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Duke adding Campus Drive arts building

The new facility will be located between Swift Avenue and Smith Warehouse on Campus Drive.
The new facility will be located between Swift Avenue and Smith Warehouse on Campus Drive.

Soon, student arts groups at Duke will no longer have to scrounge for space to practice their craft.

Duke will open a new student arts building on Campus Drive this Fall after efforts fueled by student groups, faculty and administrators. The new space, created from a renovated property near Smith Warehouse, will act as a much-needed gathering point for student arts organizations on campus to hold meetings and rehearsals.

“There’s so much going on both within and beyond the curriculum that dance, theater, music and visual arts are bursting at the seams,” Keval Khalsa, associate professor of the practice and director of the dance program, wrote in an email Wednesday. “This project will help relieve some of the rehearsal space pressure.”

A 10,000 sq.-ft. renovated medical storage facility on Burch Avenue and Campus Drive, which the University Center Activities and Events office acquired last semester, will house the new space. The space is currently under construction and will be a common space for students to gather and work in the arts, said Vice Provost for the Arts Scott Lindroth. The warehouse will feature a dance studio, theater rehearsal space, a visual arts studio, meeting space and a central lounge area. The visual arts studio will have a large work sink—convenient for students working with paints—and the building will also have spaces to display student art work.

Its opening comes at a particularly appropriate time with the recent decision to convert the Crowell Studio—a rehearsal space on East Campus—into classrooms and the student arts groups’ long-standing desire for more rehearsal space, Lindroth added. Rehearsal spaces are consistently overbooked.

“We definitely need more space on campus..... The school does a much better job of supporting arts departments rather than student groups, which is unfortunate,” said senior Kim Solow, director of arts advancement for Duke Student Government and an instrumental player in planning the arts warehouse. “Many people in the arts enjoy it as a hobby and do not want to take a class, but that does not mean they should be punished for it by not having access to rehearsal spaces.”

Khalsa noted that the space will also foster collaboration between various student artists.

Costs of the renovations to the building will be in the vicinity of $40,000, Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta wrote in an email Wednesday.

The Office of the Executive Vice President paid for a new pathway up to the building, and DSG and Lindroth’s office jointly paid for a dance floor, Solow wrote in an email Wednesday. UCAE will fund the operating costs.

The arts warehouse will also act as a central meeting point for duArts, a recently created umbrella organization for student arts groups. Any individual student or arts group will be able to reserve rehearsal time in the warehouse through duArts coordinators, who will have an office at the site, Solow said.

A committee of student representatives from the Duke Dance Council, duArts and other arts organizations has been planning the interior design of the warehouse for several months, said senior Anna Hevia, committee member and Dance Council co-president.

“This has been in the works for a while,” Hevia said. “The administrators wanted to give students a place dedicated exclusively to us.”

Large, open rehearsal spaces are expensive, but Duke seems to be making a more concentrated effort to invest in student arts facilities, Lindroth said. He noted the ongoing Baldwin Auditorium and upcoming Page Auditorium renovations as examples.

The new arts space is also near to a residential neighborhood, which could allow for community involvement projects.

“We can develop community outreach such as workshops in theater and dance for local kids,” Lindroth said. “It would be a wonderful gesture.”

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