With each incoming freshman class, Duke students are cultivating and participating in a burgeoning arts community, and Duke is responding in kind, with increased funding for student projects centered on the arts.
Awarded each spring, the Benenson Awards in the Arts, Undergraduate Research Support (URS) Creative Arts Grants, Summer Study in the Arts grants and Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts recognize undergraduate, graduate and recently graduated Duke students’ artistic achievements. These grants are allocated to fund independent study projects in the arts and enable students to pursue arts-focused projects abroad during the summer.
Funded by donor Edward Benenson, Trinity ’34, 16 Benenson Awards were awarded this year to students based on merit by a faculty selection committee. Averaging $1,800, the awards go toward education expenses for projects in art, music, theater, dance, creative writing, photography, film and other art forms. This year’s projects range from a filmmaking workshop at Prague Film School to a gospel recording project to career exploration at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Although 14 of the 16 Benenson Awards went to seniors who graduated in May, and one to a senior who graduated in December, class year is not taken into account in the decision process, said Lee Baker, dean of academic affairs for Trinity College. Rather, the selection committee considered the impact the award may have on the applicant’s future.
“Sometimes seniors can better articulate how the award will catapult them professionally or have an impact upon their future,” Baker wrote in an email. The projects can include internships, independent studies and summer projects, and may help students develop a network of connections in their field of interest.
Associate Dean Ron Grunwald, who administers the program, added that seniors constituted more than half of the applicant pool this year, and juniors only a quarter.
Unlike the Benenson Award, awards for Summer Study in the Arts are designed so that students will enrich Duke with their experiences when they return to campus, said Vice Provost for the Arts Scott Lindroth, whose office sponsors the awards. The money helps defray registration or tuition costs for a summer program to which a student has been admitted. First awarded in May 2011, the $2,500 award is selected by each Duke arts department or program, including Dance, Music, Arts of the Moving Image, the Center for Documentary Studies, Nasher Museum of Art and Theater Studies. It can be given to a single student or divided among several students who are pursuing artistic endeavors outside of the Duke community.
“This is an opportunity for each department to recognize students who have demonstrated not only academic commitment but who have outstanding talent in the arts, and to help them further their abilities,” Lindroth said. “They will not be graduating, so they will come back to Duke and bring that experience back to campus.”
Senior Kimberley Welch was awarded $2,500 by the Theater Studies department to participate in the three-week Cooking Oil summer practicum in Kampala, Uganda. Cooking Oil, written by Ugandan playwright Deborah Assimwe, has been performed at the National Theater of Uganda and in Rwanda, and will go on tour in New York and Los Angeles in the 2012-2013 season. During the workshop, Welch and two other students will learn about the play and the history of Uganda, attend rehearsals and work with the cast, crew, and local participants, Welch said.
“It will give me experience in dialogical performance, which is what my career is headed toward,” Welch said. “Even though I work more with minority education and bridging the achievement gap, my senior distinction project is about dialogical performance [and] educational theater, so this will give me more experience with civic engagement.”
Lisa McCarty, who is in her second year of Duke’s new Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts, is one of 16 photographers from around the world invited to attend Picture Berlin, a five-week artist residency and photography academy in Berlin, Germany.
“It really wouldn’t be possible for me to do this without the Summer Study grant,” McCarty said. “There’s extensive traveling, and there’s some tuition for this program, so the Vice Provost and the Center of Documentary Studies are really making this a reality for me, which I’m extremely grateful for.”
URS Creative Arts Grants, on the other hand, aim to support a particular arts project for students enrolled in faculty-supervised Independent Study courses. The grants help defray project expenses of up to $400 and are used to purchase supplies and equipment for the project. One year, for instance, two students with distinction in music composition used a Creative Arts Grant to make a professional quality recording of their piece, which was going to be presented in a live performance, Lindroth said.
“It’s very flexible in how those grants can be used,” he said. “It helps the student complete the project and bring it to a high-quality realization.”
Natasha Williams, a senior majoring in Environmental Science and Public Policy, used her Creative Arts Grant to buy photo paper, mat board and frames for a photography project that explored organizations working to overcome food insecurity in Durham. Williams took portraits of people who live at Urban Ministries and benefit from the fresh produce brought in through food relief organizations such as SEEDS, Durham Inner-city Gardeners Youth Program, Urban Ministries of Durham, Farmer Foodshare and ampleharvest.org. Her portraits are currently part of an exhibition at Piedmont, a Durham restaurant.
This year, the Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts was presented to Monica Hogan, T ’12, for her achievements in dance and choreography during her four years of undergraduate work. Hogan choreographed numerous pieces for November Dances, ChoreoLab and Ark Dances, spent a month in China with Duke Dancers, performed in DefMo and was a choreographer for Ragtime. Additionally, her senior thesis, Heartwork, was the final piece of a three-year project that combined dance with different artistic mediums.
The Sudler Prize is the university’s highest recognition of artistic achievement and is specifically for a graduating senior, Lindroth said. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize and has an involved application process.
“[The prize] is not meant to recognize just one year of activity, but really the student’s entire undergraduate experience at Duke and the contributions that he or she has made to the community. Monica was exemplary in that regard,” Lindroth said.
Even though Duke is rewarding an engagement with the arts through increased opportunities for funding, many students are not aware that grants are available in their field of interest. Brooke Shorett, T ’12 and a recipient of the URS Creative Arts Grant, used the money to document the Duke Campus Farm project and raise awareness about Duke’s sustainable agriculture efforts. She said she wouldn ot have known about the grant if her advisor had not encouraged her to apply.