In October 2015, financier and Duke alumnus David M. Rubenstein, Trinity ‘70, endowed the University with $25 million to create a center for the arts on campus. Three years and $50 million later, the Rubenstein Arts Center stands in impressive opulence. The steel- and glass-constructed building aims to be the ultimate home for the arts at Duke.
The center was designed by William Rawn Associates, a Boston-based architecture firm. At the intersection of Campus Drive and Anderson Street, “The Ruby” sits just across from the Nasher Museum of Art. Passing by the center on a weekday afternoon, one can view art in action through the paneled glass exterior — from dance rehearsals to the visual arts — which showcases the arts at the forefront of university life.
The arts are often regarded as a monolith, and encasing them within a single glass box may reinforce that perception, but upon stepping inside The Ruby, one quickly notices the distinctions between the subcategories of art at Duke. Housing the Dance and Art of the Moving Image programs and Duke’s student-run radio station, WXDU, the Rubenstein Arts Center seeks to unite the arts and recognize them as a prominent aspect of the Duke experience. Scott Lindroth, vice provost for the arts, said the new facility will be a valuable center for artistic engagement.
“The state of the arts at Duke is one of growing excitement and interest,” Lindroth wrote in an email. “The proliferation of student arts organizations signals more participation, and faculty across campus are engaging artists and art-related themes into their courses. With the Ruby we have fabulous facilities that enable departments and student organizations to engage more seriously with the arts.”
Specifically, the spaces within the Rubenstein Arts Center include a studio and film theater, visual arts studios complete with easels and supply carts, multiple soundproof dance studios, a “Makerspace” operated by Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab — boasting 15 3D printers — and the Ruby Lounge, the center’s own performance venue. Arts Communications Specialist Katy Clune is enthusiastic about what the new center means for Duke arts.
“The arts are united for the first time; the AMI and Dance departments are now under one roof with necessary equipment and performance spaces in the new building,” she said. “The AMI classes have access to new equipment including 16mm film cameras within the Media Production Studio and there are many convertible spaces the Dance classes can now utilize.”
Clune also mentioned that the Rubenstein Center will be hosting special guests and performances throughout the semester. Upcoming guests include painter and professor Nina Chanel Abney, whose work addresses social justice and social change through the medium of large-scale paintings and murals. Choreographer Antony Hamilton and sound artist Alisdair Macindoe will present an award-winning “dance spectacle” titled “MEETING” Feb. 1.
“An exciting aspect of the new arts center is the Arts Residency program, in which individuals apply to design a project within the building’s facilities, having access to the necessary space and equipment for up to three weeks,” Clune added. “The Arts residents will then present their work as an exhibit or performance to the public. It allows students and faculty to have greater public exposure.”
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The Rubenstein Arts Center will host a grand opening party Feb. 3. The celebration is free and open to the public as an opportunity to introduce the center to the Duke and Durham community of both artists and enthusiasts alike. The event will feature performances by Small Town Records student musicians and various campus dance groups, student film screenings by the AMI program and treats from Monuts and Joe Van Gogh.
“We decided to host a grand opening party with the purpose of introducing and familiarizing students, faculty and the community with the facility and the opportunities available to them,” Clune said. “The event celebrates both the arts and the artists, as the Rubenstein Arts Center becomes a cornerstone of the Duke’s Arts community.”
Attendees can view the art installation “Biscuit Kitchen” by Raleigh artist Bill Thelen and the student art exhibition, “What is Home,” screen print with Durham artist Bill Fick and meet WXDU DJs. The event marks the unification of many of the arts Departments at Duke, as university and community members come together in celebration of artistic expression and creation.
“The Nasher and Duke Performances are both at the top of their game, attracting large audiences from the campus as well as the community, and their partnerships with academic programs to host artists in residence has become an essential dimension of arts education at Duke,” Lindroth wrote. “The Ruby can help move the arts from the margins of student life to play a central role in undergraduate and graduate education.”