Brian Cole was officially installed as University of North Carolina School of the Arts' ninth chancellor Friday. Cole has been in the position since May of 2020, previously serving as interim chancellor and dean of the School of Music. Cole spoke with WFDD's Bethany Chafin about the school's plans for the future and what makes it so unique.

Interview Highlights

On being a public arts conservatory:

It's a whole arts ecosystem. I mean, every facet of the arts and entertainment industry that's happening out there is happening right here on our about 78 acres, which is extraordinary, that it's all happening in this collaborative, interactive, very small community. Another aspect of that is that we're able to do all these things within the arts and entertainment industries, and create an experience that's the same as a lot of our peers, which are, you know, large institutions around the country, many of which are private endowment-driven institutions. But we're able to deliver that same experience, [and] we're able to do it with an entirely greater level of access for young artists that comes from us being a publicly supported institution, by the people in North Carolina.

On what the installation means to Cole:

I don't consider that [the installation] nearly as much about me as much as it is an opportunity to really celebrate the institution. With all the amazing things that have happened just in over half a century at the school, I'm so confident in the fact that our best days are still in front of us. So this is a moment to celebrate that and celebrate our connection to the industry and celebrate helping the industry develop into an even better version of itself through our young artists.

On the pillars of the school's new five-year strategic plan:

The first one is equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. The second is in terms of health and wellness, and well-being within our community, within the training that our students are a part of, as well as affecting the industry and health and well-being in our artistic careers. The third being a strong focus on interdisciplinary work in the arts — we double down on our role as a conservatory and refining and honing the craft that our students have, but also embracing our role as a laboratory for them, putting them in spaces, to use their craft, to develop what's next in the industry. And the intersection of all those art forms is very important, not just for their creative impulse, but for the opportunities that the industry presents now, nowadays for young artists.

The fourth being maintaining and expanding our industry relevance. That's always been a strength for UNCSA, we want to make sure that that continues to be a strength and is an even greater strength in the years to come by maintaining those connections with the leaders of the industry ... as well as making sure that the programs that we're doing continue to be very relevant to the opportunities that students have out in the industry.  And the fifth one, being really a foundation for all that which is institutional sustainability — our enrollment, our financials, our investing in our people. That's really the foundation for making sure that we can continue to achieve our mission and to do all the things that we're setting out as directions in this plan. So I list that last but it's really a foundation for everything. A lot of that really just goes back to just investing in people. And our people are our greatest resource.

*Editor's Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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