A new award will recognize student excellence in arts leadership, and it is named after a Duke arts student and trailblazer.
The Graywill Award for Arts Leadership & Service, dedicated to former duARTS president Kelsey Graywill, was created to recognize students who have contributed to the arts community, even outside of their respective majors. One or two graduating seniors will receive the $1,000 award each year.
“The award needs to go to students who think beyond themselves and make art for everyone,” Graywill said.
Graywill is not a traditional arts major. She created her own major, entitled Human Creativity: Evolutionary Neuroaesthetics, through Duke’s Program II. By studying the intersection of art and STEM, she wanted to explore why people make art and what makes art beautiful, both questions required her to also explore what it means to be human. She took a more interdisciplinary focus while studying at Duke and tried to link subjects from multiple classes together in order to get a deeper understanding of material.
“Problems today require interdisciplinary knowledge, and education needs to change to teach students subjects across multiple disciplines,” Graywill said. “I hope that the award can be a push towards this change.”
"The award recognizes Duke students who have made important contributions to the arts through advocacy, organizational skills, and programming vision," said Scott Lindroth, vice provost for the arts. "Such students are unsung heroes who help the arts thrive on campus.”
Katy Clune, arts communications specialist for the Rubenstein Arts Center, hopes the new space also becomes a legacy for Graywill's arts efforts on campus.
“duARTS hopes to fill the galleries with student art after being inspired by Graywill’s work, since she was the first to host an exhibit in the Ruby," Clune said.
Graywill said she hopes the award will inspire other students to continue to improve the arts community, like she and her predecessors have done. She would have felt guilty leaving Duke without trying to include all artists.
“If an award like this had been around when I was a freshman, it would have completely changed my perspective on the art community and made me want to become a leader sooner,” she said.
Ali Shumar, the assistant director of arts and media, knew that Graywill would become the president of duArts after she first encountered her work.
“I am excited to continue Graywill’s legacy with the award and see how other art leaders try to make the impact that she did,” Shumar said.
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Graywill helped create an art gallery at the Brodhead Center where students can submit solo pieces of natural science. She taught art groups at The Loop and expanded the duARTS festival into a nine-day event.
Graywill stated that the arts are for everyone, not just those who make it, and that student body will ultimately shape the arts community on campus. This community support requires leaders who encourage the students to explore the incredible artistic talents that their classmates have to offer.
“I want the award to be for the people who make the kind of art that moves others,” Graywill said.
It can be easy for Duke students to become interested in succeeding for themselves, and it can be hard for students to invest in things that aren’t about themselves.
“The issue is not that students aren’t interested or don’t have time, it’s more a matter of meeting students where they are at,” Graywill said.
One duArts exhibit at the Brodhead Center was a wall of buttons, which included such phrases as "photographer," "writer" and "singer." The exhibit was made for students to take buttons of the label they most associated with. Unexpectedly, the buttons that ran out first were those labeled “art appreciator."
“This exhibit showed us that Duke's student body wants to support student art and that there is an interest in expanding the arts community,” Graywill said.