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Saturday December 10th

Carolina Performing Arts plans to focus on diversity and accessibility in the future

<p>Memorial Hall is Carolina Performing Arts' largest venue. Carolina Performing Arts plans to implement sensory-friendly systems to make their productions more inclusive for patrons.&nbsp;</p>
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Memorial Hall is Carolina Performing Arts' largest venue. Carolina Performing Arts plans to implement sensory-friendly systems to make their productions more inclusive for patrons. 

Carolina Performing Arts has spent the last 10 years in the spotlight. Looking back, the organization has redefined arts on UNC's campus. Now, students and staff are looking forward to the future of CPA's arts accessibility and performance genre. 

Idalis Payne, a UNC graduate and CPA's patron services coordinator, said she has had a relationship with CPA for many years, both in the audience and behind the scenes. 

She said she has noticed that CPA has been consistent in its effort to tell the stories of underrepresented and overlooked groups through its performances. 

“I think finding ways to interact with the audience and really just staying innovative in that sense is something that has stayed the same in our commitment to really trying to bring innovative, creative work to the area for students and for the larger Triangle community,” Payne said. 

Payne said CPA also has a strong partnership with the North Carolina Symphony, but they want to reach out to more diverse organizations. 

“We're currently focusing on growing a larger audience, and, in turn, our patrons and the people who perform are more diverse and reflect the Chapel Hill and the greater Triangle community more than what maybe your standard arts institution might,” Payne said. 

CPA has always had a connection with UNC students, especially through the $10 student ticket marketing program. Junior Ian Kennedy, a member of the company’s student tech staff, said this program makes CPA special. 

“We’re the only place in Chapel Hill where students can access some of these shows affordably,” Kennedy said. “Most people can’t see a symphony for $10, but CPA provides that opportunity to students.”

UNC junior Sam Bible-Sullivan is a stagehand for CPA production staff. He said that CPA has been improving in multiple areas since he joined the staff in his first year. 

He said rapper Tierra Whack’s performance in September was the first time he’d seen a hip-hop artist perform at CPA. He said the event was very popular, and many students enjoyed it.

“I’ve seen CPA continue to make strides toward making the working environment as safe as possible for student production staff,” said Bible-Sullivan. “They’re working on getting performers that will engage students more.”

Looking forward, Bible-Sullivan said that he wishes CPA could pay their student staff members more than they do. 

“I’d love for them to continue making strides towards being able to give student staff raises more often or compensating more in general,” he said. “We do physically taxing work on production staff with strange hours, so it would be nice to be paid in a way that recognizes that work more than currently.”

Kennedy started working for CPA last semester and agreed that the program can grow in the diversity of the artists they invite. 

“I think that would help get more people interested in CPA shows and increase engagement,” he said. “I think that it’s difficult for people to get interested in some of our more niche or ‘artsy’ shows, and that makes people less willing to come to CPA shows. That being said, I don’t think anything we’re doing is necessarily wrong.”

Heather Tatreau is a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science. She came to UNC in 2012 and has been involved with CPA ever since. As a dancer and modern dance teacher, she has attended many CPA performances as a part of her course’s curriculum. 

“Over the years, I have been impressed with the internationally renowned dance artists and companies that have performed here: Bill T. Jones, Batsheva, Nederlands Dans Theater, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan and Martha Graham Dance Company to name a few,” Tatreau said.

Despite the increase of famous names, Tatreau said she has seen the engagement with the campus community diminish. She said there used to be an opportunity for students to engage with professional artists, but that link is no longer as strong.

“There are a lot of administrative changes happening at CPA right now, and I hope these changes bring back a focus on the role faculty can play in connecting the touring artists with students on campus,” Tatreau said.

Like Tatreau, Payne said she wants CPA to focus on accessibility of the arts. This includes increasing interaction with audiences and furthering the organization’s commitment to its audiences. 

“I would love to see CPA really hone in on our commitment to the University, to bring in world-renowned artists and really giving the people the opportunity to interact with the arts in a low-cost way,” Payne said. “I want us to work toward really breaking the barriers to arts institutions, even within our own organization and things like that.”


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