Duke’s Creative Lab for Arts Entrepeneurship

Jaxson Floberg is a singer/songwriter creating a folk/indie album under the guidance of his StudioDuke mentor, Hölljes, ’09, of Delta Rae. Image by Robert Zimmerman.
Jaxson Floberg, ’20, is a singer/songwriter creating a folk/indie album under the guidance of his StudioDuke mentor, Eric Hölljes, ’09, of Delta Rae. Image by Robert Zimmerman.

“I knew I wanted a career in TV when I saw Kevin Plunkett (’95, Executive Producer, Jigsaw Productions) talk at DEMAN Weekend freshman year. I went to hear him speak again and again. Being paired with him was like coming full circle,” shared Sam Klein (‘19, Political Science and Treasurer of the student-run Duke Independent Film Festival), at the StudioDuke ’18-‘19 showcase on April 3. “There are so many avenues for mentorship between the faculty and alumni network here at Duke.”

StudioDuke is a year-long creative lab that pairs Duke undergraduate and graduate/professional students with mentors, many who are DEMAN alumni, in fields including TV/film programming, theater, music and fashion, to take their advanced, on-going creative projects to the next level. The program is supported by Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship in collaboration with Duke Arts and DEMAN (Duke Entertainment, Media & Arts Network). The program began in spring 2017 with 23 students and expanded to a full academic year in 2018-2019 with 14 undergraduate and graduate students.

Having a strong mentor is a key part of personal and professional development—no matter your field—and StudioDuke is forging mentorships through one-on-one connections with professionals who have attained distinction in their creative fields. As Duke senior Sam Klein noted, forging relationships with people is particularly helpful in the arts while at Duke and beyond.

Save the Date! DEMAN Weekend 2019: Nov 1-2, 2019.

woman writing on notepad
Zaire McPhearson, MFA|EDA ’20 attended the StudioDuke DEMAN launch event in November 2018. McPhearson’s StudioDuke project operated in tandem with her MFA|EDA program to produce a mutlimedia portfolio of photos, videos and creative reflection.

StudioDuke welcomed the 2018-2019 student cohort at a kick-off reception on DEMAN Weekend 2018. The program has expanded to include monthly mentor meals where the students share their works-in-progress and engage in Q&As with StudioDuke mentors, as well as participate in weekly online posts to update each other on projects.

“StudioDuke helps students develop their creative projects into a robust portfolio with the benefit of professional critique and guidance from mentors and peers along the way. There’s nothing quite like it at Duke”, Amy Unell, Director of StudioDuke.

At the StudioDuke Final Presentations on April 3rd, 2019, students expressed their appreciation of the meaningful relationships they formed with their mentors. Flurina Boslough (‘20, Mechanical Engineering), was prompted by her mentor to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to take her design sketches for her line of Alaskan outerwear to the next level. James Robinson (‘20, Environmental Science and Policy) refined a rough cut of his short film about the impact of climate change on native tribes in southern Louisiana. He shared, “[My mentor] Ryan White was instrumental in showing me how to make documentary work my career.”

1600 Vine: The Musical

students sit in a row
Students presented a variety of projects at the 2018-19 StudioDuke final presentations, from TV pilots to clothing design. Image by Robert Zimmerman.

For the mentors, these relationships are often just as rewarding.

“I thoroughly enjoyed mentoring my StudioDuke student, Flurina.  I was able to expose a Duke student to an industry, like fashion, that is not necessarily a focus in the school’s curriculum and get to know and spend time with an amazing human. It would have been incredible to have such a program when I was in school and to be able to expand my horizons outside the status quo. It is so great to see Duke evolve to have programming like StudioDuke.”—Hillary France ’03, CEO/Co-founder of Brand Assembly

Students note that the invaluable benefits of StudioDuke included structured time and accountability to further their creative portfolio amidst the demands of the school year. “It can be really hard to sit down and find time to think and write,” shared Jess Chen (T’20), whose poetry chapbook, Eyes Unseen, engages themes of absence, invisibility and material remnants. Chen is also working with Arts of the Moving Image instructor, Cole Russing, on her project as an Independent Study. LIke Chen, many students are enrolled in academic courses, independent studies and capstone projects that specifically connect with their StudioDuke experience.

“StudioDuke encourages students to pursue arts entrepreneurship projects through academic inquiry, with guidance from faculty and industry mentors, in addition to their peer cohort.”—Scott Lindroth, Vice Provost for the Arts.

Apply here for StudioDuke 2019-2020; Deadline: September 29, 2019.

Meet the 2018-2019 StudioDuke Students

Justin Baez, ’19: Remnants

Mentor: Jeremy Lange, MFA ’18 | Photographer

Justin is from New York City double majoring in Art History and Visual Arts. He created a documentary photo-essay on homelessness in Durham.

Janie Booth, ’19: What She Kept Close

Mentor: Jeremy Lange, MFA ’18 | Photographer

Janie is from Charlotte, NC, and is studying Art History and Chemistry. Her project investigates an archive of found photographs and responds to them through creative writing and visual arts.

Flip through Booth’s chapbook here.

Flurina Boslough, ’20: Alaskan Outerwear Line

Mentor: Hillary France, ’03 | CEO/Co-founder, Brand Assembly

Flurina is from Alaska and is studying mechanical engineering at Duke. Her project involves creating a clothing line of Alaskan outerwear.

Jess Chen, ’20: Eyes Unseen

Mentor: Chuck Adams, ’64, L’67 | Executive Editor, Algonquin Books

Jess is from the San Francisco Bay Area and is studying Art History and Public Policy. Her project, Eyes Unseen, is a poetry chapbook engaging themes of absence, invisibility and material remnants.

Daniel Egitto, ’21: Birdsong

Mentor: Christina Baker Kline, P ’18, ’22 | NYT Bestselling Author

Daniel is a literature major from Ocala, FL. His project, a novel called Birdsong, follows the adventures of Peter Ashbery in the backwoods of Florida in a quirky, often mind-bending quest to find a purpose in life.

Sam Elliott, ’20: Artificial

Mentor: Lisa Katz, ’95 | Co-President of Scripted Programming, NBC

Sam is from Overland Park, KS, and is majorin g in English with certificates in Arts of the Moving Image and Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Sam’s project, Artificial, is an original sitcom that tells the story of Ava, the first ever artificially intelligent being created by the United States government.

Jaxson Floberg, ’20: Indie/Folk Album

Mentor: Eric Hölljes, ’09 | Singer/songwriter, Delta Rae

Jaxson is from Huntersville, NC, and is majoring in English with a certificate in Arts of the Moving Image. His project is an eleven-song album which draws on a wealth of influences, including traditional folk songs and the contemporary work of artists such as Iron & Wine and Fleet Foxes.

Sam Klein, ’19: The Man Who Never Smiles

Mentor: Kevin Plunkett, ’95 | Executive Producer, Jigsaw Productions

Sam Klein is a political science major from Pelham, NY. His project, The Man Who Never Smiles, is a neo-western/sci-fi/fantasy pilot script.

Zaire McPhearson, MFA’20: Cultural Metamorphosis

Mentor: Jon-Sesrie Goff, MFA ’16 | Executive Director, The Flaherty

Zaire is a multimedia artist from the Queen City of Charlotte, NC. The project is a series of digital images and sculptural works that display the different stages from caterpillar to butterfly; the body of work explores how Black culture has been altered to portray a different message throughout history.

Valerie Muensterman, ’20: Did You Forget Your Name?

Mentor: Julien Thuan, ’97 | Partner and Co-Head, Motion Picture Literary Department, United Talent Agency

Valerie is from Evansville, IN, and is studying English and Theater Studies. Her project is a coming-of-age story following Charlene, a 13-year-old with a severe stutter, whose life changes directions after witnessing a fatal train accident.

Emily Otero, ’20: The Eye of Arctos

Mentor: Hilary N. Huskey, ’11 | Visiting Assistant Professor, NCCU

Emily is from Miami Beach and is studying Computer Science and English. Her project is a fantasy horror visual novel called The Eye of Arctos, which follows the story of a young woman working as the executioner for a malevolent eldritch god.

James Robinson, ’20: We See the Change

Mentor: Ryan White, ’04 | Director/Executive Producer, Tripod Media

James is from Portland, ME, and is majoring in Environmental Science and Policy with a Certificate in Documentary Studies. His project is a short film about the impacts of climate change and land loss on native tribes in southern Louisiana.

Watch the first 3 minutes of Robinson’s documentary here.

Iliana Sun, MFA’20: Heartless

Mentor: Amy Gravitt, ’95 | EVP Comedy Programming, HBO

Iliana is first-year graduate student from China. She is working on a sci-fi romance feature film called Heartless.

Sheridan Wilbur, ’19: At Will

Mentor: Greg Veis, ’03 | Executive Editor, HuffPost Highline

Sheridan Wilbur hails from North Smithfield, RI, and is finishing her degree in Political Science and Psychology with a certificate in Ethics & Society. She partnered with Mathilda Christensson ’19 to write, edit, and publish At Will, a print and digital magazine.