Ask anyone and they will almost certainly tell you that the arts play some part in their life. Be it a life-changing book, a song triggering a memory, or a favorite piece of art hanging on the wall, art touches everyone. Despite that, receiving adequate financial, spatial, and emotional support for the arts is a challenge that many arts advocates encounter, and Kathryn Wagner is no exception.
Wagner, who became the associate director of Arts Everywhere at UNC-Chapel Hill this past November, has been surrounded by the arts throughout her life. Growing up she studied piano and attended a magnet arts school before getting a B.A. and M.M. from Westminster Choir College in New Jersey. She then worked as a communications associate with the New York Philharmonic as well as a publicist for several classical music PR firms in New York City. Prior to joining Arts Everywhere she worked for the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.
Clearly, the arts are embedded in her life. Because of that, Wagner has spent a major part of her career working to support the arts in any way possible.
“The opinion that arts are non-essential is a challenge that I have encountered my entire life,” she said. Being a part of Arts Everywhere at UNC is helping her overcome that challenge.
Arts Everywhere was established in 2016 with a mission to give the arts a fundamental presence on campus. Featuring guiding principles such as ‘the arts are for everyone’ and ‘every space can be a creative space,’ the program boasts incredible artist residencies, creative workshops, and artist resources, such as a 24-hour studio in the basement of one of UNC’s biggest dorms.
All of Arts Everywhere’s principles and events work toward the idea of making sure the arts are a cornerstone of the UNC experience, and that every student gets to be a part of the arts community.
“Coming into a college experience where you’re maybe from a smaller town, one of the greatest ways of sharing your own perspective is through an artistic tradition,” Wagner said. “Whether it’s folk songs, a native dance, or artwork, I think there are lots of possibilities to connect things and people and places through the arts.”
That connection goes beyond UNC’s campus. Another tenant of Arts Everywhere is working to bridge the gap between the on-campus arts community and the community of local artists working in Chapel Hill and surrounding areas.
Wagner said it’s important that Arts Everywhere not only serves to immerse students in the arts but also helps propel them into the larger art world during and after their time at the university. Because there is a vast and prolific arts community right outside of UNC, providing students an opportunity to interface with local artists is incredibly important.
Those connections are becoming more difficult to make as people must work harder than ever to cut through the noise of everyday life. Thankfully, Arts Everywhere and Wagner are around to make it a little easier.
“The arts are a powerful way for us to communicate, connect, explore, and discover,” she said. “I look forward to discovering and realizing all that could be possible with this initiative and with the arts in Chapel Hill.”