"We need to paint"


by Alex Shapanka

I hear a lot of griping over the fact that Duke lacks a business major for undergraduates. We allegedly don’t want to encourage a pre-professional academic experience because Trinity is a liberal arts school. Yet two of our most popular majors Public Policy and Economics teach us statistical, analytical and ethical skills, which are transmutable into business acumen, though indirectly. The most popular certificate: Markets and Management. Nearly every student I’ve talked to says they take the courses because it’s the closest thing we offer to a business degree, and it falls short by a lot. Duke students are hungry for something we think will help us be the next Warren Buffet. The reasoning for not having an AB in business is ironic considering the students’ general professional drive. A degree, however, won’t prepare any of us for a career in the trade.

We need to be creative. We need to paint. A few weeks before Spring Break, DUU Visual Arts hosted a spin art and crayon melting night in the Keohane Atrium, a chance for students to create. For a few others and me the evening devolved (or artistically evolved) to one of finger painting. I embraced my inner kindergartener and lathered my hands with dark orchid, sea foam green, and every shade in between. Though nothing I made would qualify as art or even be worthy of hanging on the refrigerator, it was fun and allowed me to think differently.

The human mind supposedly can’t imagine anything completely new. Everything is a rehashing and variation of the things we’ve experienced. The beauty and importance of artistic expression is to make things unseen or undone. By doing and living, we gain raw material to manipulate. We increase our potential to create.

Duke and Durham provide opportunities to learn so we can in turn make art. Listen to jazz at the Mary Lou on Wednesdays or at Beyú on Thursdays. Visit the Nasher or the Durham Arts Council. Go to Full Frame. Even walk through the gardens or appreciate campus’ architecture.

A liberal arts education includes math, languages, history, literature, science, and philosophy because it is meant to instill a dynamic knowledge that produces articulate individuals. In experiencing we gain shards to organize into infinite mosaics. Which is why even those of you in Pratt should be participating in art.

Your art doesn’t have to be with oils on a canvas or with clay. Last semester, I took a course on writing poetry, which introduced me to a new way of playing with words and meaning. When my professor told me my analysis and review of poetry readings was more poetic than my own lines, I knew writing poetry wasn’t my art form. I’ll never be Wordsworth, but the class experience gave me knowledge I can use elsewhere.

The arts are growing on campus. In the past few years we’ve seen the creation of DU Arts – an umbrella organizations of art councils that encourages communication and collaboration between the different mediums – and the Arts Annex. Duke isn’t trying to churn out painters, musicians or ballerinas. It is starting to recognize the value in developing nimble-minded and creative people, for they will be able to thrive in any field including business.