Football Season at the Nasher
Weeks before Duke’s move-in day and orientation week, first-year football players arrived on campus. On a recent Monday, about 20 players visited the Nasher Museum to practice team-building skills. They paired off for a visual learning activity, gathered in groups in front of single works of art and toured the galleries.
A New Experience
Reed Colver, Associate Director & Learning Consultant, Duke’s Academic Resource Center, started working with first-year football players four years ago. She wanted to introduce them to campus experiences they might not find on their own—and one of the first destinations was the Nasher Museum.
The back-to-back sketching activity is one of Colver’s favorites, she said. In that exercise, the players work in pairs, standing back to back. One looks at a work of art and describes it verbally; the other draws on paper what is being described.
So much is happening in that activity. They are being asked to look closely at artwork in a way they might not otherwise when walking through the galleries. They are asked to translate something visual into words. Elements of how to learn, process information and work with another person, as well as seeing a work of art in a way they might not have seen it.Reed Colver, Associate Director & Learning Consultant, Duke’s Academic Resource Center
Becoming a Team
For some of the players, coming into the museum put them in a place of vulnerability, said Ellen Raimond, Ph.D., Assistant Curator of Academic Initiatives, Nasher Museum. They were asked to talk about their own personal responses to works of art — in front of others, she said.
In side conversations, some of the players personally opened up while looking at a work of art, Raimond said. They sometimes made connections between a work of art and a difficult experience they had growing up. “I think what surprised me the most is how they put down their defenses.”
To work as a team it is important for players to develop an understanding of each other based on trust. That they trust each other with their stories is important.Ellen Raimond, Ph.D., Assistant Curator of Academic Initiatives, Nasher Museum
For many of the students, this was their first visit to the Nasher Museum.
“There’s multiple aspects to football,” said Vincent Anthony Jr., Duke Class of 2026, defensive end on the Duke Football team. “Like there’s multiple aspects to art, so that’s just a connection I made. Football is very vibrant and you have multiple emotions going on, on the field, so it’s like the same thing as art … There’s different types of emotions going on in the paint, within the art.”