Carolina Performing Arts has finally found its new executive and artistic director after more than a year of searching. Alison Friedman, currently the artistic director of performing arts for the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in Hong Kong, is bringing years of experience with internationally renowned talent to UNC-Chapel Hill this October. From there, she’ll begin leading the charge for the arts center’s 17th season.

“Over the past 16 years, Carolina Performing Arts has established itself as a University hallmark by offering opportunities for our students, faculty, staff and community members to experience critically acclaimed, global performances that are typically only available in large cities,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a press release. “We are thrilled that Alison will continue this vision while starting a new era that will include the return of much-missed in-person performances when it’s safe to do so.”

Filling this void was not an easy task: Emil Kang, the previous director of Carolina Performing Arts, founded the program in 2005 and molded it to his taste and imagination. In the process, he created a program that’s comparable to ones in New York City. Kang left in mid-2019 to work for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York. 

However, Friedman is no newbie to the performing arts world. The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority is one of the most renowned arts and cultural developments in the world. Prior to her time there, she worked at Ping Pong Productions, a Beijing organization she founded and helmed that presented 250 shows across five continents every year. She has also worked for Oscar and Grammy-winner Tan Dun’s company Parnassus Productions and the Beijing Modern Dance Company, and completed an arts management fellowship with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. 

Until October, Michael Johnson, associate director of Carolina Performing Arts, will offer interim leadership. 

As the new leader of CPA, Friedman will also helm the Creative Futures program and Arts Everywhere, two initiatives that mix arts with student life. She’ll also work to continue and build upon the program, and keep bringing in performances that New Yorkers will envy.


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