When Durham sought to transform many of its dilapidated old factories into centers for culture and commerce, Duke was among the first to jump on the bandwagon.
Now, one of the University's major investments-a former tobacco facility near East Campus obtained in 2001 - is finally coming to fruition, as an arts warehouse begins construction this summer for a possible opening in six months.
Included in the first phase of relocation will likely be soundproof multimedia studios, artists' workshops, classrooms, a gallery for student work and visiting shows, the Eddy Collection of Musical Instruments and a digital laboratory for music and visual arts - the centerpiece of the new space.
Associate professor Scott Lindroth, who teaches a course on digital music, said the new lab will allow him increased pedagogical flexibility. As it stands, he said, students cannot practice key techniques during class time because of inadequate equipment.
The digital lab will integrate art and technology, as well as visual arts and music.
"Contemporary electronic media so much fuses the digital and the aural that arts shouldn't be separated anymore," said Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies Cathy Davidson.
Tobacco company Liggett and Myers has used the location for many years as a carton-printing facility and is currently winding down its operations. Recently, Duke's facilities management department has been based in part of the expansive building, which stretches from Campus Drive to Buchanan Street. Now, the arts are gaining a practically and symbolically important upgrade into what Patricia Leighten, professor and chair of the department of art and art history, called a "stunningly beautiful" space.
Long stuck with inadequate facilities and a sense of second-class citizenship, a number of departments are rejoicing at the implications of the University's commitment to procuring and developing new space for the arts.
"This represents, from my point of view, a turning point in Duke's attitude toward the arts," Leighten said. "This is a wonderful development.... It does seem to me that it is going to be very visible that Duke cares about the arts and wants to nurture their development."
The warehouse serves to support the University's goal of promoting major multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary programs, detailed in its strategic plan, Building on Excellence.
"One of the points of the strategic plan was greater integration of the arts into the academic mission of the University," Davidson said. "We're building a beautiful major museum that's really focusing attention on Duke in a new way. It's logical, once you have a new museum for the display of art..., to give first-class and really cool facilities to those who make art."
The warehouse, along with the under-construction Nasher Museum of Art (see related story, page 3), the Center for Documentary Studies and possibly a new small theater, will form an arts corridor for future generations. Some have discussed constructing a pedestrian bridge from East Campus to the warehouse complex.
While much work has to be done on prioritizing, fundraising, planning and execution, optimism is prevalent among many, and everyone has ideas for what to do next. Challenges certainly lie ahead, but with construction on the warehouse underway, the arts at Duke - like Durham itself - may be entering a new renaissance.
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