There is a common perception at Duke that the study of art, and therefore the artists, are pushed aside in favor of more quantitative careers such as STEM or economics. This is only somewhat true in my experience. It’s true that Duke likely does not allocating the same amount of funding to the arts as it does to research grants in other fields (not to mention sports), but I have found that the general perception of the arts among Duke students is surprisingly positive. I know many people who are interested in taking art classes or who have taken art classes, and I know many people take advantage of the DUUArts week. I believe that art is an important part of the Duke experience for many people, whether they are choosing to pursue a career in art, produce art as a one of their main interests, or if they simply view art as a way to destress and spend some time doing something creative.
For me, art is something that I don’t plan on making a career in, but I still choose to dedicate significant time to making art since it is something I enjoy. I added art as a second major after realizing that a minor wouldn’t allow me to develop my skills as much as focusing on a full senior capstone project and taking more art classes would. For me, art is a way to take a break from other classes and to focus my mind on something other than memorizing facts or solving written problems. I found that in making art, there is a sense of problem-solving as well, but more more abstract: how do you depict this idea in your head on a piece of paper or canvas? I enjoy grappling with this question and trying to find solutions, so much so that I sometimes find myself spending time on art that I should be spending on some of my other work.
I have sometimes contemplated pursuing a career in art, but ultimately decided that my interest in medicine outweighed my interest in art, even if not by much. And I have found that the artists I know at Duke have been incredibly supportive of this decision. Students, professors, and artists in residence alike have formed a welcoming for any artists regardless of experience or intent to practice art as a career. I have received great advice and critiques on my art that have helped me improve as an artist. Overall, being an artist at Duke has, so far, been an overwhelmingly positive experience that has made my time at Duke that much more enjoyable. While I think that the idea of art as a career choice is maybe not quite as respected as going into other fields like science or law, I believe that most people at Duke have a favorable view of art. I admit that I may be slightly biased since I myself am planning a career in the sciences rather than in the arts, but my experience as an artist here at Duke, at the very least, has been a positive one.