Arts Impact Report

Sep 1, 2020–Jul 31, 2021September 1, 2020–July 31, 2021

Dear friends, fellow artists, and arts supporters,

With this report, I invite you to pause and reflect on the tremendous accomplishments of Duke University’s creative community this past year. We witnessed how artistic expression helped us heal and process the trauma of COVID-19, of police brutality, of loss. Experiencing art together—even if virtually—sustained our spirits.

Our accomplishments in the 2020–2021 academic year would have been unimaginable eighteen months ago! This report represents resilience, innovation, and collaboration among staff, faculty, and students during a time when the arts were severely impacted by the pandemic. While we lost much, in some ways our audiences expanded. We found we are stronger when we join forces. Last year marked the first-ever collaboration between Duke Arts, the Nasher Museum of Art, and Duke Health, as well as the first spring student showcase video collaboratively presented by our academic art departments.

Looking ahead, I am pleased to announce that Duke Performances is more closely aligning with Duke Arts. We are working behind-the-scenes to ensure that the best of Duke Performances’ programming, commissions, artist residencies, and community engagements grow stronger with the support of a larger staff, more central university resources, and increased connection with our academic curriculum. Very exciting days ahead!

I am deeply grateful that Duke’s stages, galleries, and rehearsal rooms are reopening for the fall semester. The return of in-person audiences will indeed be joyful, and may we always remember that art and artists are essential. The past year proved that beyond a doubt.

With gratitude,

handwritten autograph

John V. Brown Jr., J.D.

Vice Provost for the Arts
Director of the Jazz Program
Professor of the Practice of Music

Duke University President Vincent E. Price, Provost Sally Kornbluth, Vice Provost for the Arts John V. Brown, and John Legend on Commencement Day

Duke University President Vincent E. Price, Provost Sally Kornbluth, Vice Provost for the Arts John V. Brown, and 2021 Commencement speaker John Legend on Commencement Day.

“The next phase of the arts at Duke puts people first: Deeper engagement with visiting artists, a welcoming arts culture, curricular development, and accessibility.”

—Sally Kornbluth

Duke University Provost


Academic Art Programs

Undergraduate & graduate degrees, minors, & certificates


Arts Faculty

Spanning six academic departments and programs


Student Groups

In arts, media, & publications


Virtual Art Events

September 1, 2020–July 31, 2021


Virtual Art Event Attendees & Video Views

September 1, 2020–July 31, 2021


Visitors to

September 1, 2020–July 31, 2021
(versus 69,674 the previous year)

Vice Provost for the Arts Initiatives

2020–2021 Duke Arts Priorities

September 2020


RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! banner on the Nasher Museum of Art

Aerial view of RESIST COVID on Nasher Museum of Art and Rubenstein Arts Center.

Duke Arts collaborated with the Nasher Museum of Art and Duke Health to present RESIST COVID/TAKE 6!, an outdoor exhibition and public awareness campaign by the nationally renowned artist Carrie Mae Weems.

The exhibition, presented on campus and in Durham, emphasized the disproportionate impact of the deadly virus on communities of color, through large-scale banners and window clings, posters, street signs, and more.

Learn more

Fall 2020

Support for Arts at Duke

Five musicians wearing masks, sitting with their instruments

Trout Clout Quintet. Photo by Rodrigo Dorfman.

Funds from Duke Arts supported the Nasher Museum of Art RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! exhibition and musicians performing for Duke Arts & Health, provided free student tickets to virtual Duke Performances concerts, assisted with documenting student performances, and purchased USB microphones to empower the Duke Music Department to deliver improved virtual lessons. The DukeCreate program, supported by Duke Arts, also hired 29 MFA students and local artists to teach free virtual workshops.

October 2020

DEMAN Weekend-ish

Screenshot of four people on a Zoom call for DEMAN Weekend-ish

Ritza Bloom ’13, Robb Chavis ’98, and Vanessa McGee virtually came together for a conversation with Professor Mark Anthony Neal for DEMAN Weekend-ish on October 21.

In April 2020, the Duke Entertainment, Media, and Arts Network (DEMAN) launched DEMAN Live, a virtual series featuring alumni panelists and a signature program of Duke Arts. DEMAN presented 14 original, live conversation events in 2020–2021, and made another 29 videos with alumni accessible on the DEMAN Lounge, Duke's hub for the creative industries.

In October 2020, DEMAN partnered with Duke Black Alumni to present “DEMAN Weekend-ish.” The event featured alumni working behind the scenes of the TV series black-ish & grown-ish. In February 2021, DEMAN set a new attendance record of 2,669 registrants and 900 attendees for a screening and talkback for Assassins, a feature documentary directed by Ryan White ’04.

Spring 2021

Support for Community Arts & Artists

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Duke Arts, in partnership with the Office of Durham and Community Affairs, continued to support the regional arts ecosystem. Funds were donated to “Big Night In for the Arts,” a fundraiser for arts councils from Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties, in partnership with WRAL-TV. Duke Arts and the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs also provided funding to Durham’s Hayti Heritage Film Festival and the Carolina Theatre.

promotional graphic for Big Night In for the Arts

March 2021

Live Music at Duke Health Vaccination Sites

Duke Arts partnered with Duke Health to hire local musicians to perform at COVID-19 vaccination clinics. This was a win-win: a work opportunity for artists and individuals receiving the vaccine received the welcome surprise of live music. Duke Arts also sponsored Duke Arts & Health activities and organized outdoor pop-up performances to celebrate Duke Health employees.

musicians performing live music underneath tent at Duke Health vaccination site

Local musicians perform outside the Duke Medical Pavilion on June 18, 2021. Photo by Nina Wilder.

March 2021

Duke Receives $3.75 Million to Support Next Phase of the Arts

aerial view of Baldwin Auditorium

The grant from The Duke Endowment, a private foundation based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is supporting areas vital to the arts at Duke, including Duke Arts. Notably, it helps realize a new vision for the arts at Duke, now directed by the university’s first full-time Vice Provost for the Arts, John V. Brown.

“Arts and culture programs are perhaps the most deeply affected by COVID-19, and they will take the longest to recover. Understanding this—and knowing Duke can lead in sustaining and supporting arts on campus, in Durham and beyond—means this grant comes at a particularly important juncture.”

—John V. Brown

Vice Provost for the Arts

April 2021

Student Showcase

Duke Arts Student Showcase

In a typical year, spring showcase events are presented across campus. Duke Arts produced a video showcase highlighting the accomplishments of undergraduates in academic arts departments—Theater Studies, Dance, Music, English, and Art, Art History & Visual Studies.

The “Duke Arts Students Showcase” received a Platinum Hermes Award presented by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals for “Electronic Media (Video) / Social Media Content.”

Watch Showcase

April 2021

DukeCreate Presents Jacob Collier

screenshot of a virtual songwriting workshop with Jacob Collier

DukeCreate, a free hands-on arts workshop series for the Duke community, transitioned to hour-long virtual classes in April 2020. Attendance for DukeCreate programs grew substantially in 2021–2022; 141 hour-long workshops spanning meditation to graphic design to weaving were offered. Participants gave feedback on how much they valued the chance to do creative projects together, online. In April 2021, DukeCreate reached new heights with a songwriting workshop with Jacob Collier, Grammy-award winning pianist and YouTube sensation.

“I heavily relied on DukeCreate workshops to give me a designated hour or so of relaxed art that I could look forward to. Having the social interaction, even on Zoom, made my weeks a little less lonely.”


Duke undergraduate survey response

Fall & Spring

In Conversation in Collaboration with Duke Performances

screenshot of In Conversation in Collaboration with Duke Performances

This virtual conversation series presented by Duke Arts and Duke Performances provided a platform for 17 artists in and around the Duke community to share their work in the spirit of the in-person “Ruby Friday” programs at the Rubenstein Arts Center.

In Spring, a special session hosted by seven Duke faculty members (pictured above) provided students guidance on receiving funding to support their artistic practice.

Spring ’21 in Conversation Videos

Fall & Spring

StudioDuke & Benenson Awards in the Arts

grid of 2021 Benenson Awardee headshots

2021 Benenson Art Awardees.

The fourth year of StudioDuke, a virtual creative lab presented by Duke Arts, DEMAN, and Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship, paired 16 students with professional mentors to develop projects in creative writing, film, music, visual arts, and more. In April 2021, Duke Arts administered the Benenson Award in the Arts, providing funding to 14 students to support summer artistic development.

“The hope is that these funds will support and sustain their artistic work that continues to compromise and comply with COVID-19 restrictions,” shared Jules Odendahl-James, chair, Benenson Selection Committee.


Duke's culture of creative innovation is fueled by our arts faculty

New Faculty Appointments

Sophia Enriquez, assistant professor in music

Deonte Harris, assistant professor of the practice of music (secondary appointment)

Zaire McPhearson, post-MFA instructor of photography (Art, Art History & Visual Studies)

Franklin Cason, assistant professor of the practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Stephen Hayes, assistant professor of the practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Marie Cochran, founding curator of Affrilachian Artist Project, 2020–21 Lehman Brady Professor, Center for Documentary Studies

Iyun Ashani Harrison, associate professor of the practice of dance (Duke Dance Program)

Faculty Retirements

Don Eagle, instructor of music, trumpet (Duke Music)

Mark Antliff, Mary Grace Wilson Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Art, Art History)

Tyler Walters, associate professor of the practice of dance (Duke Dance Program)

2020–2021 Highlights

Theater Studies Mainstage Addresses Racism Against Black America (Theater)

Sara Galletti, Associate Professor, Receives National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (Art, Art History, & Visual Studies)

Stephen Hayes Receives 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art (Art, Art History, & Visual Studies)

Photographer MJ Sharp Receives Fulbright for 2021–22 Art/Science Collaboration (Center for Documentary Studies)

John V. Brown Chairs the Jury for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music (Music)

Spaces & Community

Connecting Duke to Durham & Beyond

Trans­form­ing the Arts During COVID-19

Celebrating resilience, innovation, and collaboration

The Ruby, Reconfigured

The Rubenstein Arts Center and the staff that support it transformed to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Closed to the public, the space was dedicated entirely to academic use. Early in the pandemic, Venue and Production Management staff, part of University Center Activities and Events in Student Affairs, supported Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab in the Office of Information and Technology by making bands for face shields. Later on, this staff supported the COVID-19 Isolation Care Team, using the Ruby as a base. In Fall 2021, the Ruby will re-open to the public for limited in-person events. Learn more.

Ava LaVonne Vinesett's African Dance Technique students

Ava LaVonne Vinesett's African Dance Technique course. Photo by Robert Zimmerman.

“Our university staff are unsung facilitators and heroes, making all we do possible.”

—Thomas Rankin

Director of the MFA EDA and professor of the practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies


The Nasher Museum collaborated with Duke Arts and Duke Health to present an unprecedented outdoor exhibition and public awareness campaign by nationally renowned artist Carrie Mae Weems. RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! emphasized the disproportionate impact of the deadly virus on the lives of communities of color, through large-scale banners and window clings, posters, street signs, and more.

Thousands of small art objects (buttons, masks, yard signs) were distributed with the help of 14 community partners, the exhibition was installed at 15 locations on and off campus, and 7 organizations offered related programming. The Nasher Museum of Art partnered with the American Dance Festival to present eight choreographic responses by North Carolina dancers on social media. Learn more.

RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! signs at the downtown Durham Transit Station

Caption: RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! at the downtown Durham Transit Station. Photo by J. Caldwell.

“I have started to be so much more grateful for the small moments. Any interaction I get to have with and share with friends are so much more significant for me now than they were before. The weather being nice or a great conversation that I have I will never take for granted again. COVID-19 has given me a chance to reflect about all the good in the world and become a more positive person.”


Respondent to the survey, “Your Stories Matter: Resisting COVID-19, Embracing Loss, Transforming Our World”

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Goes Virtual

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival successfully made an ambitious transition to online-only events. The School of Doc filmmaking camp’s virtual showcase kicked things off in September, followed by a film screening and question-and-answer session, two Speakeasy Conversations with documentary film gatekeepers and contemporary Black filmmakers, four installments of the Teach the Teachers professional development series, and finally, the 2021 virtual festival in June, with 36 short and feature films, a panel introducing the BIPOC Editors Database, and more than two dozen filmmaker Q&As. Learn more.

Still frame from the Faya Dayi film showing two people

Still from Faya Dayi, three-time 2021 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival award winner.

“In a year unlike any other, we are grateful to the filmmakers for allowing us to be a part of celebrating their work.”

—Sadie Tillery

Artistic director and interim festival director, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Duke Performances

While stages were dark, Duke Performances transformed. Eight artists performed from their homes into their phones for the April–June 2020 livestream series. Staff collaborated with local film teams in Durham and around the country to produce 36 performance videos. The summer 2020 “Music in Your Gardens” virtual series is now available to watch on NPR Live Sessions. We offered 12 shows free to Durham Public School educators and students and dropped into 11 classrooms for virtual artist visits. All of these activities helped sustain artists through the height of COVID-19. Learn more.

Urban Bush Women performing virtually on Zoom

Urban Bush Women in a week-long immersive residency.

“The pandemic allowed Duke Performances to extend its impact within the Durham Public Schools system through virtual field trips: free online performances recorded by artists from around the world and made available district-wide to be streamed into virtual classrooms.”

—Brian Valentyn

Manager of campus and community initiatives, Duke Performances

Reopening Duke Chapel, Duke Gardens, & the Nasher Museum of Art

Duke’s arts venues began to reopen, first to students, faculty, and staff in the fall, and then more broadly in the spring.

The Nasher Museum, while closed to the public throughout the year, welcomed Duke students, faculty and staff to enjoy exhibitions on self-guided visits from September 8, 2020 to April 2021. The Nasher will re-open to the public on September 9, 2021.

Duke Chapel worked with Duke Venue and Production Management in the fall to set up a system for students, faculty, and staff to register to spend time in the Chapel for prayer, meditation, or reflection. In May, the Chapel expanded the system to allow for a limited number of people to attend Sunday morning worship services in person.

Duke Gardens collaborated with students, faculty and staff during its temporary closure, offering by-appointment visits for academic, cultural and wellness activities. On April 1, the Gardens reopened to the full Duke community with timed ticketing. And, on June 1, the general public made its enthusiastic return.

Duke’s Japanese Cultural Club celebrating Hanami in March in the Cherry Allée in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Duke’s Japanese Cultural Club celebrating Hanami in March in the Cherry Allée. Photographed by Jared Lazarus.

“At the Nasher, I’m constantly surrounded by creative, inspiring individuals who’ve shown me there is still a place for me in the art world.”

—Claire Lorraine Hutchinson

Duke Class of 2022

American Dance Festival

While the American Dance Festival had to cancel its 87th annual season in 2020, ADF never stopped dancing. Amidst the crisis, the organization transformed to create and reimagine virtual programs that support artists and engage audiences. Cumulatively, these programs have reached over 70,000 views.

ADF is bringing artists back to the studio and stage through a series of in-person, outdoor experiences this summer and fall. Learn more.

ADF dancers performing in a driveway

In October 2020, ADF staged a creative healing parade in driveways and lawns of Durham's Trinity Ridge neighborhood.

“Way to go, ADF, for supporting some adventurous, risk-taking, outcome-unknown art making!”

—Charles Slender-Whiten

Dancer and choreographer

Inaugural MFA in Dance Graduates

Equipping the Imagination for Social Transformation

MFA in Dance Class of 2021

The Duke Dance Program celebrated the graduation of the inaugural cohort of Duke’s MFA in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis, a degree dedicated to embodied knowledge and practice-led movement discourses.

“The impressive resilience of the students and faculty allowed creativity to prosper, even amidst adversity. Working with these artists has been a time of wonder and growth, and I am grateful to have served as the inaugural director of this extraordinary graduate program.”

—Michael Kliën

Director, MFA in Dance, Professor of the Practice of Dance

Thank You

For supporting the arts at Duke University

Thank you to the thousands of donors and volunteers who continually support the arts. With your investments, we have created an exceptional arts culture and have woven the arts into the fabric of the Duke experience.heart icon

Donor Spotlight

“We’ve Come a Long Way”: Two Generations of Supporting the Arts at Duke

Suzanne Stevens Brock P’87, P’88, P’07 and Geoff Brock ’07. Photo courtesy Geoff Brock.

Suzanne Stevens Brock P’87, P’88, P’07 and Geoff Brock ’07. Photo courtesy Geoff Brock.

Duke Performances Advisory Board members Geoff Brock ’07 and Suzanne Stevens Brock discuss their relationship with the performing arts and their hopes for the future of the arts at Duke. “I don’t want Duke to only be known for its athletics or business or law programs; I want it to be known for everything,” shares Geoff.

Read the interview

Support the arts at Duke

Help shape the arts at Duke by making a gift online at or contact Maggie Brandt (details below) to explore the many opportunities to give, from the performing arts and faculty professorships to the student arts experience.

Maggie Brandt

Duke Arts & Duke Performances

(919) 660-3314

In April 2021, members of the Duke Arts Creative Arts Student Team hosted a virtual meet-and-greet for prospective students interested in the arts. When asked, “How would you describe the arts at Duke in 5 words?” students responded with:

“Make what you want every day”

“Vibrant, diverse, horizon-broadening, eye-opening, fun”

“Creating unity, pushing the boundaries”

“Collaborative, ubiquitous/everywhere, inclusive, malleable, low-student-to-faculty Ratio”

“Creative, stimulating, engaging, collaborative, lots-of-fun!”

“Rewarding (1 million % of the time), smile-inducing, diverse, limitless, always something-new-to-create-and-pursue”

Duke Arts 2021–2022 poster

Brittain Peck created this illustration for the 2021–2022 Duke Arts commemorative poster and this year's Arts Impact Report.