A Leap Forward for the Arts at Duke with $7 Million Award from The Duke Endowment

The Duke Endowment has awarded Duke University $7 million to support the arts, including funds for a new exchange program with music institutions like the New England Conservatory (NEC) and the Curtis Institute and a deeper investment in the arts in the Durham community.

“The arts at Duke are an essential, foundational part of the student experience and touch every pillar of Duke’s strategic framework,” said President Vincent E. Price. “I am grateful to The Duke Endowment for its generosity and its strategic alignment in supporting a culture of the arts at the university.”

The grant will allow the university to launch a conservatory exchange program this fall with NEC and Curtis, as well as with similar arts-focused institutions to create formative experiences for Duke students majoring and deeply involved in the arts.

“The arts are not only an institutional priority at Duke University, they are an important means of engaging, educating and inspiring community members of all ages,” said Minor Shaw, chair of The Duke Endowment’s board of trustees. “The Endowment is proud to support the arts with a partner who will exponentially increase the returns on this investment.”

Duke received the first $3.75 million portion of the gift in March 2020 and the second $3.25 million portion this March from the private foundation based in Charlotte, N.C. Because the arts were affected significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Endowment’s funding has been critical in enabling the university to continue to deliver arts programs and education.

The earlier part of the gift helped Duke arts faculty and visiting artists to expand online teaching and learning. During the pandemic when many visiting artists changed their plans across the country, Duke’s visiting artists had the chance to teach virtually and were integral to the Duke curriculum. The Duke Endowment’s generosity had a lot to do with that success, said John V. Brown, Duke’s vice provost for the arts.

“This is a great message for The Duke Endowment to send, and a great statement for Duke to make—that the arts are highly valued and are a critical part of the university,” Brown said. “This gift is changing how we work, think and present.”

The second part of the gift will support several other key areas:

Duke Performances, the university’s flagship unit that brings the performing arts to Duke and the Durham community, will be rebranded. The organization will be renamed Duke Arts and will begin to encompass genres beyond its current offerings of music and dance performances by adding visual and literary arts to its portfolio. The reconfigured Duke Arts will present multiple types of art performance more aligned with existing university programs like the Nasher Museum of Art, the Center for Documentary Studies, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, American Dance Festival, and Duke’s curriculum, Brown said.

An endowment was created with $1 million of the award to support the visiting artists program. The Duke Endowment helped launch the program in 2007, bringing major artists to campus for both short- and longer-term residencies. The visits include commissioned pieces, performances, master classes, workshops, exhibits, and other activities.

Finally, the gift will expand opportunities for both Duke students and Durham Public School students. The university plans to host Duke Arts Weekends, which will allow Duke students to take trips to major arts locations. It will initiate a Duke Arts Fellows program, through which local and statewide public school students and teachers will form teams with Duke students. They will work together during the course of a year to demonstrate how arts can contribute to effective, creative problem solving.

“This gift has impacts on campus, in our greater community, and in society that reverberate and help mobilize and support the academic mission of arts, in addition to the social and community missions of arts,” Brown said. “This commitment is trailblazing and positions us to advance more Duke-led initiatives.”

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds, and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $4 billion in grants.

TAGS: Gift Announcement