Michael J. Kelley Appointed Dean of Design and Production at UNC School of the Arts

by Naomi Crews

UNCSA logoMichael J. Kelley, senior producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, has been announced as the new Dean of Design and Production (D&P) at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA).


Michael J. Kelley is senior producer for Walt Disney Imagineering

(WINSTON-SALEM) Michael J. Kelley, a two-time Emmy Award-winning alumnus, is the new Dean of Design and Production (D&P) at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), Provost David Nelson has announced. Kelley, whose experience includes stage productions, film, television and themed entertainment, will begin July 15.

Kelley won Emmys in 2005 as assistant art director for HBO’s “Deadwood” and in 1994 as set decorator for 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.

He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in scene design in 1987.

“Michael is a multi-faceted 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 a total of 11 years, first as a senior set decorator from 1996 to 2001, and again 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 and has worked on 13 Thea Award-winning projects. In 1988, worked on Tony Award-nominated Born Yesterday as set decorator. 

Kelley has extensive experience as set decorator, set designer, property master and property fabrication for companies including New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Cleveland Play House, Pittsburgh Public Theatre and North Carolina Shakespeare Festival.

He has taught master classes and seminars at UNCSA, Ohio University, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., and at the Entertainment Innovation Conference in Winston-Salem, N.C.

At UNCSA, Kelley will lead more than 30 fulltime and adjunct faculty, four staff members, and about 300 students. D&P 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; and 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. It also includes a two-year high school Visual Arts Program.

Kelley succeeds Joseph P. Tilford, who stepped down as dean a year ago to devote more time to teaching and scene design. Tilford will rejoin the D&P faculty this fall as professor of scene design. Jamie Call Blankinship, an associate professor of stage management and alumna of the School of Design and Production, has served as interim dean for the 2014-15 academic year.

Michael J. Kelley

Originally from Appleton, Wisc., Michael J. Kelley is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

He is an Emmy Award-winning art director and set decorator with experience in all facets of entertainment, and has achieved success as a senior producer and principal designer on Broadway, in regional theatre, television, film and themed entertainment.

International credits include projects in Czechoslovakia, Japan, Dubai and China. Kelley has been art director and set decorator for HBO, Nickelodeon, Universal Studios, Lifetime Network, Children’s Television Workshop, and Walt Disney Imagineering.

He received Emmy Awards for his work on “Deadwood” and “Sesame Street.” His producer credits include Dubai’s Marvel Theme Park, China’s Shanghai Expo, Disney Shanghai Resort and Walt Disney Imagineering.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is America’s first state-supported arts school, 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 when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.