Carolina Performing Arts drives community collaboration, artistic creation with grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

(Chapel Hill, N.C.— July 13, 2018) – A $1.5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will fund a new initiative for community co-creation. As the largest grant Mellon has invested in Carolina Performing Arts to date, this funding makes a transformative vision of community engagement possible: collaborative creation in the arts that is informed by faculty research and driven by students.

The Creative Futures initiative will feature a series of multi-year artistic projects that engage artists, communities, faculty and students in co-creative partnerships. These partnerships will empower communities to express their creativity and channel relevant issues. Creative Futures will enrich University teaching and learning as Carolina Performing Arts pioneers a new model for commissioning art.

“The ideas outlined in this grant are the distillation of a philosophical shift at our organization, affirming the idea that joining the arts, scholarship and community can be a driver of powerful change,” said Emil Kang, Carolina Performing Arts executive and artistic director. “We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for this partnership in helping us continue to imagine new goals and realize them.”

Four artists, versed in artistic collaboration and social practice, will be selected as Creative Futures team organizers. Artists will work with faculty engaged in community-based research and local partners to identify relevant issues. Faculty and students complete the creative triangles by adding scholarship, learning and co-curricular partnerships. Undergraduate students will have the opportunity to earn service-learning course credit during their involvement with Creative Futures. The co-creative teams will explore diverse themes drawn from the communities such as gentrification, free speech, women’s empowerment and community health.

“While the projects that grow out of these collaborations might not all be performance-based, they will all be participatory, collaborative and community-based,” said Kang.

The grant also includes funding for graduate assistants, a project director and undergraduate experiences stemming from the initiative. CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio, which opened in February 2018, will serve as the artistic and community home for Creative Futures.

“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is pleased to support Carolina Performing Arts’ visionary approach,” said Mellon Foundation Senior Program Officer Dianne Harris. “With this experiment in co-creation, Carolina Performing Arts will empower communities through opportunities for collective self-expression, enrich faculty research and teaching, deepen undergraduate investment in local communities, create bridges between the campus and its surrounding community, and test a new working prototype for creative and performing artists.”

Since 2011, the Mellon Foundation has invested $4.69 million in Carolina Performing Arts. In 2012, the Mellon Foundation funded Carolina Performing Arts’ Arts@TheCore initiative to make the arts an integral part of the educational experience. In 2016, the Mellon Foundation granted $1 million for the DisTIL, Discovery Through Iterative Learning, Fellowship program creating opportunities for visiting artists to collaborate with Carolina faculty and community over multiple semesters.

Carolina Performing Arts is one of the campuswide partners in the University’s Arts Everywhere initiative. With the belief that the arts are an essential tool for learning and engaging communities, the Arts Everywhere initiative launched in 2016 with a mission to embed the arts into daily life at Carolina. Arts Everywhere is also a Signature Initiative of the University’s historic $4.25 billion fundraising campaign, For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina.

Information about participating artists and the call for community involvement in Creative Futures is expected to be announced in spring of 2019.


About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 111 master’s, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 323,000 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 149 countries. More than 169,000 live in North Carolina.

About Carolina Performing Arts
The core of the mission at Carolina Performing Arts is to curate and present exceptional arts experiences that inspire and provoke our local and global community. Carolina Performing Arts nurtures artists and the development of new works. It challenges and inspires audiences with experiences to foster opportunities for discovery, thought and important social discourse. Carolina Performing Arts solidifies the bonds between the arts and academics through work that integrates the arts into the life of the University and its students.

University Communications: Carly Miller, (919) 445-8555,
Carolina Performing Arts: Christina Rodriguez, (919) 962-6222,
University Development Marketing: Kim Elenez, (919) 962-1628,

Subscribe to Our Email List

Sign Up