Between the Lines: September-October 2011


Sometimes the magazine finds itself covering familiar campus themes with a fresh perspective. That’s true with this issue’s cover story, by associate editor Bridget Booher, which looks at the state of the arts at Duke. As it happens, that same theme, explored by longtime associate editor Sam Hull, was the cover story for the debut issue of Duke Magazine, May-June 1984.

The cover image in 1984 depicted (through a colorized black-and-white photo) Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning; he was shown in his studio, his back to the viewer, his gaze fixed on a canvas filled with bold yellows, blues, and purples. It was an image meant to point to a campus program—or, according to the opening description in the story, “a cultural explosion at Duke.” The program, or explosion, resided in Duke’s version of an “American Arts of the Fifties Festival,” an early undertaking (embracing music as well as the visual arts) by something called the Institute of the Arts.

That older story featured a document called “Planning for the Eighties,” which discussed, among other issues, the need to reinvigorate the creative and performing arts at Duke. One outgrowth of the report was the Institute of the Arts. Its director was English professor and poet James W. Applewhite ’58, A.M. ’60, Ph.D. ’69. In the story, Applewhite was quoted as saying, “One of our charges was simply to enhance the status of the arts on campus. What that actually means is that you have to make people more aware of the arts. You have to try to get people to see exhibitions or performances, and you have to urge the point that the arts are intricately involved, that they’re deeply relevant to the wider academic enterprise.”

More than a quarter-century later, Duke is well into a process meant to make the arts more central. And perhaps it’s an ongoing process, as Applewhite put it in 1984, to figure out “how the performing and creative arts are legitimately to be studied in the university.”

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