The people around me. I very purposely surround myself with kindness and intentionality. Especially my little sister. She’s just so radically kind and intentional and thoughtful.
I also find a lot of inspiration in the notion of radical self love, because the world is very hard and we’re very mean to ourselves. I like to think about what it looks like to be your own best friend and to be your biggest advocate. I also love love! I think human connection is so interesting and beautiful. The way people come together, the way people fight, and people’s little quirks. I thought about this a lot when I was in Japan because I couldn’t speak Japanese so I had to figure out how to interact with the people, thank them, and be a part of their community. I loved those moments that transcend language and barriers. I just love humans!
Before I went on my gap year, I thought I wanted to work with little kids. My dream back then, actually it’s still my dream now, is to open up a children’s theater that focuses primarily on children who had difficult upbringings and give them the theater space. It’s so much easier to process trauma when you get to take on another identity and you don’t have to talk about it happening to your physical self. Getting to help them work through their trauma on stage, that just sounds so rewarding. Imagine if we can work with orphanages that would make art a part of the kids’ daily lives starting at a young age!
I think the fear of how big an undertaking a project like this would be always made me a little nervous. Eventually, that’s what I’d like to go back to school for and get a degree in social work. That’s the dream, working with kids and being in a theater again.
Over the past couple years, Duke has been working really hard to build up their art community and all these art spaces on campus. There’s definitely still more that can be done so in your eyes, what would an ideal, end-goal arts scene at Duke look like?
I think a full Arts Complex would be just stunning! We have the Arts Annex right now and there’s a couple of different additional spaces there. There’s a barn, I’d love to turn that into a sound lab or a woodworking station. I’d love to turn that laundry space in the Annex into a metalsmithing space. I think the goal is to just have enough art spaces on campus so that there’s a variety of options for students to experience. Also, to make sure that these spaces are low-level access, so you can come to an art class not knowing anything about art and we won’t have to turn you away because we’ll have enough space, supplies, and money. These are lofty goals but I think prioritizing art spaces in the way that we prioritize academic spaces is the change we need to make. We should also make it a regular practice to have Durham artists in those spaces so that students can learn from them. Because we can’t be in the middle of Durham and not acknowledge where we are and the history.
Students this year have proven that if you have an opportunity to do art, they will show up. Students love the art kits, they love doing painting on the lawn, they love doing the in-person art things. Let’s just give them art!
I love getting students who don’t normally identify as artists to see themselves in the art world. I think especially for Duke students, if y’all don’t think you’re going to be good at something, you don’t do it. But you don’t have to be good at it. There’s no bad art. There’s offensive art and harmful art, but there’s no bad art. Everything we do in our lives is art, and sometimes we have to take little steps of re-rationalizing what art is. It’s the way people get up in the morning and create their outfit, that is art. The way you organize your closet is art. The way people do their makeup, that is art. Getting students to see that they’re already making little artistic choices everyday and reassuring them that even if what they create is not something they find physically appealing, the process of creating itself is still beneficial and beautiful. Even if you’re just painting on the lawn or tuning into a DukeCreate event. Bridging that gap and getting students to understand that is incredible. That’s why giving students the opportunity and resources to make art and having free art spaces on campus is so helpful.
This is technically my second job at Duke. I worked here in the same office I work at now [Student Involvement] when I was a grad student at NC State. At the time, Jessie Stelleni worked here. She’s a badass. I still always think about the way she would introduce me in a room, “This is Fran, this is my grad.” But she said it with such passion, like, “This is Fran. She can do it. Don’t underestimate her.” It made me realize that Duke was special. But also, the role advisors can play in students’ lives is so special, and how incredible that relationship can be.
After I finished grad school, I moved away to Washington for a few years. I worked in Housing as a resident director at Evergreen State College. I got to work with and live with students directly, it was great! I realized that’s what I loved doing, and when this job came up I knew I had to apply. I loved the arts, I loved Duke, and I loved this office.
I started here last November, and here we are over a year later!
My mom was always very artistic. She was a big journaler and did a lot of sewing and textile crafts all throughout our childhood. When I was a kid, I painted a lot. Then, in middle school, I started to crochet. And that blossomed into me loving anything with thread and needles. In high school, I also got involved in theater. I did a lot of stage managing and behind-the-scenes stuff. Theater just always felt like home. My older sister was in it, my younger sister was in it. And we loved our theater teacher, she was like the fun aunt that pops up at Christmas parties. She was great and really supportive.
Summer after my sophomore year of college, she passed away. I was majoring in psychology at the time but wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was toying with switching my major already, and I decided I’m just going to do theater! I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it, but I knew at the time that is what I needed to do.
Now, I like to work art into every job that I do, even if it’s not specifically related to art. Getting to work specifically with an art programming board and with an arts umbrella organization in this job, that is the dream! I’ve always been surrounded by art, so this felt natural.
Yeah, after I graduated college, I took a gap year. I went to Japan and worked as a bartender. I didn’t speak any Japanese at all before I went. I researched how to say, “I’m allergic to ginger,” and, “Can I have some water?” I already knew the female word for bathroom, and I just thought I’d figure out the rest as I went along. I loved it! You get to hear everybody’s stories, it’s a fun job, and you get to learn a cool skill. I suggest everyone try it!
No, I am actually a Navy brat so we moved all over the place. I was born in Indiana and then we moved up and down the East Coast. We lived overseas for a little bit in Japan up until I was in fifth grade, then we settled down in Memphis, Tennessee. I call Memphis home just because there’s so much backstory.