Wednesday, April 22, 2020

On Being an Artist at Duke - Lauren

The atmosphere at Duke is intimidating, to say the least. It seems like everyone has their entire lives and careers planned out; they're either pre-med, or pre-law, or going into finance, or engineering, or one of the many other pre-professional paths offered. Sometimes I don't know where exactly I fit into this equation. I use art as my solace.

Duke is by no means an artsy school. Like I said before, most students are so focused on their pre-professional paths, they hardly have any time to breathe, much less make art. I've succumbed to this many times, especially during the first semester of freshman year. Making art often felt like it was optional, or not as important as other things, like studying or joining your tenth club. One of the reasons why I took this class was because I wanted to prevent myself from falling victim to this mindset. Personally, I make the most art when I have deadlines; I make art when I have someone or something telling me I need to make art. This probably isn't very sustainable, and I'm working towards being an artist on my own time, on my own terms. For now, though, it'll do.

I feel most like an artist when I'm at Smith Warehouse. I don't know what it is about the building that makes me feel so inspired, but it does. I love the fact that it's quiet and serene, but you just know there are so many cool things happening within it. I particularly love our studio space. It reminds me of my high school art studio, which brings back a lot of happy art-related memories.

Being an artist at Duke definitely doesn't come easy. It's not easy to embrace the arts when the culture you're surrounded by is suffocatingly pre-professional. It's something I'm consciously working on, though. Art makes me happy, and why shouldn't I do something that makes me happy? Why shouldn't we all do what makes us happy? I think we need to have some sort of shift in our culture. We need to find a way for people to be able to make both pre-professional aspirations and their hobbies priorities. We shouldn't have to choose. I can be pre-law or pre-med or into finance AND an artist. It doesn't have to be a one or the other situation.

I suppose if I had to sum up my experience as being an artist at Duke, it would be my late night walk home from Smith Warehouse, on Monday nights after figure drawing. I will remember those walks back to East Campus as being some of the most calming, peaceful experiences of my freshman year. I never would've had them if it weren't for the arts. For that, I am grateful.

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