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Upcoming Event

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

Thursday, February 27, 2020, Cantor Arts Center Auditorium

It is the intention of this symposium to explore the challenges, opportunities, and limitations that the emergence of virtual and augmented reality offers artists and museums based in the American West. This event will investigate the ways art and technology are driving how art is experienced and the future of museums. 

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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 will  explore the contributions of Adams, Weston and Curtis in establishing photography as a contemporary art form, and will examine their profound and continuing influence on contemporary artists. 

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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. The West is a place of globally influential creativity and artistic vision as the epicenter for America’s motion picture industry, a mecca for seekers of the counterculture, and a home for daring artists and trends. ArtsWest aims to explore the contribution of the arts and humanities in the American West through programs for public and scholarly audiences and to extend the reach of the University into continuing education for adults in the arts and humanities.

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.

2018-2019 Season

Western arts as seen through the lens of contemporary photography.

A lecture tracing Lukas Felzmann’s work across time and the 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 spoke about building archives and how this led him to book making. He presented work from all six of his monographs, focusing on and ending with Apophenia, his most recent publication. The event was held at Stanford on October 29, 2018.

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. Technology has increasingly become a component of Burning Man art. The symposium explored the affinity between art and technology with the rise of Silicon Valley and the parallel evolution of the Burning Man movement. Both are pillars of contemporary art and technology based in the Bay Area that have a global reach. The event was held at the De Young Museum in San Francisco on February 23, 2019. The full event’s webcast can be found here.

For the past six years, Binh Danh has been traveling across the West, making scenic daguerreotypes in a mobile darkroom he called Louis, after Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerreotype process in 1839. His photographs ask us to reflect on the land literally in the polished mirror surface of the silver plate, provoking questions of politics, landscape, history, and the self. The event was held at Stanford on May 20, 2019.

2017-2018 Season

The second year of ArtsWest programming focused on art produced under adversity.

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, and created powerful, transformative images for the community. The event was held at Stanford on November 30, 2017.

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. Held in San Francisco on February 24, 2018, the event featured Arnold J. Kemp (Dean of Graduate Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Claudia Schmuckli (Contemporary Curator, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco), a Guerrilla Girl (Käthe Kollwitz), Claudia Altman-Siegel (Director, Altman Siegel Gallery), Renny Pritikin (Chief Curator, Contemporary Jewish Museum), and Hung Liu (Artist & Professor Emerita of Art, Mills College).

A symposium focusing on how art, cinema, and music are shaping social, cultural and political identity in the U.S.-Mexico border region. The event was moderated by Ana Raquel Minian, assistant professor of history at Stanford University, and featured: Enrique Chagoya, artist and professor of art and art history in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University; Anna Indych-Lopez, associate professor of art history at CUNY Graduate Center; Alejandro L. Madrid, professor of music at Cornell University; and Chon A. Noriega, art curator and professor of film at UCLA. The event was held at Stanford on May 18, 2018.


The programs of the first year explored art produced by marginalized populations of the West as seen through their craft.

The inaugural ArtsWest: Great Writers of the West symposium was held on September 19, 2016 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of London’s demise. Four eminent cultural and literature scholars assessed London’s works of literature and photojournalism that argued passionately for social change and attention for the ragged ends of humanity from San Francisco, to London, to the South Pacific. Full video from the C-SPAN broadcast is available.

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. The event was held at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco on February 4, 2017.


Recent ArtsWest News

Mar 5 2020 | Center News, Happenings, ArtsWest
A recent ArtsWest symposium explored the challenges and opportunities immersive technologies present for artists, audiences, and museums.
Nov 11 2019 | Center News, Happenings, ArtsWest
A curatorial tour of a new Cantor Arts Center exhibition gave audiences a glimpse of iconic Western photographs.
Mar 18 2019 | Happenings, ArtsWest
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.