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Duke Arts Fest shows art from across campus

The Duke Arts Festival exhibit in the Bryan Center includes a wide variety of student art.
The Duke Arts Festival exhibit in the Bryan Center includes a wide variety of student art.

If you’re in the Bryan Center and stop to look closely, you might be surprised to see art pieces on display credited to Mechanical Engineering, Biology, Economics and English majors, to name a few.

What is now the Duke Arts Festival started out as a one-weekend event three years ago created by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts. Last year already, there were more than 200 submissions, and this year the festival is displaying more than 300 submissions by about 125 students, and has also incorporated events by more than 30 student performance groups.

“We never know how many submissions we are going to get each year,” Vice Provost for the Arts Scott Lindroth said, “but we hope that as it becomes more familiar and becomes lodged in students’ memory from year to year, that participation increases.”

Though the increase in submissions and performing group participation has been eagerly driven by students themselves, the festival’s core event—the DEMAN (Duke Entertainment Media and Arts Network) weekend—began as an interesting coincidence.

As Lindroth was working on the first Arts weekend, Duke alumni in the entertainment business in the Los Angeles area were trying to coordinate with the Duke Alumni Association to network and connect with each other. The DAA, Lindroth and alumni agreed that combining a student arts weekend and a networking event could bring back alumni to campus, both to reminisce and to address students on their arts involvement during and after Duke.

“We cast as wide a net as possible in trying to bring these alumni back to reengage with campus,” Lindroth said. “We think that these are really exciting career opportunities for students and that our students are interested in meeting these people.”

This year the DEMAN weekend features a diverse group of alumni workshops representing arts, media and entertainment. For instance. this year’s ‘headliner’ Kara DioGuardi ’93, appeared on seasons eight and nine of American Idol, and has written over 315 songs sung by, among others, Celine Dion, Rascal Flatts and Gwen Stefani. She is now a record producer and Warner Bros. executive.

“We love to bring alumni that are dancers and musicians, but we also love the people that are working in theater as well as film and media, and of course even behind-the-scenes in entertainment,” said Lindroth, who emphasized that this event was for students of all interests. “They all have very interesting careers and experiences to share and advise the students on.”

Apart from connecting students with alumni, the festival engages faculty. William Fick, a visiting assistant professor of visual arts, has helped coordinate the displays at the Bryan Center, and is developing a mural that will go up above the OSAF office, entitled “The Strip.”

Performance art is featured prominently at the festival; Lindroth has worked with student groups and arts departments to bring chamber music, improv and stand-up comedy and dance.

“The dance council has been a force of nature,” Lindroth said. “They are a very powerful and well organized group, and they work very closely with faculty in the dance program to participate in this festival.”

The Duke Arts Festival is intended to impact student interest in the arts, even after the “best of show” submissions are moved into the Bryan Center’s Brown Gallery at the end of the week. Students have begun plans to create an umbrella organization for all the student art groups on campus to coordinate events and increase awareness by combining resources. By the same token, non-art academic departments have collaborated to support the Visiting Artists in Residence Program. Last year, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience brought Amy Caron’s Waves of Mu, a multimedia showcase of neural anatomy. The Evolutionary Anthropology department and the Kenan Institute of Ethics have also worked with arts departments to bring interdisciplinary events.

By beginning the festival on parents’ weekend and ending with visiting arts alumni, the festival has sought the involvement of a multitude of human resources and interest. “This event helps bring coherence and a sense of belonging to our community,” Lindroth said.

Student art is on display now at the Bryan Center. There is a reception at the Nasher tomorrow night at 6:30 pm for Duke arts, media and entertainment alumni. For a full events schedule, visit http://arts.duke.edu/festival.

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