This week, an old painted piano is reclaiming its spot on the Bryan Center Plaza. This instrument is a sure sign that the annual Duke Arts Festival has returned.
The Duke Arts Festival, which began April 7 and will conclude April 14, aims to bring the arts to all students on campus. Duke University Union hosts the event in collaboration with arts groups on campus, including a cappella groups, dance groups and other arts boards. The festival also serves to showcase student work in all art forms.
“It’s meant to show what Duke students have been doing, what they’ve achieved and what they’ve accomplished,” duARTS President Nicole Payne said.
This year, duARTS aimed to increase the scale and visibility of the Arts Festival by adding more activities catering to those who do not usually do art.
“I think our focus this year throughout the year for duARTS is to bring art to people who aren’t necessarily thinking about art,” Payne said.
duARTS has expanded its event calendar by hosting events like Second Fridays and painting workshops at The Loop bar throughout the year, and the Arts Festival is no exception to this expansion. The festival comprises over a record 36 individual events, ranging from small pop-ups to artist lectures and art-making events. While many of these events were already taking place this week, duARTS organized the planning among the different groups.
“We’re not trying to take over anything, but we want to be able to use our resources and our demographic to publicize the great work that’s already being done,” duARTS Vice President Charlotte McKay said.
To aid visibility, duARTS has set up a number of small pop-up events throughout the week. Some of these events are centered around performances by student groups, while others feature giveaways. DuARTS has been giving out small buttons with words like “singer,” “writer” or “musician” on them that students can wear to show what kind of art they create.
“It’s a fun way for people to think about themselves as artists and also rep their art,” said Payne.
One standout event of the festival was Monday's Night at the Arts Annex, which featured three different art-making events hosted by Duke Create, Nasher MUSE and Arts Theme House. The event was packed with people of all levels of artistic ability, fulfilling Payne’s hope that the night would bring people to the Annex who did not usually go there.
The Duke Arts Festival has been held in the fall in the past, but duARTS decided to move the event to the spring to showcase art that students had been working on for the whole school year. The event now coincides with many other spring showcases, such as the DefMo showcase and the Duke Symphony Orchestra’s Senior Night.
“We really liked the showcase and accumulation feel of it,” Payne said.
The festival’s placement in the spring gives students a much-needed break from studying for midterms and finals and an opportunity to take advantage of the warm weather.
“Since it’s around finals time, people just need this escape from all the academics to do something artistic, something fun,” said DUU VisArts co-chair Della Tao.
The festival kicked off last Friday with the opening of the DUU VisArts student showcase. This event, also traditionally held in the fall, was moved to the spring to include art that students had produced in fall art classes. Students submitted pieces to the VisArts committee, who selected the best pieces to be shown in the Brown Gallery and around the Bryan Center. Although all pieces outside of the Brown Gallery will be taken down at the end of this week, those in the Brown Gallery will stay until the last day of classes.
The festival will conclude Friday at 5 p.m. with Small Town Records’ student showcase concert on Clocktower Quad. DuARTS will supply Loco Pops and balloon darts and DUU VisArts will set up a tie dye station.
The Arts Festival brings individuals from different backgrounds together. Payne recounted walking across the BC Plaza and seeing an alumnus giving an impromptu piano lesson to a child at the painted piano. Moments like this are why the Arts Festival is so important on Duke’s campus.
“You always see the most interesting interactions going on with the most interesting people,” Payne said.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.