Top Duke Arts Moments of 2018

Arts happenings that made our hearts soar. . .

Rubenstein Arts Center Grand Opening

The front the glass arts center known as the Ruby.
Grand opening of the Rubenstein Arts Center aka The Ruby. Event was Saturday Feb. 3, 2018 1-4 pm. Photo courtesy of Duke Arts.

Over 3,500 Duke students, staff, faculty, and community members came to “meet” the Rubenstein Arts Center at its grand opening on February 3. Highlights included performances by student dancers and musicians, screen printing, an architect meet and greet, and a one-day-only art installation by local artist Bill Thelen. Thelen transformed one of the Ruby’s multipurpose studios into Biscuit Station, a biscuit restaurant where visitors could custom order a biscuit print—all ink and paper, no carbs!


Save the date for a “first birthday” celebration of the Ruby on Saturday, February 2, 1-4pm organized and presented by duARTS.

Honoring 20 Years of the African American Quilt Circle

Four women sit at table
Courtesy of Forum for Scholars and Publics.

Back in March, Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics (FSP) celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the African American Quilt Circle (AAQC) of Durham with principal members Marjorie Diggs Freeman, Jereann King Johnson, and Sauda Zahra. AAQC member Kim Hall moderated a lively discussion at the Hayti Heritage Center about the history and art of African-American quilting and the AAQC’s important work in the Triangle community. Quilts by several members are currently on display at FSP in 011 Old Chem—stop by to see them!


Keep an eye out as well for the spring launch of the AAQC website. FSP is collaborating with the group to produce a digital archive with member profiles, exhibit info, and resources on quilting and African-American life.

Silent Film Premiere in the Ruby

Dorsky chats at a table with two men.
Photo courtesy of Duke MFA|EDA.

The Duke University Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program (MFA|EDA) welcomed visiting artist Nathaniel Dorsky to Duke and Durham in the spring semester of 2018 for four nights of films, February 2-5. The program, entitled 18 at 18,  featured 18 films from the filmmaker, projected at silent speed, 18 frames per second. Over four sold-out nights at the Ruby’s newly-opened archival film theater, the slate of 16mm films spanned the filmmaker’s career and included the world premiere of the Arboretum Cycle, photographed at the San Francisco Arboretum in 2017. Special guests included Nathaniel Dorsky, David Gatten and Mark McElhattten. Learn more here.

21st Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Ken Huth for Full Frame.

The 21st annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (April 5–8) was an enormous success! The festival screened nearly 100 films throughout the weekend, presented its celebrated A&E IndieFilms Speakeasy conversations at The Durham Hotel, and hosted free community events and parties including two outdoor screenings in Durham Central Park and a free Closing Night Film. The festival celebrated documentary legends D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus with its annual Advocate Award, honored renowned filmmaker Jehane Noujaim as its Tribute, and explored films about crime and punishment through the thematic program, curated by Joe Berlinger. Several 2018 Full Frame films —including Grand Jury award winner Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Audience Award winner Minding the Gap, Opening Night film RBG, Three Identical Strangers, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor —  are short listed for an Academy Award.


Full Frame will announce its free winter series screenings at The Carolina Theatre later this month, and passes for the 2019 festival, to be held April 4-7 in downtown Durham, will go on sale on February 12.

Celebrating the Nasher’s Contemporary Collection

three women stand side by side.
Photo by J Caldwell.

Throughout 2018, the Nasher Museum of Art celebrated its fast-growing contemporary collection. Since opening in 2005, the Nasher has steadily built a major contemporary collection with a special focus on artists of African descent. “Every work of art in this collection is selected for its quality and significance as well as its ability to generate new thought and meaningful conversations,” said Nasher Museum Director Sarah Schroth. The major fall collection show, People Get Ready: Building a Contemporary Collection, was organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, deputy director of curatorial affairs and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher curator of contemporary art, and showcased some of the museum’s most important works. Exciting programs around People Get Ready engaged such issues as cultural identity, social justice and environmentalism through music, theater, literature and food. One highlight was the visit by artist Amy Sherald, who painted the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama, and who delivered the Annual Rothschild Lecture on October 20. Watch the full lecture here.


The Nasher Museum presents Pop América, 1965-1975 (February 21–July 21, 2019), the first exhibition with a hemispheric vision of Pop. Despite the wide appeal of Pop art’s engaging imagery, the broader public remains unaware of the participation and significant contribution of Latin American and Latino/a artists working at the same time and alongside their U.S. and European counterparts.

Mural Durham: Satellite Park

people walk around large satellite dishes with murals painted on them.
Photo by Estlin Haiss.

8 decommissioned satellite dishes next to the Duke Arts Annex were transformed into public works of art through a collaboration between Mural Durham, local partners, and Duke students. The opening celebration, Mural Durham: Satellite Park, was held on April 14 and more than 750 people from the Duke and Durham community attended to enjoy catering from local vendors, participate in various crafts, and enjoy student performances- including a set by Rhythm and Blue. Satellite Park is open sunrise to sunset on the grounds of the Arts Annex, 404 Gattis Street.


NC artist Dare Coulter is finishing up her mural on the Arts Annex grounds this spring; learn more about Dare and stay tuned for its unveiling.

Duke Chinese Music Ensemble

several people play Chinese instruments on stage
Photo by Elizabeth Thompson.

The Duke Chinese Music Ensemble, the Department of Music’s newest student performing group, was formed in Fall 2018, expanding the scope of world music available to the campus community.  The group welcomes all students who are interested in learning about Chinese music, regardless of whether or not they already play an instrument. The 15-member group performed at the Nelson Music Room on Dec. 1, filling the space with the sound of drums, pianos, violins, flutes and traditional Chinese instruments such as the stringed Guzheng, or Chinese zither. “It was very meaningful,” Jennifer Chang, an instructor in the Duke University Department of Music and the director of the Chinese Music Ensemble, told Working@Duke. “This is a new thing and a new direction. … I think this group is good for the future of diversity and for people who want to explore or expand their knowledge of music.”


The Duke Chinese Music Ensemble’s spring concert will take place on March 31, 2019.

Visionary Aponte in the Power Plant Gallery

three white walls with pictures hanging from them
Installation view of Visionary Aponte: Art & Black Freedom. Photo by Hoang Nguyen, MFAEDA Class of 2020.

The Power Plant Gallery hosted Visionary Aponte: Art & Black Freedom, an exhibition that tells the story of Cuban revolutionary José Antonio Aponte through works by contemporary artists. This intensive partnership with the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Rubenstein Arts Center and many other collaborators across campus saw over 1,000 visitors during the two-month exhibition, including over 200 high school students from Jordan High School and the Durham School for the Arts, who spent an afternoon engaged in the exhibit, learning about the history, the works, and the artists. The Durham School for the Arts even had a tour in French and produced a zine from their experience.


Power Plant Gallery promises its Fall 2019 exhibition, Southbound: Photographs of and About the New South (opening September 6, 2019), will be another must-see.

Theater Studies Presents Rare Showing of “Love Life”

4 people leaning to their left on a stage in front of a red curtain
Photo by Dierdre Shipman.

Thirty-nine students from Duke and UNC intensively worked with Tony Award-winning guest artist Victoria Clark during her Theater Studies-sponsored residency as she directed a workshop production of the musical Love Life. Duke made theater history by presenting this rare musical by Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner for only the fifth time it has ever been staged, and Professor Bradley Rogers’ students rose to the occasion, bringing an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm to long hours of rehearsal. Their efforts were rewarded by a sold-out performance in the Ruby’s von der Heyden studio theater on December 7.


For the spring mainstage production in April, Professor Jody McAuliffe will direct a new documentary theater work from Ukranian playwright Natal’ya Vorozhbit entitled Bad Roads.  Vorozhbit will be on campus to attend the last week of rehearsals.

Women Furthering the Jazz Tradition are Properly Spotlighted

Jazzmeia Horn.

Duke Performances one-upped their commemoration of Thelonius Monk’s centenary by extending the celebratory thread in a vital and new direction. At In the Jazz Tradition, prominent female vocalists and their contributions to the jazz-vocal pantheon received overdue praise for pushing jazz forward. The weeklong festival featured world-renowned artists that rewarded at-capacity crowds with a diverse range of incomparable female talent.

Stacy Lynn Waddell transformed Durham Fruit & Produce Co. into a cosmopolitan nightspot where Nnenna Freelon, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Nellie McKay, Catherine Russell, Jazzmeia Horn, René Marie, and Kate McGarry left crowds awestruck by their pitch-perfect brilliance.

Up Next

Black Atlantic returns to Motorco in March with six concerts that explore the African diaspora and its cultural connections to music across the globe. Duke Performances calendar.

Growing DukeCreate

two hands cup clay molding a ceramic bowl.
Photo courtesy of Duke Arts.

DukeCreate is a free arts workshop series for the Duke community taught by Duke Faculty, local artists and professionals, and students in the MFA|EDA program. Workshop topics emphasize skill development and practical experience in a plethora of arts mediums including ceramics, screen printing, painting and drawing, and digital media. In 2018, DukeCreate cross-promoted its workshop offerings with the Innovation Co-Lab’s Roots programming, resulting in a record number of workshop offerings and student registrations. DukeCreate also expanded into the Ruby in 2018, building on its space in Duke Arts Annex.


DukeCreate will continue to grow its partnerships and push the boundaries of its traditional programming, offering 75 workshops (that’s more than 15 per month!) to Duke students, faculty, and staff. New in Spring 2018: AMI Filmcraft Workshops.

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