Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Kang's upcoming role at the Mellon Foundation. He will be in charge of the arts grant-making area for the foundation as program director for arts and cultural heritage. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
Emil Kang, special assistant to the chancellor for the arts, will leave UNC for a senior position at a New York City art foundation on Oct. 1. — signifying the latest in a series of resignations among cabinet-level administrators throughout the past year.
Kang was the mastermind behind Carolina Performing Arts, a music professor, and instrumental in elevating UNC’s reputation in the arts world since he arrived in 2005. Carol Folt appointed him to her cabinet in 2016, and together they implemented Arts Everywhere, an initiative designed to weave artistic engagement into community lives.
Kang was nominated to the National Council on the Arts by former President Barack Obama in 2012, the first time a North Carolinian had been chosen for the position. With a background in music, specifically violin, Kang came to UNC following a leadership role at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and a position with the Seattle Orchestra.
Under Kang’s leadership, Carolina Performing Arts has commissioned over 50 new works by renowned artists, and 40 of them premiered in Chapel Hill.
“He certainly transformed the public arts experience on campus,” said Allen Anderson, chairperson of the music department. “He was able to bring in performing artists from around the world and reshaped the way we think about arts here at UNC.”
Kang courted Yo-Yo Ma, the National Theatre of Scotland, Philip Glass and the Bolshoi Ballet to town while at UNC, and oversaw CPA’s production of “The Rite of Spring at 100,” which drew international acclaim.
“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,” interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin said in a statement.
“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,” it said.
Kang is set to join The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, an institution that promotes the value of arts and humanities in democratic societies. “Its core programs support exemplary and inspiring institutions of higher education and culture,” said the AWMF in a statement.
“Throughout his career, Emil Kang has understood the role culture can play in making communities more imaginative and connected to each other and the world through the power of creativity,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of the AWMF in the statement.
Anderson in the music department said Kang played a critical role in helping the University understand the need for a healthy arts program, and champions Kang for his ability to achieve representation for the arts at the cabinet level.
“To make it a formal decision within the administration of the University has made the University dedication to art visible to all,” he said.
The University’s statement said that Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser will take over Kang’s role of executive and artistic director of Carolina Performing Arts on an interim basis starting Sept. 1, and the search for a replacement will be led by interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.