CPA Artist Residencies

Our residencies transform. From research with students and faculty to deep conversations with Triangle residents, artists use these focused opportunities to make new works and contribute to larger conversations about the most urgent issues of our time. 

Southern Futures

In 2021, Carolina Performing Arts announced Southern Futures, a new initiative to meet this pivotal moment in history by engaging artists and community partners in restorative justice and co-creation.

Southern Futures will produce new works, collaborations, and research on social justice, racial equity, and the American South. The organization has named GRAMMY and MacArthur Award-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens to a three-year research residency at the core of the initiative, beginning in spring 2022. Giddens will focus on discovering and sharing cultural artifacts and local histories that challenge entrenched narratives and monolithic thinking on topics central to Southern Futures.

More on our Southern FUTURES initiative

Through Southern Futures, CPA will commission artists to make new works on themes central to the initiative. In addition to receiving commissioning support, those artists will complete residences in Chapel Hill, through which they will partner with community members to co-create through restorative justice practices — a framework unique in the field of the performing arts. This framework will be designed and facilitated by Culture Mill, an arts laboratory based in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. The first artists to be commissioned in this way will include the collaborative ensemble of Marcella Murray, David Neumann, and Tei Blow from Advanced Beginner Group.

Southern Futures is a collaborative initiative of The College of Arts & Sciences, University Libraries, Carolina Performing Arts, and The Center for the Study of the American South. The larger initiative helps imagine, understand, and create regional transformation by focusing on humble listening, community engagement, and bringing the arts and humanities to the foreground. Southern Futures supports faculty, students, policymakers, and storytellers doing extraordinary work committed to a future where all southern communities can flourish.

“Our campus is wrestling with long-held beliefs and overturning assumptions that are shaking us to our core,” said Jacqueline Lawton, the new co-director of Southern Futures at UNC-Chapel Hill and associate professor of dramatic art. “Southern Futures works to disrupt stereotypes of the American South and create a bold, new, radically inclusive vision for who we are and who we can be. In doing so, we will be better equipped to face the truths of our past and the consequences of our actions and inactions, however painful, and bring about much-needed change for our future.”

Creative Futures

In 2018, Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Creative Futures, a new initiative funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, making possible a transformative vision of community engagement: collaborative creation in the arts that is informed by faculty research and driven by students. The grant is anchored by a cohort of four artists diverse in background, expertise, and form of artistic expression, each bringing a unique perspective as well as experience in social practice to the role: vocalist and performance artist Helga Davis, singer/songwriter Shara Nova, performer and writer Okwui Okpokwasili, and musician, curator, and producer Toshi Reagon.

This initiative has numerous opportunities for student involvement. Learn more here.

more on OUr creative futures fellowship

The Creative Futures initiative features a series of multi-year artistic projects that engage artists, communities, faculty and students in co-creative partnerships. The four artists have assembled “triangular collaborations” that include partners from among UNC’s faculty who are engaged in community-based research as well as local partners in the community. These co-creative partnerships have led the Creative Futures artists toward identifying multi-year projects that will empower communities to express their creativity and channel relevant issues.

The artists made their first visits to UNC and CPA in fall 2018, and have continued to collaborate remotely and on site, working in partnership with Rothwell Mellon Program Director for Creative Futures Christopher Massenburg, who says the fellowship “intentionally fosters collaboration among different communities of knowledge and insight that don’t always have the opportunity to work together.”

Discovery Through Iterative Learning

The Andrew W. Mellon Discovery Through Iterative Learning (DisTIL) Fellowship brings artists to Carolina Performing Arts and the UNC-Chapel Hill campus for multiple semesters. These unique residencies do not focus upon an individual performance. Instead, they bring the resources of the University’s faculty to inspire and inform artists’ artistic process.

more on our distil fellowship

CPA’s Mellon Foundation DisTIL Fellows collaborate with faculty in a department outside of their own area of expertise, providing them with the opportunity to gain new insights into the questions that they have been asking about their work and the world and, in return, inspire and inform artists’ artistic processes. At the same time, the DisTIL Fellow will bring the unique creativity and approach of the arts to the work of the faculty, helping push UNC faculty and students to look at their work with a new lens, and share their work with new audiences.

The DisTIL Fellowship extends over several semesters as a way to recognize that collaboration does not happen overnight. It requires many meetings and time to build the shared trust, respect, and vocabulary that can allow for artistic and intellectual exchanges to take place. DisTIL Fellows spend 2-3 years visiting campus, connecting with faculty, and sharing the results of their ideas and discussions with the wider community.

The Commons

The Commons Residency and Festival was founded in 2019. In 20/21, the Commons went digital: The residency (awarded to four locally-based artists) took place in fall 2020, and the festival streamed digitally over four weekends starting January 29, 2021, featuring the artists’ performances and “Shop Talks,” a new roundtable discussion series.

The goal of the Commons is to strengthen the performing arts activities of the Triangle, North Carolina area as a site of community, discussion, hospitality, and process. A “commons” is defined as “land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community.” In an ideal community, each member contributes resources to a shared pool; these pooled resources, in turn, benefit each individual.

Current Residencies

David Neumann, Marcella Murray and Tei Blow for Advanced Beginner Group

This trio uses digital imagery, dance and theater to explore issues such as race and vulnerability. In addition to their fall 2022 presentation of…

Bobbi Jene Smith

Longtime CPA collaborator and choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith returns to CPA in fall 2022 for a technical residency to complete Broken Theater, a work…

Rhiannon Giddens

Southern Futures at CPA
Beginning in spring 2022, GRAMMY and MacArthur Award-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens joins CPA in a three-year research residency at the core of Southern Futures…

Culture Mill

Southern Futures at CPA
A performing arts laboratory based in the village of Saxapahaw, North Carolina, Culture Mill is led by founders Tommy Noonan and Murielle Elizéon, dancers and choreographers with more than 35 combined years…

Helga Davis

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Creative Futures Artist-in-Residence
As part of her Creative Futures fellowship at Carolina Performing Arts, Helga Davis is developing a podcast series featuring conversations with select local researchers,…

Okwui Okpokwasili

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Creative Futures Artist-in-Residence
Okwui Okpokwasili is building a collective sonic practice as part of her Creative Futures residency, which revolves around the question “What do you carry,…

Toshi Reagon

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Creative Futures Artist-in-Residence
From her Mellon Foundation Discovery Through Iterative Learning (DisTIL) and Creative Futures fellowships, to her focus on Southern Futures at CPA and beyond, Brooklyn-based…

Subscribe to Our Email List

Sign Up