Last year, Duke saw the addition of a new pre-orientation program to its long-standing repertoire of Projects BUILD, WILD, Waves, Change and Search: Project Arts, or pArts.
PArts, which focuses on building a strong arts community within the incoming freshman class for artists and art-lovers alike, enjoyed enormous success in its inaugural year fall 2015 last year’s program co-director Shelby Wailes.
“I think we emphasized that the main goal of the program was to form friendships and a new arts community,” Wailes said. “We did well in keeping this perspective when we ran into programming challenges.”
Another goal of the program was to break the “Duke bubble” and to introduce first-year students to Durham’s vibrant arts community through outings to local concerts and museums or through community service projects in the city.
“We did well with getting the new Duke students out of the ‘Duke bubble’ and into Durham,” said Alexis Shindhelm, the other 2015 program co-director. “I am well-pleased by how the structured schedule, although fluid in nature, was able to allow for friendships to be created that have grown much deeper than any created during my own pre-orientation experience.”
However, that’s not to say the program did not encounter any problems. Both co-directors agree that the housing for the program—the AC-lacking and famously cockroach-ridden Crowell—could be improved upon for the Class of 2020 freshmen. The program also faced financial and exposure problems due to its novelty.
“Other programs have a safety net of funding,” Wailes said. “Fortunately, DSG was able to give us a bit of funding so that we could make the program more affordable in our first year.”
PArts hopes to repeat its successes this year under the advisement of the new program co-directors, Melissa Carrico and Alex Deckey. The pre-orientation program will again focus on building an arts community for the incoming class and introducing students to the Durham arts scene, although there will be some changes from last year’s themes.
“The program no longer has a social activism theme, as it did last year,” Carrico said. “We want the first year students to focus more on their own transition into life at Duke and become familiar with the arts opportunities available at Duke and become familiar with Durham.”
In addition to this theme change, pArts has added two new arts focuses, creative writing and visual media and restructured the crews themselves.
“This year we focused on integrating the arts crews,” Carrico said. “Last year, crews were organized by art, now each crew had a mixture of different art forms.”
The addition and success of pArts document the rising recognition of the arts at Duke. With the construction of a new $50 million arts center on campus, and the move of music and arts festivals like Moogfest to the Durham area, Duke’s and Durham’s art scenes are growing fast—a point aided by the fact that pArts has over doubled in size for its second year.
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“I'm so excited to see [pArts] grow so quickly and for it to be in such great leadership hands for this year,” Wailes said. “Duke's arts community is growing rapidly and I think Project Arts should be a reflection of that growth.”
Although it may seem as though the pre-orientation program is going through many changes in its second year, according to Carrico, pArts will still aim to create the same “safe, welcoming and fun environment for the first year students” that the program did last year.
“The main goal of Project Arts this year is to successfully deal with the challenges associated with doubling the size of the program,” Carrico said. “Beyond that, we hope to help create a more cohesive arts community by preparing first-years to successfully become involved with the arts at Duke.”