of artists. Artists receive time, space, and financial and technical resources, as well as rich encounters with the intellectual and creative environment of CalArts. By emphasizing creative process over product, we are able to follow artists and their inquiries into new realms of formal experimentation, and to persistently maintain our principles of free creative expression.

From early-stage research to fully produced projects, we are steadfast in our commitment to having artists lead, as they intersect the energy and traditions of contemporary Chinese and American cultures in multitudinous possibilities. Along the way, public programs – including symposia, artists talks, exhibitions, and bilingual publishing projects – serve as companions to the creative process, enhancing the educational experience of students and further contextualizing the artists’ work for the public. Across art forms and geographic boundaries, Three Friends/One Spirit instigates new exchange and new collaborations, while engaging diverse artists, academics, students, and audiences in an expansive dialogue about contemporary Chinese culture across the globe.

梅 // Strategic Investments // Perseverance

Dedicated to innovative ideas, processes, and practices from around the world, CalArts is the ideal environment to inspire and nurture this intercultural experiment. That’s why Three Friends/One Spirit is committed to expanding the financial support available at CalArts for artists from Greater China.

Resourcing both academic studies and paid professional work – in roles that include Teaching Assistants, Producers, Designers, Production and Stage Managers –  assures that students work shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrated artists. Graduates from our enriched environment gain advanced experience and opportunities beyond any ordinary curricula.