Kang said he enjoys the work he does and is grateful for the organization’s success, but feels the behind-the-scenes work is taken for granted.
“These things don’t just come out of the blue. There is a process behind them,” Kang said. “I don’t think people see that often.”
The office started with $1,200 in 2004, Kang said. Since then, the CPA has expanded and currently operates on a budget of more than $4 million, with roughly one-third coming from the University last year.
“As we move forward, we want to become less reliant on that aspect,” said Mark Nelson, director of marketing and public relations for CPA.
Last year, CPA brought in $1.3 million in ticket sales, Nelson said. Historically, ticket sales have covered about 43 percent of the office’s expenses, he said.
Nelson stressed that CPA is not intended to be a business.
“We have some performances that aren’t financially successful, but we know are particularly important,” he said.
Nelson said the program strives to bring in artists who will not only provide a strong performance, but also engage the community, exemplified by routine “Masterclasses” taught by musicians and dancers who visit Chapel Hill.
After evaluating a potential show’s financial viability, CPA aims to balance representation in its seasons culturally, geographically and artistically, Kang said, adding that it’s not just about bringing in big acts.
“What drives us are the relationships, which is very different than just picking names,” Kang said. “That’s what separates us from a commercial venture.”
These relationships are the culmination of hundreds of conversations, Kang said. What the audience sees in one night can come from an idea or conversation that occurred years earlier, he said.
Last season, one memorable performance came from Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who worked with Shaolin monks to deliver a powerful show.
In 2008, Kang met Cherkaoui at the Avignon Theatre Festival in France, he said. Two and a half years later, UNC students and town residents made up one of only two American audiences to see the show, Kang said.
Now, Cherkaoui will return once again in September with a new work entitled “Babel.”
Director of Artist Relations Michelle Bordner said the process goes beyond chance meetings. CPA works as a team to review artistic material and then takes the next steps to get a performance to happen, she said.
“We really like to be in the early conversations of a work and aware of what’s happening,” Bordner said.
Not only does CPA look to bring in talented acts, it works to foster them as well, Bordner said. Commissioning is an important contribution to the field, she said.
“We want to be contributing to the canon of work. Otherwise, we’re not adding any value,” Kang said.
Durham native Hope Boykin, a member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, knows the Memorial Hall stage well.
With a score composed by Ali Jackson of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra — which will give a show of its own in March — Boykin was able to produce a new work commissioned by CPA. Her former dance company, Philadanco, will perform the work in September.
Kang said CPA’s work, coupled with the strong University community, makes performers want to visit the University year after year.
Student tickets for all CPA performances cost $10, a perk that Kang said exists for a reason.
“We want students to witness something that no one else has witnessed because that’s when something magical can happen,” Kang said.
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