The independent news organization of Duke University

Honoring one of Duke's Best

Krista Cipriano, who served as director of the Duke Craft Center for 26 years, is "surprised" that the center is being named after her, a decision made by the Board of Trustees last May. But ask any of her colleagues or students, and they will say the decision makes perfect sense.

"I think it's a very fitting gesture," said Leonora Coleman, a former student of Cipriano's. "She is the Craft Center, and it is very appropriate." Coleman has since become the owner of a business that offers art classes, some of which she teaches herself.

Cipriano was named the center's first director in 1975, prior to its opening in Southgate Dormitory. "She had an absolute commitment to both the students and to crafts as an art form," said Associate Director of Student Activities Peter Coyle, who chaired the committee that recommended Cipriano for the job. "She demonstrated the willingness to put in all of the extra time and effort."

Cipriano has had a long relationship with the arts, graduating with a bachelor's degree in fine arts from East Carolina University, largely considered the best art school in the state, Coyle said. Before coming to Duke, Cipriano taught pottery at the Durham Arts Council.

At Duke, one of her greatest challenges was working with a budget smaller than most would imagine for the Craft Center. "As director of the Craft Center, she was responsible for both creating and following the budget, scheduling classes and supervising work-study students and specialists on each area of crafts," Coyle said. "[Being the director of the Craft Center] takes a lot of planning ahead and participation with national and regional crafts and a lot of safety issues. She was constantly maintaining and updating issues of safety."

But when asked what her favorite role at the Craft Center was, Cipriano quickly and confidently responded, "Teaching!"

Her students recognize this passion. "My career in clay began in 1987 with Krista's support and encouragement," Coleman said. "She's always very helpful."

Cipriano also developed a high-quality instruction staff. "One of her greatest accomplishments was putting together a strong collection of local craft people to serve as teachers," Coyle said. "Now our instructors are professional craftsmen."

Cipriano's job went well beyond the Craft Center, as she was active in the campus and local communities. Despite four major brain surgeries over the past 22 years, Cipriano never wavered from her commitments. She retired in 2001.

As a Student Activities staff member, she worked with student groups, advising Freewater Productions, WXDU and Cable 13, as well as coordinating backstage hospitality for visiting artists of all kinds. She was also a member of the Durham Art Guild and chair of the Durham Arts Council's Education Committee.

She has been decorated by the community, earning such awards as the Durham Jaycees annual award for Community Leadership in the Arts in 1990--largely the result of Cipriano's efforts to bridge the gap between the University and the surrounding community.

This emphasis on co-curricular educational opportunities in crafts is what Cipriano prides the center on.

"The Craft Center is small and we've never had the opportunity to have much space, but the interesting thing about it is the students could go there and take a class, and the students weren't all students," Cipriano said. "They could be a doctor from the Med Center [or anyone else]. That kind of interaction where they're all there learning together is invaluable."

Cipriano's commitment to such aspects of the center has been visible in her leadership. "She has always had a certain tenacity about supporting the presence of the Craft Center and the value of the center in an academic setting," Coleman said.

A naming celebration for the Krista Cipriano Craft Center, including remarks from President Nan Keohane, will take place Sept. 5 from 4-6 p.m.


Share and discuss “Honoring one of Duke's Best” on social media.