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This year at the Rubenstein: Artist talks, classes and a coffee cart

The Rubenstein Arts Center will celebrate its first birthday Feb. 2, and has enjoyed a year of arts programming.
The Rubenstein Arts Center will celebrate its first birthday Feb. 2, and has enjoyed a year of arts programming.

The Rubenstein Arts Center opened one year ago, and it has introduced a number of new programs since then. 

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. Its opening party in February 2018 attracted over 3,000 attendees, but the new initiatives have not stopped there. 

"The true purpose of the building is to be a catalyst for creativity and to help grow artistic innovations at Duke, and part of that is through the collaborative nature of the space," said arts communications specialist Katy Clune. 

The space is home to the dance and arts of the moving image programs, as well as some initiatives run by duARTS and the Co-Lab. From hosting classes, serving as a workspace for campus and community artists to bringing like-minded people together and promoting arts at Duke, the Rubenstein Arts Center has become a prominent feature of Duke's artistic community.

“What I like to really sum up the Ruby to people is that first and foremost, it’s a building that really helps showcase the creative process," Clune said. "You can get that feeling from driving by or being in the space – how open it is and how many studios are visible from the outside."

Indeed, the Rubenstein is home to student dance shows,  theatre performances and avant-garde 16-mm film. But students are also seen sweating hard on the dance floor, rehearsing a musical scene again and again and bending over their film strip to study every frame. However, aside from providing classes and workspaces, the Ruby also hosts many events to encourage interactions between students and local artists, as fostering an artistic community is one of the Ruby’s main goals.

One of its persistent efforts to achieve the goal is the series of Ruby Fridays, which are lunch break conversations with community artists to learn about their work and the latest trends in the professional arts world. This semester, featured artists will include award-winning choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland, renowned Durham-based puppeteer Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins and visual artist and Duke alumna Rebecca Kuzemchak.

The Rubenstein also started hosting Ruby Tuesdays, which offered free coffee and pastries outside the Ruby Lounge every Tuesday afternoon. After giving out over 1,800 cups of coffee,  the Rubenstein staff decided to replace Ruby Tuesdays with a Beyu Blue coffee cart in the lobby serving caffeine and some snacks, starting Feb. 2. The Rubenstein will also celebrate its first birthday that day with cake, art activities and student performances. 

Clean hopes the cart will encourage more students to spend time at the Rubenstein.

“I think students are in there for classes a lot of the time, but if you have a break in your day and you needed to kill two hours, there wasn’t as strong of an argument to stay at the Ruby," she said. "But now with coffee and snacks and hopefully more of a community vibe, I hope that students will understand that it’s their space to hang out and linger in."

The Rubenstein's first year featured a wide variety of artistic events, including the Cornered exhibition, a screening of Nathaniel Dorsky's films, two Hoof ‘n’ Horn shows, DEMAN Weekend and many other events and programs. But the Rubenstein has also hosted events promoting the union of art and STEM, including the Art + Tech Fair and “The Art of a Scientist” exhibition.

For junior Madeline Go, the Rubenstein helps bring together her passions.

"[It] provides me with a space to study but also to feel like that Duke is putting in more effort of bringing the arts into college life," she said. "For me, as someone who is both interested in the science and art…the art side of me is really happy because I’d love to find a balance between the two. With places like the Ruby being established, Duke is helping that to be a reality.”

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