Emil Kang, executive and artistic director of Carolina Performing Arts, has been appointed to serve on the selection committee of the Institute of International Education’s new Artist Protection Fund, the same fund that sponsors the Fulbright Scholar Program.
The fund, financed by a $2.79 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a three-year pilot project that aims to help international artists who are being persecuted by moving them to universities and arts centers in safer countries.
Kang’s role means that he would be finding and assessing artists in danger to relocate.
Kang spoke with Arts & Entertainment Editor Sarah Vassello about his hopes for the Artist Protection Fund, his ideas on how this project can act as an extension of the Arts@TheCore program and whether UNC might serve as a host university for persecuted artists.
The Daily Tar Heel: Can you tell me a little bit about this appointment? Did you have to apply? What was the process?
Emil Kang: No, I think it’s more just a recognition of one’s work in the field. They are looking for leaders in the arts, education and philanthropy who had a finger on the pulse of the artistic environment.
And I think specifically, my relationship to the University was important because one of the goals of the fund, I believe, is to relocate artists, place them in host universities and arts centers, and we are both.
DTH: Why is this a project that you’re interested in getting involved in?
Kang: It’s a brand new project, so it actually hasn’t happened ever yet. So a lot of questions are not answered yet because we haven’t even had a first meeting yet.
What’s really interesting here is they are expanding the work they — and when I say they, I mean the Institute for International Education — are already expanding the work they are doing on the Scholar Rescue Fund, so I’d encourage you to look up that.
And the Scholar Rescue Fund has been going for some time now and actually brings scholars, also from places where they’re being persecuted, and it brings them to host universities in America, too.
So this takes that idea and expands it to artists.
DTH: These artists would be relocated to, I guess, universities and arts centers. How would that impact UNC? Would UNC be hosting these artists?
Kang: Since the program hasn’t been created yet, we don’t know. I would say that we hope that that would be the case. That would really be exciting for us ... to the extent that UNC has already been involved in the Scholar Rescue Fund, there’s no reason why we couldn’t follow suit on the Artist Protection Fund side.
DTH: How does this project fit into your Carolina Performing Arts projects and initiatives, like Arts@TheCore?
Kang: It’s really about giving voice to artists and having them share their work, their creative practice, with our community, which is what we already do.
We invite artists under threat from many countries; we just don’t call it that. Now we have a bit of a rubric for us to ... give it more a sense of purpose. We’re hoping that we can build awareness, I think, insofar as we are able to bring an artist under this fund, which I can’t say that we can do yet.
We would like to find a way to have our communities understand the difficulties that artists face in countries where they are not free to do the work that they would like to do.
DTH: To your knowledge, are there any other programs like this one out there?
Kang: No, there are none.