The Duke Arts Center

Construction will soon begin on a new Arts Center at Duke. The $50 million, 71,000-square-foot facility will be located on the northeast corner of Anderson Street and Campus Drive, across from the Nasher Museum. The designed is by William Rawn Associates. A $25 million gift from David M. Rubenstein led the fundraising effort.

[Update: The announcement of plans for the Arts Center was followed a few weeks later by news of a $7.36 million gift to support programming once the center is open. The gift, from Karl and Mary Ellen von der Heyden, will be a tremendous help in making sure that the facility's full potential is realized.]


It’s only fitting that the Arts Center's official launch coincided with the Nasher's 10th anniversary celebration. The new building represents all that has happened since the Nasher opened its doors a decade ago and kicked off Duke's arts renaissance. Signs of an invigorated art scene range from the great success of the new DukeCreate arts workshop series, to the emergence of duArts, an ambitious, energetic student arts umbrella organization, to the rising presence of the arts across the Duke curriculum.

The Arts Center will meet longstanding needs of the Dance Program and Arts of the Moving Image Certificate Program, but as President Brodhead told the Duke Chronicle, "[it] is not going to be owned space." It will also host DukeCreate workshops, a student-oriented program that's having its first run this semester, offering three sessions a week in studio arts and photography. The response has been tremendous, with interest exceeding capacity. The Arts Center's flexible studio space will accommodate collaborative projects that don’t fit well into regular departmental facilities or standard academic schedules. Those same studios will be an ideal setting for artists in residence to work, teach, and meet with students. And the building’s social amenities will make it a great place to hang out, hear a student band, and share ideas and inspiration.

Artist rendering of future Duke Arts Center

Plans for the facility include:

  • A 200-seat black-box theater for performance and media arts projects,
  • A 100-seat film theater equipped for both digital and archival film formats,
  • Rehearsal space for Duke’s Dance program, student dance groups, and the American Dance Festival,
  • Video production studios for the Arts of the Moving Image program, the Center for Documentary Studies, and other campus groups,
  • Flexible production studios for collaborative, cross-disciplinary arts projects, including a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) “maker space.”
  • Painting and drawing studios,
  • Classrooms for the Dance Program and Arts of the Moving Image,
  • WXDU radio station, and
  • Indoor and outdoor lounge spaces with a stage for student performances.

The Center is designed with windowed spaces so that the art-making going on inside is visible. It can be an inspiration to others to stop in and make some art of their own. At the same time, the building will be a place for ambitious, sustained projects, whether they fit in a traditional genre or they're more hybrid and experimental or they're "Arts+"—art plus medicine, art plus engineering, art plus math, etc. Such projects will no longer have to adapt whatever space happens to be available. They will have a home of their own.

The new building is the culmination of an exceptional phase in the evolution of Duke's arts culture. Ten years ago we got the Nasher, and it's become a great museum. Two years ago, Baldwin Auditorium was transformed into an exceptional concert hall. We now have a great place to view art and a great place to hear it.

Artist rendering of future Duke Arts Center

It's been a time of tremendous growth. What's needed next is a great place to make art. Fortunately, that place is on the horizon—ground for the Arts Center will be broken soon, and construction is expected to take two years.

Further Coverage

Statements and Reactions

I look forward to this new building, and the programs and performances that will take place in it, becoming an essential part of every Duke student's experience.
- David M. Rubenstein, Chairman of Duke's Board of Trustees

The arts at Duke are emerging as a full-fledged partner in academic inquiry taking place all across campus. By combining this expansive view of the arts with deep hands-on training offered by our faculty, we are shaping what it means to be an artist in contemporary society.
- Scott Lindroth, Vice Provost for the Arts

The arts have always been a part of Duke, but over the past few years the arts community on campus has become more visible, more accessible, and more vibrant. Having a dedicated space on campus that fosters a collaborative and innovative atmosphere will be an incredible opportunity for students to explore their artistic passions and be exposed to the arts in a big way.
- Anshu Vipparla, president of duArts

With the variety of its rehearsal and multi-purpose studios, the Arts Center will offer unique possibilities for interdisciplinary and inter-departmental artistic collaborations and for experimental projects by faculty and students. The black-box theater, with its flexible seating arrangement, will be a prized asset for student productions and performances. The Center will be central to Duke’s effort to prioritize the arts as an essential part of student experience and to provide a strong intellectual vigor to the arts in academia.
- Purnima Shah, Director of the Dance Program

This new building, situated centrally with a deeply interdisciplinary and collaborative mission, catalyzes the arts across the disciplines, from those in the first stages of artistic investigations to the most daring new creations by MFA students, faculty, and artists-in-residence. This new addition to the campus provides an opportunity to continue to deepen our arts curriculum, expand our production and presentation of new works, and regularly engage a diversity of makers and audiences in the power of artistic expression.
- Tom Rankin, Director of the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental & Documentary Arts

Despite its highly subscribed curriculum and leading role in the screen culture on campus, AMI does not have a 'home' for its teaching and programming or a centralized location crucial for nurturing faculty-student interaction and generating collaborative relationships with other units in the arts and humanities and beyond. The Arts Center provides this much needed space. The proximity to the Nasher Museum of Arts promises a flourishing of integrated study and practice of arts that encourages and values creativity, innovation, and collaboration.
- Guo-Juin Hong, Director of Arts of the Moving Image

The moving image now exists alongside writing and the production of still images as one of our primary means of communication: there is nothing that it does not touch. The central location of these new production facilities will not only bolster the curriculum of the Arts of the Moving Image certificate program, but should raise the profile and quality of moving image inquiry across the academic disciplines and offer new possibilities for collaborations and interdisciplinary synergies.
- Josh Gibson, Lecturing Fellow, Arts of the Moving Image