A new gallery in the Center for Dramatic Art was a long time coming.
After six years of planning, UNC’s dramatic arts students will celebrate the completion of the Kenneth P. Strong Gallery on Friday — located between the Paul Green Theatre and Kenan Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Arts.
This gallery commemorates the University’s undergraduate drama department — the second oldest in the nation.
The idea to have a gallery that highlights the history of the undergraduate department of dramatic art was initiated in 2006 with the help of alumnus and professor Kenneth Strong, who died in 2010 after a long battle with cancer.
The gallery is named after him to acknowledge his active and inspiring role in the department.
McKay Coble, department chairwoman, said the memorial gallery is indicative of Strong’s influence.
“Ken was a wonderful member of our company,” she said.
“It’s not only an archive of student work, it’s a memorial to him, a student and a member of the company as well.”
Sophomore Ali Evarts, the student representative for the department, did not have a class with Strong. She knew him through his wife, Kee, who was Evarts’ drama teacher at Riverside High School in Durham.
“Because I have such a good relationship with Kee and Ken, that’s why I wanted to see (the gallery) finished,” Evarts said.
Kee Strong said she thinks the gallery is an important addition to the undergraduate dramatic art program.
“I think that there have been miracles embedded in this process from beginning to end. I would put Ali’s involvement in that category,” Kee Strong said.
“She of all people knows how important PlayMakers (Repertory Company) is in our lives. She couldn’t have been a more perfect person.”
Evarts spent much of her time looking up the history of UNC’s undergraduate drama department with Walter Spearman’s book “The Carolina PlayMakers: The First Fifty Years,” and interviewing past graduates.
The process of getting the gallery together, which began about six years ago, was entirely student-run, Evarts said.
Located in what used to be the fire escape route out of the building, the new gallery consists of three walls and five sections, highlighting work and memories of Ken Strong.
“It’s important to know where you come from, and the history you have, or it slips through the cracks,” Coble said.
“I was a student here. For a student to really realize that they are standing on a rich, interesting foundation — I think that it’s really important.”
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