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Renowned director Peter Brook and his company, the International Center of Theatre Creation (CICT), spent a month in residence at Columbia University in the spring of 2005. During their residence they mounted the U.S. premiere of Tierno Bokar, a theatrical exploration of the power of tolerance.

With this residence, Brook for the first time integrated his work into the life and culture of a large urban university. The company worked with the resources of Columbia University, Barnard College, and the Harlem community and encouraged students, faculty, and the public to participate in an ongoing dialogue about the social, political, religious, and historical questions raised by performances of Tierno Bokar. Events included symposia, lectures, workshops, and class work. All programs were sponsored by the Columbia University Arts Initiative in partnership with the Harlem Arts Alliance and Barnard College.

The Columbia University Arts Initiative, directed by Gregory Mosher, was launched by President Lee Bollinger in February 2004. It is an unprecedented attempt to use the resources of a great university to enliven the arts on campus, to connect the university to the artistic diversity of New York City, to provide support for art that would not otherwise thrive, and to help prepare a new generation of artists.