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Bull City arts

staff note

It’s the end of an era, friends. I walked into 301 Flowers my first week of college, and I’m walking out four years later, still unable to sum up my Duke experience. So I’ll talk about Durham instead.

My Recess journey, if that’s what you want to call it, really started before I ever set foot in the Chronicle office. It started on a sweltering hot day in August, during the first iteration of the pre-orientation program, Project Arts. pArts led me to Recess in more than one way — I only heard about the arts and culture section through one of the leaders that year — but riding around Durham on the Bull City Connector for a few days made me see just how interesting Durham was and just how interesting the arts in Durham were. We spent the week visiting galleries, but I wanted to know more. Enter Recess.  

It’s easy to write about how transformative journalism can be, personally (in fact, the only reason I’m not doing that is because I did that a year ago, clearly a little bit too soon). And yes, journalism, like most other jobs, teaches you a lot about yourself and your abilities. But it also teaches you a lot about the world around you. The first few times I ventured off of Duke’s campus weren’t for restaurants or shopping — it was to visit a gallery I was writing about, or to rate foods at the N.C. State Fair.

These outings got me away from a pretty rough adjustment period into college, but also helped me understand how much bigger the world is outside my friends and classes at Duke. When I visited Duke for a college tour, I didn’t think to spend time in Durham, but the once I started here, Bull City quickly became one of my favorite things about my college experience. And now that I’m leaving, it might be the thing I’ll miss the most.

Despite writing for Recess all four years, the first time I made it to Full Frame Documentary Film Festival was earlier this month. It’s fair to say that Full Frame is perhaps the most major arts event that draws people to Durham — a couple hundred documentary enthusiasts take over the Carolina Theatre and the Convention Center for a weekend, and it is glorious. It’s Durham at its best, and it’s a festival that I couldn’t imagine happening anywhere else. And after I spent most of the weekend recounting the minute details of every documentary I’d seen to anyone who would listen to me, I realized that my favorite thing about the arts is that they make everyone who produces or consumes them a more interesting person.

I’ve cherished every opportunity I’ve had to talk to artists over the past four years, as I left each interview with a new perspective. I learned about many of the issues facing Durham today — like gentrification and seeking sanctuary — through artists who took a stand and fought for these issues to be heard. It’s easy to view the arts as an afterthought or a hobby, but art connects to politics, to social equity and to issues of representation in the media.

Recess has undergone many changes since I came to my first meeting my freshman year: We have a larger staff, more think pieces and reviews and we started publishing daily online this year. I’m proud of all of these changes — in part because I helped institute them — but I’m most proud of the fact that our mission hasn’t changed. We still try to highlight what makes Duke and Durham interesting, in the vain hope that more students will take interest and go and see art beyond shows that their friends are in. We explore what might not be the most immediately relevant content, but topics that make readers think in a new way. And although our local arts coverage may have slipped in the midst of midterms and finals, pitching and reading stories about Durham are still some of my favorite articles.

I will miss being Recess editor with all my heart. I’ve met so many people who inspired me, trusted me and pushed me to do better. It not only made me appreciate the pivotal role journalism plays on campus, but how the arts can transform lives. The arts scene on campus is not the arts scene here four years ago — the giant glass building makes that clear. There are still dedicated, inspiring artists fighting to make their voices heard. But it is equally important to remember the arts on campus aren’t the only arts to experience. Once you get into downtown Durham, with its theatres, venues and galleries, there’s a whole new world to explore. So for all of the not-graduating students who have plenty of time to explore, go take advantage of everything the Bull City has to offer.

Christy Kuesel is a Trinity senior and the outgoing Recess editor. She would like to congratulate Nina and Will on regaining their Recess reign, and Miranda on joining the late night production gang. She’d like to thank many, many people, including: Dillon, who brought her on as managing editor and hasn’t gotten rid of her since, Bre for giving her her job and also a ride to class and the entire Recess staff, who inspired her, came to her Recess brunches and made her laugh. And lastly, she’d like to thank Sarah for being her artsier Recess counterpart, dealing with layout requests and bad jokes and being the best managing editor she could ask for. So long for now, folks. 

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