Duke Performances is now Duke Arts Presents
Learn about the transition from Duke Performances to Duke Arts Presents here.
History of Professional Arts at Duke University:
Duke University has a long-standing history of presenting the world’s leading artists to its community. J. Foster “Bishop” Barnes, Director of Chapel Music at Duke Chapel, founded and served as Director of the Duke Artists Series from 1931 to 1956. The Artists Series’ mission was to offer the finest in classical music, opera, and dance to the Duke and Durham communities. William J. Griffith III, Director of both the Student Union and Student Activities, followed Barnes as Director of the Artists Series, serving from 1956 to 1969.
In 1956 Griffith invited Ella Fountain Pratt to develop arts programs for the Student Union. Pratt ultimately ran the Artists Series as well as the Duke Office of Cultural Affairs from 1969 to 1984. During her years at Duke, Pratt presented artists as diverse as Leontyne Price, Itzhak Perlman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, and many others. Upon Pratt’s retirement in 1984, Susan Coon was named Director of the Artists Series, running the series through 2002. Coon also served as Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs from 1984 to 1993.
Founded in 1982 under the direction of James Applewhite, the Duke Institute of the Arts presented artistic programming and festivals for Duke and the Durham community. Michael Cerveris, Sr. served as the Institute’s first full-time director from 1985 to 1990, when Cerveris was succeeded by Kathy Silbiger. During her tenure, Silbiger presented guest artists, created an artist-in-residence program, and co-created programming with other arts-related academic departments at Duke. In 2004 Duke Performances was born out of a merging of the Institute of the Arts and the Artists Series.
Silbiger retired in 2006 and was succeeded in 2007 by Aaron Greenwald, at a point where the University made a significant commitment to the arts in its new strategic plan. Since that time the organization has commissioned, developed, and premiered major new work from numerous forward-thinking artists. Under Greenwald’s direction, Duke Performances evolved into a world-class university presenter whose mission serves three distinct initiatives: artistic quality, supporting campus and academic priorities, and playing a role in the renaissance of the City of Durham. Greenwald departed Duke in 2018.
In 2019, an arts planning group convened by Duke University President Vincent E. Price recommended that the Vice Provost for the Arts become full-time position to implement and further develop the university’s strategy in the performing and visual arts. John V. Brown became the university’s first full-time Vice Provost for the Arts in June of 2020. Under his leadership, Duke Performances, which was always a subsidiary of the Office of the Vice Provost of the Arts, was internally integrated with Duke Arts in 2021.
In 2023, Brown announced the rebranding of Duke Performances to Duke Arts Presents, and the appointment of a new Director of Programming, Aaron Shackelford.