Music audible from a block away, free coffee and the presence of a large fox were all sure signs that something special was happening at the Rubenstein Arts Center. 

Last Saturday, over 3,000 people attended the opening of the Rubenstein Arts Center, according to Duke Today. The event featured collaborations with duARTS, Duke Performances, Small Town Records, the campus radio station WXDU and the Dance Program Repertory. 

The Rubenstein Arts Center, which has been given the nickname “The Ruby,” officially opened Jan. 8, but the celebration allowed students to explore the Rubenstein and learn about all of the opportunities offered there. 

“It’s exciting for me to see people come, because I think you have to be in the building to see all the different types of art-making it can support,” Arts Communications Specialist Katy Clune said.

The large number of attendees exceeded the expectations of many people involved in planning the event. 

Bre Bradham
A group of dancers walks down from the second floor of the Rubenstein Arts Center.

“I am absolutely thrilled to see this incredible turnout for the grand opening — so many students, so many people from the community,” said Scott Lindroth, vice provost for the arts. 

The opening also featured an abundance of free merchandise, ranging from Joe Van Gogh coffee to posters for the first 50 attendees. The event was so well-attended that the posters ran out 10 minutes before the festivities officially started. 

While a large number of Duke students attended the opening, the event also attracted many members of the Durham community. Families and curious locals alike flocked to the Rubenstein, eager to see the result of the construction first approved in 2015. 

“It looks like a wonderful collection of spaces for the students, and I expect that it will foster a lot of creativity,” Durham resident Steve Pulling said.

The Rubenstein was built to allow students to explore their artistic talents, but its opening was also a chance to showcase what students have already accomplished. Student Dance Council brought together multiple student dance groups on campus for short performances throughout the afternoon. Small Town Records also featured student artists in a series of live sets. The Arts of the Moving Image program played student films throughout the event. 

Local artist Bill Thelen hosted a Biscuit Station where attendees could “order” biscuits with various toppings like jelly, pimento cheese and fried chicken. They then received a lithograph print of a biscuit with their selected toppings, custom-made in the back of Thelen’s makeshift shop. 

duARTS debuted a student art exhibition, entitled “What is Home?”, on the second floor of the Rubenstein. duARTS solicited pieces from the student community that centered on the idea of home and the different forms it can take. The exhibit is split into three sections that describe home: as a physical space, as a person or as an unwelcome environment. 

“You can explore the different way Duke students have interpreted what home means to them,” duARTS President Kelsey Graywill said.

Bre Bradham
Good Coffee plays in The Ruby Lounge as part of Small Town Records' student showcase.

On display for a month, the “What is Home?” exhibit is the first gallery to be shown in the Rubenstein. Graywill said that the arts center allows for students, administrators and Durham community members to all see the gallery.

“It’s kind of a unique showcase in that this is probably the most diverse group of people that will have ever come into a student showcase,” Graywill said. 

The Poetry Fox also made an appearance. A long line of students waited to receive a typewritten poem based on their chosen word from the fox.

Duke Performances hosted a demo of the technology-inspired dance performance “MEETING,” which was shown in the von der Heyden Studio Theater last week. Alisdair Macindoe, the creator of the robots used in the show, conducted a Q&A after the performance. 

The scale of the opening of the Rubenstein signaled to students that Duke is serious about its commitment to the arts. 

“I really like it,” first-year Aasha Henderson said. “I think it’s really awesome that they have this on campus and that Duke embraces the arts this way.”

First-year Isabella Victoria Jimenez echoed the sentiment and said she enjoyed the variety of types of art on display at the opening.

“They’re trying to show off everything at the same time,” Jimenez said. 

Sophomore Ashton Carr, who works at the Arts Annex, said that she likes how Duke is pulling together all of its different arts spaces on campus. The Nasher Museum of Art, the Arts Annex, Smith Warehouse and the Rubenstein are all located along Campus Drive. Together, they form an arts corridor stretching from East to West Campus. 

Lindroth agreed that the development of the Rubenstein signaled a new era for the arts at Duke.

“I’m so proud that Duke has made this commitment,” Lindroth said. “I think it will send a whole new signal for what this institution is about.”