The CIA sponsored American jazz artists, opera recitals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's international touring program. Its agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for travel guides. It promoted America's avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.
Open attempts were made to support the new American art. In 1947 the State Department organised and paid for a touring international exhibition entitled "Advancing American Art", with the aim of countering Soviet suggestions that America was a cultural desert.
But the show caused outrage at home, prompting Truman to speak against it and a congressman to say "I am just a dumb American who pays taxes for this kind of trash." The tour was cancelled.
After this they acted secretly because of the general public hostility to avant-garde art and because it was difficult to get Congress to fund the programs.
They put together several exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s. One of the biggest was, "The New American Painting", which visited every large city in Europe in 1958-59.
The agency wanted to prove that the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any barriers imposed regarding as what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint. They wanted to stand in contrast to Russia and to the ideas they were promoting about what was going on in the Soviet Union.