When asked to define myself, "artist" is one of the first words that comes to mind. I don’t immediately think “engineer” even though I am in Pratt, or “pre-med” even though I’m thinking about going to medical school. I define myself by the way I express myself. I am an artist. Even so, being an artist at Duke has honestly been more difficult than I had anticipated.
I have been drawing and painting since before I can remember and have always found a way to make time for art classes alongside other academics. I still hear my high school art teacher’s voice in my head whenever I draw or paint: “You can’t have light if you don’t have dark!” or “Look at the masters. We are standing on the shoulders of giants”. Art is a time commitment, but to me it's definitely worth it.
I’ve always known I don’t want art to be my primary major or to dedicate my career to drawing and painting. Still, I can’t let being an artist slip through the cracks. I am an engineering major because I enjoy math and science and want to make an impact on the world, but being an artist at Duke means finding time for myself. I realized first semester freshman year that since I wasn’t taking an art class and wasn’t being held accountable, it was easy to make art my lowest priority. So I enrolled in Drawing 199 as my 5th class for the following semester. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Even though I was overloading, my art homework felt more like a study break than homework.
Intermediate Drawing this semester is the second art class I’ve taken at Duke. I am taking it as a fifth class with four engineering courses, and honestly it has been a lot more difficult to stay on top of my work than it was last semester. I am probably taking too many classes in general, and then on top of that art has been (understandably) a lot more time consuming than the introductory class was. Still, I don’t regret taking Intermediate Drawing in the slightest. I still find that my art homework is never a chore and I am growing as an artist.
Being an artist at Duke for me means finding a way to prioritize the things I love. I don’t think my experience with being an artist at Duke is representative of all of the artists at Duke, however. I have never been to the Arts Annex, for example, because I had brought my own art supplies to Duke from the beginning. I think Duke does a great job of making art accessible to many kinds of people with a range of interests and amount of prior experience in art, which is wonderful. I am grateful for the ability to take art classes seriously even though I don’t attend an art school, because while I’m not an art major, art is an extremely important part of my life.
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