June 2, 2023


Your Partner in The Digital Era

Q&A with new Duke Arts Director of Programming Aaron Shackelford

Vice Provost for the Arts, John V. Brown, is delighted to introduce Aaron Shackelford, the newest member of the Duke Arts Team. As Director of Programming, Aaron’s function is to develop a strong year of performances and exhibitions for Duke Arts, spanning throughout effectiveness, visual, literary, and experimental arts. Aaron’s position is hugely collaborative, and he is on the lookout ahead to functioning with partners both on and off-campus. Aaron is continue to finding to know Duke, but he’s no stranger to the location – he retains a Master’s and Doctorate in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For the earlier decade, Aaron has been at the forefront of integrating the arts into academic institutions and presenting modern creative encounters. Aaron shares how his arts programming career started, activities that have impacted his function, his creative follow and what led him to Duke Arts in this insightful Q&A.


How did you turn into fascinated in arts programming?

I arrived to this subject from a slightly strange route. In the course of grad college I was doing work for Honors Carolina, developing interdisciplinary options for pupils. That included a software wherever we would deliver college students to Carolina Executing Arts gatherings and discuss with artists. I started off falling in enjoy with how magical people evenings have been, equally the performances and the discussions that these potential medical practitioners and legal professionals ended up getting with artists from all over the globe. CPA then recruited me to apply for a publish-doc situation to guidance a new software they had been launching to integrate the arts at UNC, known as [email protected]. I took the plunge and the relaxation is heritage!


You have a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature (from UNC Chapel Hill, which we’ll forgive). How does that background lead to your work these days?

I get requested this issue a ton, and my solution has altered around time. I made use of to emphasize how my education gave me the skill to promptly examine and take in cultural awareness, to be capable to technique a new operate of artwork and assess its aesthetics and social influence and contextualize that into a larger set of demands.

Probably that’s element of it, but my actual solution is from all the teaching I did as section of my diploma. You master to connect with college students, to pay attention and have interaction, and have an understanding of what tends to make for a meaningful pedagogical moment.

I learned to be cozy in front of a huge classroom, how to mentor and stimulate learners, and even how to have tricky discussions both in and outdoors of the classroom. I frequently imagine I uncovered far more in the classroom than my learners, and I however have the attitude that they have much more to teach me than I have to teach them. It is the similar outlook I have into my conversations with artists or college or community collaborators as perfectly, and I consider that’s just one of the most useful classes I acquired with my Ph.D. (Also, Go Heels.)

You most just lately served as the director of Ga Tech Arts, which frequently offers works that integrate technological know-how with the arts. What are your beloved illustrations of technological innovation to artistic practice?

At Georgia Tech Arts we had been fascinated in how college students, faculty and artists could come collectively to create something collaboratively, instead than imagining about know-how as a uncomplicated resource that could increase projection or XR to an existing work. The most exciting improvements took put when artists and researchers inspired each other. We commissioned a dance function known as “Step the Mind Together a Path,” which introduced alongside one another dance and neuroscience. The choreographer, Troy Schumacher, uncovered so significantly about neuroethics and neuroscience in his research, but he also served the experts establish new approaches to share their work and interact the community in the significant discussions about the ethics of their analysis.

The magic comes about when the people today who are authorities in the know-how are influenced by the artist, and in flip counsel new methods the artist can explain to their story or make an expertise.

Even when we did current presently made perform, this sort of as the effective VR installation Touring When Black that tells the tale of limitations of race and vacation in the US, it was with an eye in direction of inspiring our pupils and local community to discover ways to explain to other vital stories in collaboration with artists.


What is the most fulfilling factor of operating in the arts at an educational institution?

Getting to check out artists encourage our students and school, and in transform staying inspired by them. Usually it is not what takes place on phase, but what occurs in the classroom or lobby or around a boxed lunch that makes a spark of insight that no lecture or lab can replicate. When I see learners expertise insights via their face with a function, or when I see an artist have that “a-ha” second in discussion with a college member, I know how fortuitous I am to be operating in the arts in bigger education and learning.


Is there a unique artwork kind you are most passionate about, and why?

As I’m frightened numerous of you will see, I can get teary-eyed from any art form, even just chatting about it. I’ve constantly been drawn to dance, both equally for the stunning energy of the human system in motion and for the incredibly dexterous contemplating that I have discovered choreographers carry to their operate, particularly when they are collaborating outdoors of their industry. Literature and film are, of course, what I researched all through my very own training, and both equally even now fill me with these kinds of joy. But my genuine private inventive observe is photography. I’m in no way happier than when I’m in the dark area creating prints. You will under no circumstances see my perform up in the Nasher, and I in no way figured out Photoshop, but I do love filling my spaces with images from my own operate and from my artist friends.


What do you find most remarkable about your new purpose with Duke Arts?

The prospect to guidance this sort of a large variety of creative tactics and mediums drew me to the role in the very first area. I am influenced that Duke Arts is not only the classic performing arts procedures, but also cinema and literature and visual and experimental arts, and so several extra fields of creativity.

I’ve identified in excess of the yrs that artists do not necessarily restrict on their own by genre or medium, and so it is fascinating to be at an organization that wishes to be similarly large-ranging in the artists and arts activities we support.

Alongside that, I am thrilled to be at a spot that has so numerous college and students who are passionately dedicating their time to these creative fields, no matter whether in scholarship or their personal exercise. I loved all my engineering and technological innovation colleagues, but I am thrilled to be component of a a lot more substantial local community of arts experts and pupils when also getting an option to collaborate with the quite a few other disciplines across Duke. Ultimately, it’s a genuine privilege to be living in the Triangle all over again. North Carolina felt like my true house from the minute I 1st moved in this article, and I know how blessed I am to be back.

Aaron Shackelford joins various new team members at Duke Arts. Discover additional about Our Personnel.