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'Come and make some mistakes': A discussion with DukeCreate Director Kevin Erixson

<p>DukeCreate will continue holding collaborative workshops for students to hone their creative abilities, learn new skills and build community in an isolated time.</p>

DukeCreate will continue holding collaborative workshops for students to hone their creative abilities, learn new skills and build community in an isolated time.

At the start of yet another full semester with social-distancing rules in place, DukeCreate is slated to offer an exciting and diverse selection of free online art workshops to all students, faculty and staff. Whether participants are interested in developing a new skill or simply want to connect with others, this semester’s lineup has something in store for everyone.

Last March, the pandemic forced DukeCreate to cancel its in-person workshop schedule for the rest of the semester. Director of DukeCreate Kevin Erixson had to work quickly to ensure that there would be plenty of online workshops for everyone to partake in. After a successful fall semester where DukeCreate had its “highest attendance rates ever,” Kevin is more than ready to step up to this semester’s challenges.

“When the pandemic hit, we quickly adapted and shifted to of course all online, and we started hitting our stride,” Erixson said. “This semester especially we’re running on all cylinders.”

The DukeCreate program’s popularity demonstrates the high demand for these creative opportunities at a time when it’s easy to be overwhelmed. It is also no surprise that students enjoy coming to workshops where they are free from any judgment or pressure to perform.

“These workshops are very low barrier, low entry. Come and make some mistakes and it’s no pressure,” Erixson said. “From what I’ve been picking up, students generally enjoy the opportunity to forget about class for a little bit and just do something completely different.”

Several workshops follow particular themes in the arts, including dance, visual art, music, film and creative technology. As part of last week’s workshop schedule, MIDI for Producers was the fourth in a series of music and audio workshops designed to increase participants’ understanding of the fundamentals of electronic music in an easy-to-learn way.

“MIDI for producers is going to take us through different MIDI systems that you can use and how you can apply those to your music,” Erixson explained before the event. “So it’s basically teaching us how to create music without having any music background at all. It’s a really cool way to break it down and make music accessible for everyone, and you don’t have to go to school for fifteen years to understand and create something.”

The Wellness & Self-Care series, which started last year, has several workshops scheduled for this month as well. The upcoming virtual workshop Yoga and Movement: Heart Opening Flow on Feb. 8 focuses on the third and fourth chakras in our body to “balance a powerful sense of will and purpose with an open and receiving heart.” The amount of wellness-oriented workshops this semester is quite intentional, since it’s more important than ever to find mindfulness, connection and support within a creative activity.

“We’ve shifted to workshops where it’s more about wellness, being together and having some kind of community,” Erixson said. “You’re with different people and you get to create together for an hour and forget about all this other stuff happening elsewhere.”

These workshops have found their success in the past by providing programs with students’ specific interests in mind, but no idea is off the table when it comes to DukeCreate. Students can help shape the workshops by sharing their thoughts with Kevin and other members of the Duke Arts staff.

“I welcome their ideas and feedback always,” Erixson said. “If you have an idea, I’m going to bend over backwards to make it happen because I find student feedback essential to everything that we do. My hierarchy of importance is that students are always first.”

Throughout this semester, Duke students will doubtlessly need time to explore, relax and have fun with one another, and DukeCreate has a wide variety of workshops for everyone to try. Since all the workshops are online, it’s easier than ever to attend one of these workshops and realize how big of a difference it can make to one’s monotonous daily routine. 

“Duke Arts’ broad vision is to spark some kind of interest in the arts, and there are a lot of amazing things happening in the arts at Duke,” Erixson said. “We’re trying to let students know that there’s a lot of great things going on around campus and a lot of great classes that they can be taking.”

This is an important reminder for those who see Duke as the STEM-oriented research school it’s known for, and students of all disciplines should feel comforted to know that student creativity and well-being, as demonstrated by DukeCreate and its partnerships, is and always will be a crucial element of the Duke experience.  

DukeCreate is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts (Duke Arts) and University Center Activities and Events (UCAE). For a full list of events, visit https://arts.duke.edu/workshops.

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