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The Ruby is a catalyst for creativity and a home for making art at Duke.

One Year in the Ruby

Published By Duke Arts
Published on: February 5, 2019

The Rubenstein Arts Center grew artistic innovation at Duke University in 2018 through arts education, public programs, and by supporting the creation of new work. We offer a peek into a busy first year in this Ruby round-up.

students on stage at the ruby

Grand Opening Events

Grand opening of the Rubenstein Arts Center aka The Ruby. Event was Saturday Feb. 3, 2018 1-4 pm.

Over 3,500 Duke students, staff, faculty, and community members came to “meet” the Rubenstein Arts Center at its grand opening on February 3, 2018. Highlights included performances by student dancers and musicians, screen printing, an architect meet and greet, and a one-day-only art installation by local artist Bill Thelen.

On February 23, 160 donors were honored for their contributions to the Rubenstein Arts Center and for their support of the arts at Duke. Members of the Ruby Creative Arts Student Team (CASTs) led tours and attendees were treated to a very special performance by members of the American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in the Ruby’s signature upstairs dance studio.

Arts Education

Class gathered around images arrayed on the floor
MFA|EDA students in a photo critique session. Photo by Danny Kim.


80+ Duke Arts courses taught in Spring and Fall

The Ruby opened in time for the start of the Spring 2018 semester and approximately 40 arts courses are offered in its spaces each term—from “Editing for Film & Video”  to “Elementary Modern Dance.” Course highlights in 2018 include:

Hip Hop Production—Patrick Douthit (9th Wonder)

Grammy Award-winning producer and African & African American Studies professor Patrick Douthit, also known as 9th Wonder, teaches this course examining the history, background, functionality, and techniques of hip-hop production.

“The arts open up your mind and make you not think so much in the box. It helps you become imaginative and creative and you’re not so analytical when it comes to things, even with life decisions.”—9th Wonder

Group of students posing with their teacher
Introduction to Performing Arts Management and Entrepreneurship class

Introduction to Performing Arts Management and Entrepreneurship—Eric Oberstein

Oberstein is the interim director for Duke Performances, and debuted this course for students considering careers in the arts in the Ruby.

“Our readings and conversations in class prepared us to speak with leaders in the field and engage in exciting discussions about their current work and career trajectories.” —Brittany Halberstadt (Class of 2019, Major: Art History, Museum Theory and Practice Concentration).


Over 1000 rehearsals took place in the Ruby in 2018

With the opening of the Ruby, there is now more arts space on campus for Duke student groups to book for both rehearsals and for public performances.

A line of ballerinas, arms waving
Devils En Pointe, Duke's student-run ballet company, rehearses the Nutcracker in the Ruby. Photo by Jared Lazarus.

Supporting Artistic Production

Adair Jones sits on a chair made of recycled materials she made in the Ruby.
Adair Jones in a chair she made of recycled materials for CYCLIC.


10 individuals and teams were awarded a Ruby studio in 2018

One of the Ruby’s core missions is to provide dedicated space for student and faculty artists to create new work, collaborate, and engage with the wider Duke community and Durham. To that end, the Office of the Vice Provost of the Arts—Duke Arts invites individual artists or project teams working in any medium to apply for a residency in an arts center multipurpose studio. Projects in 2018 included:

CYCLIC (May 11 – June 18, 2018)

Adair Jones (Class of 2019) worked on her senior visual arts thesis, which brings manmade, non-recyclable trash back to use in a new context through art objects and furniture.

“I really enjoy the collaborative aspect of the arts at Duke. Had I not been involved in the arts and campus community at large, I wouldn’t make half the stuff I make.” —Adair Jones

Cornered (Project: Spring–Summer 2018, Installation: Sep 27–Oct 21, 2018)

Cornered, created by Duke faculty member Raquel Salvatella de Prada, addresses the plight of West African migrants who cross the Sahara hoping to reach Europe only to get stuck in Morocco. Salvatella de Prada made the most of the arts center resources for this project—she cut the table on the makerspace laser cutter, shot video in a Ruby studio, and transformed the Agora: Murthy Arts Commons studio into an immersive installation.

Raquel Salvatella de Prada sitting at a worktable surrounded by photos and models for her project

“Having the space to actually set up video and try things was incredible. I had my first mockup of the table, and then I could put all of the reference pictures on the wall. If I had to do all that in the office, I would be putting them on the floor, and on the ceiling. Having all that space was just fantastic.”—Raquel Salvatella de Prada

A group of students outside the Ruby under huge prints suspended on wires
Renowned photographer Keith Carter speaks to students in an outdoor installation of his work.


7 exhibitions were hosted in the Ruby in 2018 and the courtyard was transformed by an outdoor installation for Click! Photography Festival

The gallery in the Badger Mars Visual Arts Wing presents a wide variety of exhibitions generated by the Duke community and its partners. Collaborations in 2018 included:

Art of the Scientist (Jun 1–Aug 10)

Conceived and produced by Ariana Eily, Casey Lindberg, and Hannah Devens (PhD students in the life sciences), this exhibit demonstrated the connections between artists and scientists—both are masters of creativity and visual communication. The final exhibit encompassed works by 22 scientists (including photographs, micrographs, botanical prints, watercolors, and two videos) with visual responses by 13 local artists in wide-ranging mediums. Art of the Scientist is returning in 2019 and will host a summer exhibition at Golden Belt Arts.

Three young women posing in the midst of a crowded art exhibit

“The first iteration of the Art of a Scientist was a really incredible experience. We had never done anything like this before, and were unsure how it would be received. We got way more attention and support than we were anticipating, which has fueled us into keeping this show going as a yearly event.”—Ariana Eily

Teacher leading a ballet class
Franco De Vita, former Artistic Director for American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, puts dancers from Duke and the surrounding community through their paces.


6 artists were hosted in Ruby studios in 2018

With a light-filled painting studio, an archival-format ready film theater, and dance studios fit for a prima ballerina, the Ruby expands Duke’s ability to host accomplished artists from across the country and around the world. The following individuals were at work in the Ruby in 2018:

Annie Kornack poses with Nina Chanel Abney in front of new work.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to test the waters working with students. . . it’s been nice to finally have a space where I can take a little time to experiment and create some paintings that might not be for a specific exhibition”—Nina Chanel Abney in conversation with student Annie Kornack.

Exceptional Performance Venue

The Operand: performers arranged on stage
The Oper& (photo by Alex Boerner)

60+ events were presented in the von der Heyden Studio Theater in 2018, in addition to happenings in the Ruby Lounge and multipurpose studios

Both intimate and expansive, the 150-seat von der Heyden Theater is adaptable to a wide variety of highly visual or technical performances. Duke Performances presented 8 shows in the Ruby in its first year, which helped introduce the arts center to area audiences. Programs of note this year included:

Love Life


This computer-mediated performance commissioned by Duke Performances had its world premiere in the Ruby in March. THE_OPER& was created by composer John Supko and media artist and “recombinant poetics” pioneer Bill Seaman—both Duke faculty members—with production design and direction by Jim Findlay and the Lorelei Ensemble as the cast.

Love Life

Through special arrangement with the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., and the Alan Jay Lerner Testamentary Trust, a Duke Theater Studies course taught by Bradley Rogers collaborated with Tony-award winning visiting artist and director Victoria Clark to perform a workshop presentation of Love Life. With one run in 1948–9, and never filmed thanks to a strike by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, thirty Duke undergraduates supported this rare showing.

Hoof ‘n’ Horn: Chicago and The Addams Family

This student musical theater group was established in 1936, and is one of the oldest student groups on campus. Hoof ‘n’ Horn were among the first to use the Ruby, and presented Chicago (April) and The Addams Family (October) in the von der Heyden Studio Theater.

“With the opening of the Rubenstein Arts Center, the university is elevating student groups and connecting them with valuable resources. We are a part of this artistic renaissance, this tangible commitment to the creation of student work. We want to be at its forefront.”—Julia Medine, President of Hoof ‘n’ Horn 2017–2018

Colorful ADF bus parked in front of the Ruby


For its 85th season, the American Dance Festival, a partner of Duke University, moved many of its classes and workshops into the Ruby in June and July and three performances were hosted in the von der Heyden Studio.

A line of four dancers in mid-jump, arms raised

“The way the Ruby is structured creates conversations between rooms—you can be in one studio and see what’s going on in others—and it also creates conversations between inside and outside. All of the studios have access to natural light and natural elements. You’re always seeing the trees.”—Leah Cox, Dean of Faculty, ADF

Growing Duke's Arts Community

A crowd of people in the Ruby lobby
The Ruby bustling during DEMAN weekend. Photo by Ivy Shi.

The Ruby draws together the broader arts community at Duke. A ballet student and an engineer-turned-painter alike are inspired and encouraged to hone their creative practice.

Ruby Tuesdays

1,800+ cups of coffee to spark creativity

Each Tuesday afternoon during the semester, complimentary coffee and pastries helped transform the Ruby Lounge into a hangout space and study hall. Starting in spring 2019, the Beyu Blue coffee cart in the lobby will be open five days a week.

Ruby Fridays

9 casual art talks over lunch about the creative process

This weekly conversation series debuted in September and features artists who intersect with the Ruby—from visiting professionals, to the recipients of arts project residencies, to the creator of the Art-o-Mat vending machine. Upcoming Ruby Fridays.

DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend 2018

Duke’s Entertainment, Media, and Alumni Network presented its annual two-day gathering in the Ruby for the first time. Roughly 240 alumni working in creative industries returned to campus to connect with some 600 students in workshops, talks, and more.

College student applying a temporary tattoo to a child's hand
Student CAST member ?? welcoming a young visitor to the Ruby Opening Gala.

Creative Arts Student Teams (CASTs)

To support the Ruby, the Office of the Vice Provost of the Arts—Duke Arts introduced a new professional development opportunity for students: Creative Arts Student Teams. Approximately 10 talented undergraduates are hired each semester to lead building tours, help document and promote the arts at Duke, and provide valuable advice on how to increase student engagement in the Ruby.

Young woman seated at table in intense one-on-one conversation

“I loved hearing their thoughts on how patience, listening, and passion are crucial in having a successful creative career, as well as their opinions on how future arts leaders can improve art and media to promote diverse storytelling” —Casey Pettiford (Class of 2020), reflecting on DEMAN Weekend

Thank you!

Thank you for bringing the Ruby to life in its first year by filling it with creativity in all its forms. Join us in 2019!

Tune into events & opportunities!

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