Arts and Humanities

Message from Interim Chancellor Guskiewicz and Provost Blouin on Emil Kang

Emil Kang will lead the arts grant-making area for The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as program director for arts and cultural heritage beginning Oct. 1.

Ramses and Emil Kang pose for a photo.
Arts Everywhere is an initiative to integrate the arts into the campus culture that Chancellor Carol L. Folt announced last July when she named Emil Kang to serve as Special Assistant to the Chancellor for the Arts. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community:

We write to share the bittersweet news that Emil Kang, special assistant to the chancellor for the arts and the founder of the groundbreaking Carolina Performing Arts, is leaving for an exciting new opportunity. Starting October 1, Emil will lead the arts grant-making area for The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as program director for arts and cultural heritage. The Mellon Foundation, highly regarded as the nation’s largest private source of funding for the arts and humanities, has generously supported innovative academic and cultural initiatives Emil has championed during his nearly 15 years at Carolina, among others. It is not surprising that the Mellon Foundation would turn to Emil to take on such an important role because of the well-earned reputation he has forged as one of the leading arts administrators in the United States.

Thanks to Emil’s leadership, Carolina has made immense progress in elevating the vital role the arts play in our campus and local communities. He arrived in 2005, founded Carolina Performing Arts as a multidisciplinary program, and quickly helped make Chapel Hill an international arts destination by inviting artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, the National Theatre of Scotland, Philip Glass and the Bolshoi Ballet to our community. Other highlights included “The Rite of Spring at 100,” which drew international acclaim and artist-in-residence programs that deeply integrated artists into the academy and broader campus community. Carolina Performing Arts has commissioned over 50 new works by renowned artists, 40 of which premiered in Chapel Hill. Such innovative programming, now held inside and outside four venues, has helped make the arts accessible and relevant for our students, faculty, staff and community members.

In addition to serving as executive and artistic director at Carolina Performing Arts and professor of the practice in the music department, in 2016 Chancellor Carol L. Folt appointed Emil as special assistant to the chancellor for the arts. In that Chancellor’s Cabinet-level role, he and Chancellor Folt founded Arts Everywhere, a major initiative dedicated to integrating artistic practice, learning and engagement into the daily lives of the community. In 2018, Carolina Performing Arts opened CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio, an immersive performing arts venue and studio space, in Carolina Square on Franklin Street to help connect campus and the community through the arts. Emil’s passion for ensuring the arts are reflected in our academics also is evident in the new IDEAS in Action general education curriculum.

In 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Emil to the National Council on the Arts, a first for a North Carolinian. He serves on the boards of the Martha Graham Dance Company and the International Society for the Performing Arts. Emil was president and executive director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, held positions with the Seattle Symphony and the American Composers Orchestra, and was an orchestra management fellow with the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Houston and Grand Rapids. He holds a degree in economics from the University of Rochester and completed the Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program at Harvard Business School as well as programs at the Center for Creative Leadership.

We plan to continue the University’s strong commitment to the arts and build on the legacy that Emil has played such a prominent role in establishing here. He has put together an extraordinary team of professionals to support Carolina Performing Arts, Arts Everywhere and the University’s broad portfolio of arts programming and activities. With an exciting 2019-2020 season ready to commence this fall, and plans for our next Arts Everywhere initiatives already taking shape, the University is well prepared to navigate this transition. We are grateful that James Moeser, chancellor emeritus and professor of music emeritus, has agreed to serve as interim executive and artistic director of Carolina Performing Arts on an interim basis starting September 1. Joining James in ensuring that Arts Everywhere also remains a priority for our campus will be Larry Wheeler, former director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, who will be serving as a part-time consultant to Arts Everywhere and the Ackland Art Museum, leveraging his vast network and knowledge of the visual arts world. Interim Dean Terry Rhodes of the College of Arts & Sciences has agreed to chair a national search for Emil’s successor in the near future.

Please join us in thanking Emil for his significant contributions to our campus and the broader arts community. We wish him every success in his new position.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz
Interim Chancellor

Robert A. Blouin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost