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For years the UNC School of the Arts Department of Design and Production has enjoyed a relationship with Cirque Du Soleil. Cirque visits the campus regularly and it currently employs dozens of highly skilled UNCSA alumni. Today, through sponsorship by the Kenan Institute, UNCSA and Cirque, that relationship is extending to virtually the entire school through a fascinating new collaboration project.


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The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) makes the top ten list for small public colleges for its graduation rates. That's according to the list by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The analysis looks at data provided to the U.S. Department of Education.

UNCSA ranked ninth among small four-year colleges with a graduation rate of 66.5%. That's the percentage of first-time, full-time students earning a degree who entered in the fall of 2009 and graduated within six years.

UNCSA is the only school in the state to be included in the list of small colleges according to the University. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy topped the list with an 83.3% graduation rate.

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In 2000, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh committed $10 million to establish the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at UNC School of the Arts, with $5 million given over a period of 12 years for operating costs and $5 million in endowment to become available on the condition that UNCSA raise an additional $5 million solely dedicated to opera.

“Thanks to the support of friends who are committed to building a stellar opera program at UNCSA, we are very close to completing the Fletcher match,” Wade Weast, the music dean, said. “Recently, we have announced a $500,000 endowed professorship for Fletcher Visiting Artists (named in honor of James Allbritten). Earlier this month, we swept the North Carolina District Auditions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council, with our students winning all three of the equal first place awards. I feel confident our momentum will carry us to the finish line.”


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Helen "Copey" Hanes, one of the last grand dames of Winston-Salem, passed away on December 28th, 2013 at the age of 96. The Virginia native who called Winston-Salem home for 73 years had an enormous impact on the arts scene here beginning with the University of NC School of the Arts. In 1964, after her husband, the late state senator James Gordon Hanes introduced legislation to establish the school, Copey and other volunteers organized a phone bank that raised $850,000. Her efforts secured Winston-Salem as the future home of the then School of the Arts. Copey also worked tirelessly to launch Old Salem Museum and Gardens, the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, and her ongoing support of classical music and the Winston-Salem Symphony is legendary. In 1967 she hosted the great Artur Rubenstein in a post-recital reception following his performance in Wait Chapel. And in 2007 for her 90th birthday Copey brought pianist Van Cliburn to perform with the orchestra. The following article includes an interview that WFDD radio conducted with Copey Hanes back in 2012. The interview reflects what classy lady she really was.


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WSJ reports revenue from ticket sales at UNC School of the Arts performances nearly doubled from December 2012 to December 2013, according toofficials at the school. During the fall season in 2013 (August through December), the school saw an increase of 43 percent in the volume of tickets issued, and an increase of 85 percent in revenue over the same period in 2012. Revenue to date for the 2013-14 academic year is $87,236, compared to $47,150 for the same period during 2012-13. The number of tickets sold is 12,998 compared to 9,060 in 2012-13. Laidlaw received the numbers from Scott Spencer, who is in charge of the UNCSA box office.

Katharine Laidlaw, the executive producer who assumed oversight of performance marketing in the fall of 2012, initiated a comprehensive campaign to drive audience development. “Performances are a critical platform for telling our story, for showcasing what we do and why it matters,” Laidlaw said. “More people attending translates to a greater awareness of UNCSA and a deeper understanding of our mission. It strengthens our message and carries it farther, helping us to recruit promising students and talented faculty, and to inspire support of our institution.”

Revenue from most UNCSA performances at the Stevens Center and main campus locations, such as operas, plays and dance concerts, pays for marketing and promoting the productions, and for staff at the venues, including box-office staff and ushers. Revenue from extra productions such as the annual “The Nutcracker” and all-school musicals like “Oklahoma!” and “West Side Story” also support student scholarships.

This year, the school projects that $220,000 from “Nutcracker” ticket sales will be distributed to need-based scholarship students. An additional $25,000 from “Nutcracker” will fund maintenance of the Stevens Center. Concession and merchandise sales during “Nutcracker” earned more than $17,000 to benefit programs such as the high school parent support organization and the senior contemporary dancers’ showcase performance in New York.

The Winston-Salem version of The Nutcracker, which is held at the Stevens Center, is the only one in the Piedmont Triad that has consistently had symphony backing up the music for the ballet performance. It originally was a joint collaboration between the Arts Conservatory and the Winston-Salem Symphony. A few years ago, UNCSA made the decision to have the school's symphony handle the music and it hasn't missed a beat. That decision allowed the Winston-Salem Symphony the opportunity to put on a full symphonic performance of Handel's Messiah, which has quickly become another Camel City holiday tradition in addition to the Nutcracker. Having attended both the whole school productions of West Side Story and Oklahoma, I and many other of my friends/acquaintances that have also attended Broadway shows have attested that the quality of the performances stands shoulder to shoulder with their professional Broadway peers. It is the proliferation of such performances and the growing appreciation that area residents have for this unique asset that enhances and nurtures Winston-Salem's reputation as  a City of the Arts and Innovation" Traveling Broadway shows are a joy to attend but true performing arts afficienados truly appreciate the breadth and variety of performances both on campus and the Stevens Center.

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Jordan Kerner, a Hollywood film producer, will speak at UNC School of the Arts’ college commencement exercises on May 10 at the Stevens Center, James Moeser, the interim chancellor announced. Kerner, who produced “The Smurfs” movies, “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Charlotte’s Web,” will address about 210 students earning undergraduate and graduate degrees. Kerner served as dean of UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking for five years, leaving in 2012 to return to filmmaking. Susan Ruskin is the current dean.

During his tenure, Kerner oversaw the rise of the School of Filmmaking from a strong regional program to the No. 2 public film school in the country, No. 8 overall in the United States, and No. 12 in the world on The Hollywood Reporter’s inaugural list of the 25 best film schools. He is president and founder of The Kerner Entertainment Company. He received a joint graduate degree from both the University of California at Berkeley with an MBA from the Haas School of Business and the University of California at San Francisco, Hastings College of the Law where he was a member of the UC Hastings Law Review and founder and chief editor of COMM/ENT The Journal of Communications and Entertainment Law.

The UNCSA commencement ceremonies are not open to the general public. Family and friends of graduating students must have tickets to enter the Stevens Center.


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Trained as an architect and schooled in the competitive world of magazine publishing, M. Lindsay Bierman has a blueprint for success atthe UNC School of the Arts. Bierman, 48, the editor in chief of Southern Living magazine, was elected UNCSA’s chancellor Friday by the board of governors for the 17-campus university system. He will assume his new duties Aug. 1, succeeding James Moeser, who has served as interim chancellor since John Mauceri stepped down from the post last June. His plans include expanding sources of financing, raising the school’s profile and empowering its educators.


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As I have said before, traveling Broadway shows offers a pleasant experience, but there is nothing like attending an all-school performance of UNCSA.  The production values and performances stand in good stead with anything found on Broadway.


Although it’s part of the venerable University of North Carolina system, UNC School of the Arts marches to a different beat, and its 50th anniversary celebration is gearing up to have a little more flair than the average institution of higher learning. Peter Hedges, a screenwriter and playwright who graduated from UNCSA School of Drama in 1984, announced at Monday night’s gala that the flagship event of UNCSA’s golden-anniversary season will be an all-school production of the musical play “Guys and Dolls” next April at the Stevens Center. Kyle Habberstad, a UNCSA student, sang “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” a song from the show.

“Guys and Dolls” premiered on Broadway in 1950, ran for 1,200 performances and won the Tony award for best musical. It has had several Broadway and London revivals and was adapted for film in 1955. Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine starred in the movie version. Based on several short stories by Damon Runyon, “Guys and Dolls” has music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. “Guys and Dolls” was selected as the winner of the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for drama, but because Burrows was being targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, the trustees of Columbia University vetoed the selection. No Pulitzer for drama was awarded that year.

Recent all-school productions at UNCSA include “Brigadoon” (1995), “West Side Story” (2007) and “Oklahoma” (2011). All-school musicals draw talent from most of UNCSA’s departments: music, drama, dance, production and design. A UNC-TV crew shot “Oklahoma” for broadcast that year. The all-school musicals are great teaching tools, moneymakers and community engagers — but they also sap a lot of the school’s energy and resources and take nearly a year to produce.

Katharine Laidlaw is UNCSA’s executive producer for the school’s larger public offerings such as the all-school musicals, the annual “Nutcracker” ballet and Monday night’s gala. She has been with the school since 2008. “When we produce on a broader, bigger scale, it offers a wider range of experience for students,” Laidlaw said. “It allows you to have a stage manager from production and design who has an assistant, and then there’s a team of younger students assisting them.”

Since the musicals pull from all the departments, casting can be less conventional. “One of the leads in ‘West Side Story’ was not a drama student; she was a dancer,” Laidlaw said. “It also allows us to bring guest artists to come in and work with students; students in sound design in ‘Oklahoma’ got to work with Scott Lehrer.” Lehrer received the first-ever Tony award for sound for his work on the 2008 revival of “South Pacific” at Lincoln Center Theater.

Notable alumni attended and participated in Monday night’s gala, “A School Is Born.” It was held on soundstages in the school’s film village, the ACE Cinema Complex. Hedges was the master of ceremonies. Actress Rosemary Harris, best known as Tobey McGuire/Spider-Man’s aunt; writer John Ehle, Harris’ husband and a professor at UNCSA; and Trieste Kelly Dunn (Drama 2004), who is currently playing in the “Banshee” series on Cinemax, were among those participating.

The next event in the year-long celebration will be a Community Day at UNCSA in September. A new chancellor M. Lindsay Bierman will take the helm in July. Per the WSJ.

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The School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is ranked #6 in the world by The Hollywood Reporter, and its high school program is #3. The June 6 print issue of the magazine, available now online, ranked 25 college programs and 10 high school programs based on its poll of 60 top casting directors and agents. “It is gratifying to be recognized for what we already know,” said Drama Dean Carl Forsman. “Both our high school and college programs are among the very best in the world. Our faculty are top notch, and that allows us to attract students who are very talented and have a passion for acting and directing.”

In 2013, UNCSA’s college program was ranked seventh in the world. In 2012, it was among the magazine’s first published list of 25 best programs. Schools that year were listed alphabetically and were not ranked. The magazine noted that UNCSA accepts 28 out of 450 college applicants; that after its 2013 showcases, 17 of 25 graduates landed an agent or manager; and 10 months after graduation, 13 have Screen Actors Guild or Equity cards. As notable alumni, it mentioned Mary-Louise Parker and Dane DeHaan.

Ranked above the UNCSA college program are Yale, Juilliard, Carnegie Mellon, Tisch School of New York University, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

This is the first year The Hollywood Reporter has ranked high school theatre programs. The magazine’s high school list of “launchpads for teenage talent” ranks Interlochen (Mich.) in first place and LaGuardia (New York City) in second place.

As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972.

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Lynn Felder/Winston-Salem Journal

UNC School of the Arts will continue its 50th anniversary celebration with a Community Festival on Sept. 20 and the first in a three-part literary-arts series on Sept. 21, on its campus. Students first attended classes at the state arts conservatory in September 1965, and the school is celebrating throughout 2014-15 with these and other events, including a production of “Guys and Dolls” in April. Lindsay Bierman, the school’s new chancellor, will welcome attendees to the Community Festival, and the conservatory’s five schools will give presentations and performances, suitable for all ages.

A “kid-zone” area will offer 10-minute portraits by visual-arts students, photo opportunities with characters from Peppercorn Children’s Theatre’s “Peter and the Wolf,” face-painting by students in make-up design, a stilt walker, balloon artist, puppet making and yard games. Jim DeCristo, director of external affairs, is the school’s interim chief advancement officer and co-chair of the 50th anniversary committee. “This is our way of saying thank you to Winston-Salem and all of North Carolina for 50 years of support,” DeCristo said. “I hope it will be a day of discovery for those who have never visited our campus, and rediscovery for those who have.” Parking for the festival is at the Gateway YWCA, 1300 S. Main St. Shuttles will be provided to campus. Local food truck vendors will be selling refreshments.

UNCSA will share its varied literary heritage in a three-part speaker series, starting Sept. 21.

“Working Here/Writing Here: a Celebration of UNCSA Faculty Writers” will feature six faculty members reading from their works. The participants are Laura Hart McKinny, Dale Pollock, Julian Semilian and Nola Schiff from the School of Filmmaking; Matthew Bulluck from the School of Drama; and Ellen Rosenberg from the Division of Liberal Arts.

Bulluck was awarded the Playwright's Fellowship from the N.C. Arts Council for his play “Minnesota Green.” His plays have been developed by the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, the North Carolina Playwrights Center, and in New York by HERE and the Hudson Guild Theatre. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Bulluck joined the UNCSA faculty in 1997.

McKinny began teaching at UNCSA in 1993 as a founding member of the Film School faculty. She has written two novels, several short stories and screenplays, and a filmed stage adaptation of “The Land Breakers” by John Ehle, to name a few.

Pollock started writing about movies in 1973 in Santa Cruz, Calif. He became the entertainment editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and then the chief film critic for Daily Variety in Los Angeles. In 1984 he wrote “Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas,” which has sold more than 150,000 copies and remains in print 30 years after its original publication.

Semilian has published two novels, a book of poems and various books of translations. His most recent novel, “Osiris with a Trombone Across the Seam of Insubstance,” was published by Spuyten Duyvil Press. He joined the UNCSA Film School faculty in 1998.

Rosenberg is associate professor of Humanities in the Division of Liberal Arts, where she has taught creative writing since 2002. An author and actor whose poetry, stories and plays have been featured in performance in Indiana, New York and the Carolinas, she supports local artists and authors through community service and by editing, script doctoring and mentoring writing ventures.

Born in Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia ( now Zambia), Schiff has taught in the School of Filmmaking since 2006. Her first novel, “The Hissing Tree,” was completed in 2013.

Joseph Mills, the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professor of Humanities at UNCSA, will host the event and moderate. He Mills has published five volumes of poetry, including the recently-released “This Miraculous Turning.”

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Journal editorial board

It seems a natural fit: A collaborative program that brings together personnel and resources from the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and the UNC School of the Arts. They call the project “The Artist’s Studio,” and its first public presentation will be today. We predict it will be well worth attending. This is part of a nascent trend among local organizations. We’d like to see a lot more of it.

The first Artist’s Studio project will combine Neil Goldberg, a conceptual artist with a show at SECCA through Oct 5, with dancers and faculty in the schools for dance and film at UNCSA, the Journal’s Lynn Felder reported. It will include a ticketed public event at 2 p.m. today at SECCA that will combine live performance and discussion, according to Mark Leach, executive director at SECCA. David Ford of WFDD will moderate. A second collaboration is planned for February. Both organizations have missions that involve arts education. Both offer exhibits and performances to the public. And both have unique aspects and strengths that may well be enhanced by their collaboration. Surely this will be a learning experience for everyone involved – especially the audience.

The idea is the brainchild of Susan Jaffe, dean of dance at UNCSA, who took the idea to David Nelson, the UNCSA provost. From there it went to Mark Leach, the executive director at SECCA. “Guest artists from SECCA and UNCSA will be ‘cross-pollinating’ the different arts schools at UNCSA,” Leach told the Journal. “From dance to music and visual arts to film, contemporary artists will be creating synergies between the disciplines of the studio — the space where the arts are incubated and take shape. We then will invite audiences to experience the artistic process as it unfolds in a culminating event.”

Felder reported that while Jaffe was at the American Ballet Theatre in New York (she’s still a ballet mistress there), she worked on a similar project at the Guggenheim Museum called Works & Process. “They bring in choreographers, and then they’ll do a show-and-tell about the choreography and give people and inside view of the creative process,” Jaffe said. “This was sort of inspired by that, but we came up with our own version with SECCA, so it was inspired by the Works & Process events.” The organizers already have enough faith in the effort to plan further collaborations down the road.

Organizers say they hope the Artist’s Studio will support dialogue and understanding around contemporary art for the public, while creating educational opportunities for students, the Journal reported. With years of belt-tightening from the state, both organizations have seen their share of challenges in recent times. But one thing that’s never been in doubt is the quality of the art they produce. Collaboration presents the possibility of taking things to the next level for both groups.

I totally agree with the Journal's opinion and feel that this is a homerun for the City of Arts & Innovation. Something that definitely sets us apart as a City and is very attractive especially for the creative class.

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Drove thru the campus the other day & I really like the look of this building. Although to some, it may be somewhat overbearing in relation to other buildings on the main circle at UNCSA, I look at it as providing a collegiate density to the area. Architecturally, I believe it gives the campus a solid boost.

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As reported in the WSJ:

Michael J. Kelley, a two-time Emmy Award-winning alumnus of the UNC School of the Arts, is the new dean of its School of Design and Production.  Kelley — whose experience includes stage productions, film, television and themed entertainment — will begin July 15.  Provost David Nelson made the announcement Tuesday about Kelley after an international search by a committee headed by Susan Jaffe, the dean of Dance. Although Chancellor M. Lindsay Bierman was not directly involved in the selection, Kelley’s is the first high-profile appointment since Bierman became chancellor last summer.

Kelley won Emmys in 2005 as assistant art director for HBO’s “Deadwood” and in 1994 as set decorator for the Children’s Television Network’s “Sesame Street.” He is senior producer for Walt Disney Imagineering — the planning, creative-development, research and creative-design entity of the Walt Disney Company and its affiliates. “Michael is a multifaceted creative professional whose experience ranges from the Broadway stage to network television to museum projects and themed entertainment,” Nelson said. “He embodies the diversity of training and experience that our School of Design and Production is known for, and he is the perfect person to lead the school.”

Kelley has been with Disney Imagineering for 11 years, first as a senior set decorator from 1996 to 2001, and later as logistics producer and senior producer since 2009. He worked in the art department for “Deadwood” for four years, garnering two Emmy nominations in addition to his win, along with three Art Directors Guild award nominations. He has also won two Thea Awards from the Themed Entertainment Association in 2002 as set decorator for Tokyo DisneySea and in 2008 as project manager for CSI: The Experience, an interactive exhibit that has traveled to Orlando and Las Vegas. He also has worked on 13 Thea Award-winning projects. In 1988, he worked on the Tony Award-nominated “Born Yesterday” as set decorator.

Kelley has extensive experience as set decorator, set designer, property master and property fabrication for such companies as the New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Cleveland Play House, Pittsburgh Public Theatre and the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. He has taught master classes and seminars at UNCSA; Ohio University; Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.; and at the Entertainment Innovation Conference in Winston-Salem.

At UNCSA, Kelley will lead more than 30 full-time and adjunct faculty members, four staff members, and about 300 students. The School of Design and Production offers undergraduate degree programs in costume design and technology, lighting, scene design, scene painting and scenic technology, sound design, stage management, stage properties, and wig and makeup design. It also offers graduate degree programs in costume design and technology, scenic art, scene design, sound design, stage automation, stage properties, technical direction, and wig and makeup design.

The School of Design and Production also includes a two-year high school Visual Arts Program.

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Various local media outlets including the TBJ reports this exciting news:

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts announced that it received an anonymous gift of $10 million — the largest gift the school has ever received from an individual donor. The funds will be used to establish the UNCSA's Institute for Performance Innovation, support the creation of a groundbreaking graduate animatronics program and advance a graduate program in gaming and virtual reality in the School of Filmmaking.

“I am profoundly grateful for this transformative gift, and deeply moved by the donor’s guiding vision and passion for UNCSA,” said Chancellor Lindsay Bierman.“It allows us to develop new career pathways for our students by enhancing our facilities, investing in technology, expanding our curricula, and partnering with businesses that shape and define our culture. The Institute will be "a future-focused laboratory where designers, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, actors, and artists of all kinds can reimagine, reinvent, and reshape arts experiences for 21st century audiences," he said.

Michael J. Kelley, dean of the UNCSA's School of Design and Production, said the institute is a groundbreaking opportunity that will keep his department in the forefront of technological advances and "solidify our current position as a global leader in the rapidly-changing world of design and production."

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