Making art at Duke: Free art activities on campus

Overwhelmed with classes and looking for a way to de-stress? Ready to make good on your New Year’s resolution to pick up a new hobby? The Chronicle has prepared a guide of free art resources at Duke to help you unleash your hidden potential. 

The Arts Annex

The Arts Annex is a gem for seasoned artists and beginners alike, serving as a hub for the campus arts scene and brimming with resources for you to express your creativity in various mediums. This includes everything from paints, crafting items and brushes to screen-printing, ceramics and visual arts studios. Whether you’re just stopping by to clear your head or ready to embark on an artistic adventure, student staff members are available every step of the way for assistance. Located between East Campus and the Rubenstein Arts Center at 404 Gattis St., the Arts Annex is easily accessible via the C1 and CSW bus routes, with its own dedicated stop on both lines. Once getting off the bus, follow the path until you reach a gate that will open with your student ID, then proceed through the courtyard into the Annex.

Nasher Museum of Art

Not in the mood to create something from scratch? Head to the Nasher Museum of Art and enjoy a wide array of inspiring art exhibits. Its most recent exhibit, “Modern Prophets: Art and Spirituality in America,” opened Jan. 27. Organized by Julianne Miao, the exhibit emphasizes various depictions of spirituality and religion in contemporary art. The Nasher is currently home to another temporary exhibit, “Love and Anarchy,” and will be hosting yet another, “María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Behold,” beginning Feb. 15. “Love and Anarchy” conveys a central theme of the unexpected intertwining of the disarray of anarchy with the passion and affection of love, while “María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Behold” explores themes of slavery, motherhood, migration and indentured labor, creating a curated selection that transports the viewer through otherwise unfamiliar mediums and challenges. In addition to these temporary exhibits, the Nasher is also home to a number of permanent exhibitions, including the Collections Galleries, which feature historical art pieces that illustrate human creativity and pay homage to the Nasher’s strengths.

The Nasher Museum of Art is located at 2001 Campus Drive, right across from the Rubenstein Arts Center, and can be accessed by the C1 and CSW routes. The Nasher Art Museum Cafe, which accepts food points, is a great place to dine. Opening hours can be found on the Nasher Museum of Art website.  

The Rubenstein

Whether you’re a jack of all trades or a jack of no trades, the Rubenstein Arts Center, known by students as the Ruby, has something for you. A hub for artists of all crafts, the Ruby has dance studios, media production studios, a film theater and a studio theater. And when it comes to visual arts, the Ruby’s Badger-Mars Visual Arts Wing is the place to be. Its painting studio welcomes visiting artists and art project residents and features resources such as easels, north-facing windows, a mess sink and ventilation. The wing is also home to Duke’s largest Innovation Co-Lab and multipurpose studios, which can be used to host exhibits or dance practices. The Ruby is located at 2020 Campus Drive, between East and West Campus, and is right across from the Nasher Museum.

Innovation Co-Labs

There are a total of 3 Innovation Co-Labs on Duke's campus, which are free for all students to use. Located in Lilly Library on East Campus, the Rubenstein Arts Center and the Technology Engagement Center, the Co-Labs combined boast technologies such as 3D Printers, a shopbot CNC router, a laser cutter and engraver, a vinyl cutter, hand tools, soldering equipment, workbenches and PC workstations. While no experience is required to take advantage of these resources, some machines may require assistance from staff members to operate.

Upcoming/Recurring Events 

Looking for a fun guided activity to brighten up your day? Tote-bag decorating at the BC Plaza Stage, flower-bouquet making at the Landing in the Bryan Center and cupcake decorating in the Wellness Center are some of the many offerings hosted at various locations around Duke, organized and run by DUU Visual Arts and duArts. These free workshops are a great way to try out a new skill or pick up a new hobby. To learn more or register for an event, log onto Duke Groups and search for DUU Visual Arts and duARTS. 

Additionally, duArts hosts Second Fridays on BC Plaza, a fun way for students to destress and let their creativity flow. As the name entails, they take place on the second Friday of each month and have included activities such as sun-printing, tie-dye kits and bracelet making, often in collaboration with local artists and groups from the Durham community. The most recent Second Friday, which took place Feb. 9, gave students the opportunity to make mini bouquets with fabric flowers – just in time for Valentine’s Day.

There are many opportunities to get involved in the art scene on campus, regardless of any prior experience or lack thereof. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of these resources; who knows, you might just find another hobby.  


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