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New arts-based pre-orientation program to come to Duke

Project Arts, the newest addition to Duke’s pre-orientation programs, is scheduled to be up and running by 2015. The program is the brainchild of Shelby Wailes (’17) and Steven Soto (’17), who will lead it in its first year.

Duke’s current set of pre-orientation programs—consisting of Projects BUILD, Change, Waves, WILD, and Search—provides an array of opportunities for students to engage with their classmates, whether that means bonding over an incredible number of bug bites, purifying proteins, or improving the Durham community . Each program provides students a chance to explore and build upon their shared interests within the Duke and Durham community. Yet among the programs, there is a distinct lack of incorporation of the arts—a gap which Project Arts seeks to fill.

“I wanted to create one [pre-orientation program] so I could be a part of one,” said Wailes. By catering to specific niches of students, each pre-orientation program is naturally highly selective. With the creation of Project Arts, students who did not find the original set of programs appealing to their interests may now find a niche, arts community.

The new program is not only for students with particular artistic talents, but also for art appreciators, or simply anyone enthusiastic to explore the diversity offered by the art world. Grounded in a multidisciplinary approach, the program’s structure will allow students to focus on a specific area of the arts—visual arts, creative writing, theater, dance, or singing, to name a few—but also explore other areas of art to which they may not have been previously exposed. Students will have a chance to gain expertise in their specific concentration of the arts within focus groups, as well as will expand their general understanding of the arts through large group activities. In particular, faculty-led workshops, Arts Annex activities, and trips to the Nasher Museum of Art will engage students and help them become familiar with the artistic faculties found on Duke’s own campus.

However, Project Arts is by no means a way for incoming students to prematurely become trapped in the “Duke bubble.” Rather, it is also a portal for students to connect with and experience the artistic community outside of Duke. Through outings to local concerts and museums, community service projects, and shows at the Duke Performing Arts Center, there is a solid effort to “emphasize the fact that Duke is a campus within Durham,” according to Wailes.

“We want to reflect the glowing and thriving artistic community that’s already on campus…and we want students to really get to know Durham and take advantage of this wonderful artistic city for the rest of their college career.”

There has been much student and faculty support for the growth of Project Arts. The establishment of the program comes with “the opportunity to work with different departments, the opportunity to capture some good student energy…and the opportunity to do something that will be beneficial for incoming classes for now and for years to come,” according to Jordan Hale, director of Pre-Orientation Programs at Duke.

Although the idea for Project Arts has its roots in Duke Student Government, where both Wailes and Soto served in the same Social Culture committee, the idea has since expanded to other Duke organizations and students.

“We will create a Project Arts committee under duARTS led by Steven and I, working extremely closely with and under Mr. Hale,” said Wailes. The new program has received much support on campus, as attested to by the passing of a resolution in support of the creation of Project Arts by DSG, as well as “the amount of emails we’ve gotten from students,” according to Wailes.

“Arts is a major part of Duke’s campus, and we really want incoming students to know that and reflect on how amazing it is,” said Wailes.