“We’ve Come a Long Way”: Two Generations of Supporting the Arts at Duke
In this interview, 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.
Duke Arts recently connected with Duke Performances advisory board members Geoff and Suzanne for a conversation about their relationship with the arts, their thoughts on the pandemic’s impact on live performance, and their hopes for the future of the arts at Duke.
Geoff, why did you decide to attend Duke, and what made you land on a visual arts major?
Geoff Brock: I applied and was accepted to both Savannah College of Art and Design, which is a very special school, and Duke, but I felt like a liberal arts education was especially important—being able to study not only art but also writing, science, philosophy, social studies, and more. That was a key factor in my decision to attend Duke. When I got to campus, I chose to major in visual art, but I also sought out the Information Science + Studies (ISS) program, which complimented my inclination toward video game development and allowed me to be a more well-rounded student.
Suzanne, you’ve cultivated a very artistically-inclined family. Was it important to you to instill an appreciation for the arts into your children?
Suzanne Stevens Brock: I was raised loving music. I’m a singer and my brother was a clarinetist. All of my children received piano lessons, but I also wanted them to develop their own interests, of course. They all ended up artistic: My son David, who received an MBA from Duke, is currently a professional concert and church organist and my daughter Lisa studied visual art at Duke, like Geoff.
My children’s experience in the arts at Duke compelled me to contribute any way I could. After their father passed away, I gave two studios in his memory—one for Lisa, one for Geoff. After that, I endowed the Brock Family Visiting Instructor in Studio Arts in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, because I thought it was an important area of the arts to support academically. Duke excels in art history, but I saw an opportunity to bolster applied art on campus.
Do you find that you prefer the arts to be something you pursue in your free time? Or have you appreciated being able to incorporate them into your work?
GB: I find the best jobs to be the ones where you can do something you really enjoy, and for me that means a job that includes art. The ability to incorporate creative outlets into my work is an excellent motivator, especially if I can do it without losing that fundamental sense of joy. That was part of the reason I transitioned from game development to non-profit work—the video game industry is super high intensity while trying to raise a family. So, while I miss some of that creativity and excitement, I have a better balance now. I still practice many of those skills outside of work, but at a less frenetic pace.
“I find the best jobs to be the ones where you can do something you really enjoy, and for me that means a job that includes art.”
Family has also provided new opportunities. All my kids are creative, but my oldest daughter especially is really into visual art. We’ve been spending a lot of time together practicing drawing techniques—I’m even teaching her some of the lessons I learned as a college student. I appreciate being able to share those things with her.
How has COVID-19, in your opinion, affected the arts?
SSB: You can’t replicate an in-person performing arts experience. It’s so different from a recorded video—its just not the same. So, I think things have necessarily had to take a hiatus, but I’m looking forward to returning to enjoying the arts communally, in person.
GB: I’ve had the opportunity to watch remote theatrical performances, which has been nice. I’ve also enjoyed the less traditional modes of art that have become more available because of virtual technology—for example the various Zoom reunions for movies and TV shows are a fun part of the arts that normally you don’t get to see.
I agree with my mom: A live performance has a very different feel from a recorded one. But I’m hopeful that, as we return to in person performances, we’ll even surpass the previous norms as people reengage with the arts.
What excites you about the arts at Duke today? What are you hoping to see in the future?
SSB: The partnership between Duke and American Ballet Theatre is extraordinarily exciting. That’s the biggest thing, but of course, there have been so many wonderful presentations brought to campus by Duke Performances these last few years. They’re presenting classical, jazz, pop—everything. It’s a huge benefit to the student body, and I wish for every student to attend as many performances as they can.
GB: I’m really thrilled by the implementation of practical coursework within the arts at Duke. One of the biggest things I felt was missing from my curriculum was what to do with your art once you graduate. I’m seeing more and more programs like DEMAN, which communicate to students that not only is art important as a hobby, but you can do it professionally and make a career out of it. I hope we can continue to build on it for years to come.
It’s inspirational to see the improvements that have been made to the arts at Duke even since I graduated in 2007—we’ve come a long way. But, of course, I don’t want it to stop. 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.
Geoff Brock ’07 graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Visual Arts. Currently, he is the Technology Lead for Impl. Project, an NGO with multiple programs spread across four continents, focusing on the fields of international development, stabilization, and humanitarian aid. Prior to joining Impl. Project, Geoff worked in the video game industry with multiple roles in marketing and development for Ubisoft and Red Storm Entertainment. Alongside his mother, Suzanne, Geoff serves on the Duke Performances Advisory Board.
Suzanne Stevens Brock P’87, P’88, P’07 attended the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Hawaii, and holds a B.S. from George Washington University. She and her husband founded and ran several telecommunications companies that grew to be nationwide. A longtime supporter of the visual arts at Duke University, she served on the Trinity College Board of Visitors for six years. In addition to her seat on the Duke Performances Advisory Board, Suzanne presently serves on the boards of the Alexandria Symphony and The Choral Arts Society of Washington.