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Growing a Culture for Art at Duke

Duke Arts connects and amplifies the arts across the university, with support from the Office of the Vice Provost of the Arts.

The arts thrive at Duke. Leading academic programs, critically-acclaimed presenting organizations, and embedded visiting artists create connections between campus, the cultural momentum of Durham, NC, and international thinkers, makers, and performers. With thirty-one degrees, minors, and certificates offered in the arts and nearly 100 arts-oriented student organizations, Duke students from all backgrounds engage with artistic practice. At Duke, the arts are an engine of collaboration and innovation.

Between 2007–2017, Duke University’s academic strategic plan incorporated an emphasis on the arts and appointed Scott Lindroth as Duke’s first Vice Provost for the Arts. During his tenure, Lindroth led a massive expansion of arts opportunities across campus and several capital projects—including the Rubenstein Arts Center. John Brown was appointed Vice Provost for the Arts in July 2020. Today, by linking arts experiences and creative practice to classroom inquiry, the Vice Provost for the Arts and Duke Arts work to embed art into the mainstream Duke experience.

This film celebrates the vibrant, creative community at Duke and in Durham. No matter what you are majoring in, Duke offers invaluable opportunities for students interested in exploring creativity at Duke and beyond.

Key Moments for the Arts at Duke

The last ten years have heralded massive new opportunities for the arts at Duke.


Opeyemi Olukemi is appointed director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.


John V. Brown is appointed the first full-time vice provost for the arts for Duke University. Scott Lindroth steps down, returning full-time to Duke Music faculty. Trevor Schoonmaker is appointed the Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum of Art.


The ​Rubenstein Arts Center​ opens. The Ruby puts the arts at the center of Duke’s campus, helps define a Duke Arts District along campus drive, and enables students, faculty, visiting artists and other collaborators to come together in flexible project studios, hone their skills, and create new work. Duke’s Dance and Arts of the Moving Image programs relocate to the arts center along with WXDU, its student-run radio station.


The ​Master of Fine Arts in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis​ is launched. Seven students will be accepted each year, beginning fall 2019, for the two-year program. It will provide an exclusive collaboration with the American Dance Festival.


Duke accepts the first students into the ​Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology​ program in the Department of Music.


A major ​Page Auditorium​ renovation brings a new ceiling and cork floors, updated lighting and sound, refurbished seats and fresh paint to the 1931 lecture hall. The 1,170-seat space is the largest performance venue on West Campus and is in one of its oldest buildings.


A remarkable $25 million gift from David Rubenstein ’70 founds the ​Rubenstein Arts Center. ​The gift sparks other donors to help make a new home for the arts at Duke a reality.


A transformative renovation of ​Baldwin Auditorium​ is completed, creating a premier music performance venue on East Campus. New seats, lighting, acoustical paneling, stage and balcony comprise an ideal setting for classical, choral and jazz music by students and world-class performers.


An abandoned telecommunications facility just off of Campus Drive is transformed into the Arts Annex, Duke’s first dedicated space for student artists to create and rehearse.


A new ​Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Documentary Arts (MFAEDA)​ program welcomes its first class of students.


Smith Warehouse is renovated and becomes a home for the visual arts.


Duke Divinity School establishes the ​Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts​ as a vibrant interplay between Christian theology and the arts. At the heart of DITA is the insight that music, visual arts and literature do not just illustrate theology but are themselves modes of theological expression.


The ​Nasher Museum of Art​’s ​El Greco to Velasquez: Art During the Reign of Philip III was named of the the top 10 art exhibitions of 2008 by ​Time ​magazine and ​The Wall Street Journal​. It later traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and anchored the museum’s place in the international art world.


As part of the university’s new strategic emphasis on the arts, Scott Lindroth is named Duke’s first vice provost for the arts​​. Lindroth leads a massive expansion of arts opportunities for students, including participating in collaborative work between faculty members and visiting artists.


​The Nasher Museum of Art​ opens with ​Kimerly Rorschach​ as its founding director. As of early 2018, more than 1 million visitors, from 50 states and Washington, D.C., and 66 foreign countries, have walked through its doors.


Duke Performances was born out of its predecessor, the Duke Institute for the Arts. With a strategic commitment to the arts from the university, the organization commissions, develops and premieres major new work from numerous forward-thinking artists, becoming a world-class university presenter.


Documentary filmmaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor Nancy Buirski founds the ​Full Frame Documentary Film Festival​ as part of CDS’ programming. This prestigious festival screened 100 films to 14,000 attendees in 2017.


The Department of Music adds a ​Ph.D. in Composition​.


Kathy Silbiger is appointed director for the ​Institute for the Arts​, the predecessor to Duke Performances.


Through an endowment from the Lyndhurst Foundation, the ​Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University​ becomes the country’s first institution dedicated to documentary expression.


The ​Film and Video program​, the predecessor to today’s Arts of the Moving Image Program (AMI), is established as a certificate program in the English department. As of 2018, AMI has enjoyed freestanding status as a popular certificate program for two decades.


The Department of Music adds a ​Ph.D. in Musicology​.


The American Dance Festival​ moves to the campus of Duke University.


Jazz innovator, pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams is Duke University’s first ​artist in residence​. As of 2018, more than 70 visiting artists have had residencies at Duke.


The Duke University Museum of Art​ (predecessor to the Nasher Museum of Art) was founded with the acquisition of 200 medieval works from the Ernest Brummer Collection.


The Department of Music​ is established and begins offering the B.A. in Music to undergraduate students.


Duke University invites Ella Fountain Pratt to develop arts programs for its student union. Pratt brings artists including Pete Seeger, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead to perform on campus.


The Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies​ is founded.