Emil Kang Joins The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as Program Director for Arts and Cultural Heritage


NEW YORK, NY, JULY 9, 2019 – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced the appointment of Emil Kang as Program Director for Arts and Cultural Heritage. In this role, Kang will lead the Foundation’s grantmaking program that seeks to nurture exceptional creative accomplishment, scholarship, and art conservation practices while promoting a diverse and sustainable ecosystem for the arts. 

Kang will be joining Mellon from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he has served as Executive and Artistic Director of Carolina Performing Arts (CPA), a program he founded and built into one of the nation’s largest and leading university-based performing arts programs. Kang has driven change and growth through the arts across the University, programming thousands of artists, commissioning dozens of new works, and championing new scholarship on the arts. He will join the Foundation on October 1, 2019.  

“Throughout his career, Emil Kang has understood the role culture can play in making communities more imaginative and connected to each other and the world through the power of creativity,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “He shares Mellon’s fundamental understanding of art and culture as central to flourishing societies."

Kang said, “I am deeply honored to join the Mellon Foundation, an institution I have long admired for its willingness to invest in bold and innovative artistic endeavors.  At UNC, these endeavors have always been grounded in the capacity of the arts to spark curiosity.  In doing so, we encourage members of our community to discover and more deeply engage with the world and with each other.  I look forward to working with President Alexander and distinguished colleagues to help continue their transformational work across the country and around the world.”

Much of Kang’s work has revolved around developing cultural and educational projects that use creative mediums to engage diverse communities and explore some of the most important challenges facing our world today. He has helped make Chapel Hill an international arts destination by welcoming artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Basil Twist, Carrie Mae Weems, the National Theatre of Scotland, and Toshi Reagon.  Under his leadership, CPA has commissioned over 50 new works and drawn international acclaim for festivals including “The Rite of Spring at 100.”  Kang’s innovative programming has helped make the arts accessible and relevant for UNC students and surrounding communities.  

He has served as Professor of the Practice in the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 2008. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Kang to the National Council on the Arts. In 2016, Kang was also named Special Assistant to the Chancellor for the Arts and founded Arts Everywhere, a major campus and community-wide initiative dedicated to integrating artistic practice, learning, and engagement into the lives of the entire community.

Kang currently serves on the boards of the Martha Graham Dance Company and the International Society for the Performing Arts. He is an active consultant with organizations such as Creative Capital and the Artist Protection Fund and is also a regularly invited speaker on university campuses and arts festivals around the world.

Prior to Chapel Hill, Kang served in a variety of administrative roles with symphony orchestras across the country, most recently as President and Executive Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He has held roles with the Seattle Symphony, the American Composers Orchestra, and was awarded a prestigious Orchestra Management Fellowship through the League of American Orchestras. A violinist from an early age, Kang holds a degree in Economics from the University of Rochester and completed the Strategic Perspectives in Non-profit Management program at Harvard Business School, as well as programs at the Center for Creative Leadership.

Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks to strengthen, promote, and defend the centrality of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse, fair, and democratic societies. To this end, its core programs support exemplary and inspiring institutions of higher education and culture.

For more information, contact

Laura Washington
Director of Communications