Monday, December 2, 2019

On Being an Artist at Duke - Jenny Xin

At Duke, I took one art class and became the art friend. It’s true that I’ve always been one of the “artsy” friends, with paintings and drawings overlapping on my once-plain bedroom walls. However, throughout high school, I’ve always had numerous friends who also doodled in their notebooks and had an art class embedded in their schedules. I even had a small group of friends entirely made of so-called "art friends" with whom I took art classes with during school, and skateboarded with when classes were over.

In high school, I was the robotics friend. Being part of the robotics team slowly became an all-consuming part of my identity. My friends saw me drawing design sketches in the margins of my notes, typing out snippets of code in my spare time, and labeled me accordingly. Being an artist was just one of my other hobbies.

At Duke, all my friends can be considered the “robotics” friend. I gathered around me people who are in the same engineering organizations and applying for the same internships, because we grew close after taking a class together. Being part of the high school robotics team is no longer a marvel, but being an artist is.

My Duke friends gasp every time I design a birthday card or leave a work in progress lying about the room. Being an artist has become such a large part of my identity here, despite the fact, or maybe due to the fact, that the art program here is not emphasized. I generally didn’t used to call myself an artist, but my friends here have referred to me as an artist so often that I have grown into the title.

This shortage of artists compared to my high school has highlighted how big of an impact art has had on my life. Being an artist at Duke means attending art classes and seeing no familiar faces. It means going to the Arts Annex in disbelief because canvases are free, and hanging up all your new paintings with sticky tack on once-bare dorm walls. It means your friends will automatically nominate you to design logos and birthday cards. It means finally embracing the title of artist and the niche you have found in this overwhelmingly giant campus of budding engineers and businessmen and basketball players.

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