It is hard to walk through campus and not notice teenagers walking in every direction with green, yellow or orange lanyards and an expression of happiness on their faces as they’re usually engaged in conversation with each other. (Later, I found out that yellow is for first year members, green is for second and third and orange is for fourth year). I saw them on my first day at the Nasher Museum while walking to the Loop, a campus eatery, for a quick lunch and of course I got lost. I thought it was the normal summer tour for incoming freshmen or other prospective students.
Since, I have seen them several times in the museum. I wasn’t very mindful of them, but the moment I really homed in on the group was while I was in the gallery viewing a work of art in the permanent collection.
It was quite odd that the group observed the art collection, took notes and sat in a classroom-like style for a lecture by Jessica Ruhle, associate curator of education.
“It just underscores that in art and science they are doing the same thing in terms of observing, and using the same skill sets,” Ruhle told me.
I learned that Duke University is the summer getaway destination for many of the country’s “gifted” youth, providing students with the opportunity to learn at a level suited for their intellectual capabilities. Over the span of three decades, 31 years to be exact, the university has hosted the Talented Identification Program. Kids in middle and high school take part in the summer studies program.
“It has taught us to ask why things are and not to believe things as they are taught,” says first year junior Duncan Brocklehurst. “The environment is different and our peers know what we’re talking about. The TA’s and instructors work to expand our capabilities.”
Third year returner Lucy Lansing said TIP grooms them to become more career- minded and helps with their career ideas at an early age.
A recent TIP group taking a science course visited the museum (see the photo gallery here) to sharpen skills that were relevant in the laboratory such as perception, examining visual evidence and observational studies. These lessons are also taught to first year medical students at Duke through tours at the museum. The equal opportunity given highlights the exceptionality of the TIP program and students.
“It’s a nice way to look at things and it improved my observation skills,” Lansing said. “Also it’s interesting how artists apply tiny details in this context and that context.”
Lansing added that the sculpture that really put things into perspective was the “Mask (Self-Portrait) by Ron Mueck and Brocklehurst really was touched by the collection of Dan, Ibo, Lega and Guro African masks, both currently on display as a part of “Building the Contemporary Collection: Five Years of Acquisitions.” The exercise they did was to stand back-to back as a pair and as one described the work of art the other drew and then they swapped. The two ended on the note that they really enjoy the program, Duke’s environment and the Nasher.
Art is simply phenomenal! I never would have thought that art could be paired with any other discipline, especially science which is so concrete; moreover, be a teaching tool and not used as entertainment, but I am very amazed to discover it.
IMAGE: Photo by Dr. J Caldwell.