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Mission & Purpose

ArtsWest is an innovative program that aims to place a spotlight on Western arts through speakers, symposiums, film screenings and exhibitions. The West boasts a rich tradition of distinctive and celebrated works of literature, photography, and visual and cinematic art. As the epicenter for America’s motion picture industry, a mecca for seekers of the counterculture, and a home for daring artists and trends, the West is a place of globally influential creativity and artistic vision. Through programs for public and scholarly audiences, ArtsWest aims to explore the contribution of the arts and humanities in the American West, and to extend the University's arts and humanities offerings into continuing education for adults.

Although many associate Stanford University with the science and technology of Silicon Valley, the strong influence of the arts and humanities on campus dates back to the university's founding. More recently, the opening of the Anderson Collection, McMurtry Building, and designation of the new Arts District surrounding the world class Cantor Center for Visual Arts have combined to place Stanford in the top tier of American universities emphasizing the visual arts.

ArtsWest seeks to leverage the excellence found on campus with a special emphasis on the contributions of Western-based artists, writers and cultural leaders who are inspired by the lifestyle and landscape found in the West. Through a series of lectures, seminars, symposia and teaching, ArtsWest highlights historical contributions and forward-looking trends in the arts benefitting the campus and public at large.

ArtsWest Leadership

Recent Past Events

Into the Twilight Zones: Art and Virtual/Augmented Reality in the West, a Symposium

Thursday, February 27, 2020, Cantor Arts Center Auditorium

This symposium explored the challenges, opportunities and limitations that virtual and augmented reality offer artists and museums in the American West. The event investigated the future of museums and the ways technology is driving how art is experienced. 

Learn more about the Symposium


Seeing the West: The Legacy and Influence of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Edward Curtis on Art

Thursday, May 21, 2020, Koret-Taube Conference Center

This symposium explored the contributions of Adams, Weston and Curtis in establishing photography as a contemporary art form, and examined their profound and continuing influence on contemporary artists. 

Learn more about the Symposium


2018-2019 Season

Western arts as seen through the lens of contemporary photography

A Symphony of Image and Sound

A lecture tracing Lukas Felzmann’s work across time and Western landscapes as seen through the lens of contemporary photography. From New Mexico and Nevada, across California, and all the way out to the Farallon Islands, Felzmann traveled and photographed the West, bringing back these thoughts about building archives and even book-making. 

Burning Man: Art and Technology

This program explored the creative spirit of Burning Man as an original Western cultural movement and its innovative paradigm of art as a participatory and interactive experience, not attached to traditional museums or commercial art markets.

Self Landing: Daguerreotypes on the Western Landscape

Binh Danh has been traveling across the West making scenic daguerreotypes in a mobile darkroom he called Louis, after Louis Daguerre. Daguerre invented the daguerreotype process in 1839, and his photographs ask us to reflect on the land in the polished mirror surface of the silver plate, provoking questions of politics, landscape, history and the self.

2017-2018 Season

Art produced under adversity

The Evasive Bodies of May’s Photo Studio

A lecture by Stanford Art History professor Marci Kwon about a storefront photo studio that documented San Francisco’s Chinatown at the height of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Women Who Transformed Art in the West

A symposium celebrating the rise of women artists and art scholars in the West during the 20th century and the prospects for advancing women artists in the future.

Art and Culture on the US-Mexico Border

A symposium focusing on how art, cinema and music are shaping social, cultural and political identity in the U.S.-Mexico border region.



Art produced by marginalized populations of the West as seen through their craft  

Jack London: Apostle of the West

The inaugural ArtsWest symposium, Great Writers of the West, was held on September 19, 2016, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Jack London’s death.

Photo of Diane Arbus

The School: Diane Arbus’s Untitled Photographs

Stanford Art and Art History professor Alexander Nemerov gave a lecture discussing his aunt Diane Arbus’ photographs of the developmentally disabled, based on his book about her. 

Photo of John Steinbeck

Steinbeck and the Environment

In May 2017, the Center hosted the second Great Writers of the West event, which examined the plight of indigenous peoples of the West and the fragility of the Western environment.

Recent ArtsWest News

"Into the Twilight Zones": An ArtsWest Symposium on Virtual and Augmented Reality


A recent ArtsWest symposium explored the challenges and opportunities immersive technologies present for artists, audiences, and museums.

A Sneak Peak at "West x Southwest: Edward Weston and Ansel Adams"


A curatorial tour of a new Cantor Arts Center exhibition gave audiences a glimpse of iconic Western photographs.

Burning Man: A Journey Through a Desert Oasis of Art and Technology


The contributions of all four speakers contributed to the sense of Burning Man as a type of experimental art utopia for those seeking an alternative to purely capitalist pursuits.