Chris Sims, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke
Chandan Gomes’s recent residency, funded by the Duke India Initiative (DII), has been a catalyzing event for the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) this semester, enabling us to connect with a variety of departments and units across Duke.
Without DII financial and logistical support, we would not have been able to imagine a feasible way to bring this New Delhi, India-based artist and bookmaker to Duke in the way that we were able to. Together we pooled resources and pulled together a series of workshops, public events, and student interactions that brought together an array of units at Duke.
There are few programs we can do that can potentially be more impactful for our students than to bring them into direct and personal contact with working artists. Gomes shared with our students unique and compelling ways to examine and understand the world, modeled for them ways of connecting with others, discussed pathways to a career in the arts, and provided a perspective into the culture, art, and history of an influential country that is critical for our students to have an understanding of.
While at Duke, Gomes led five hands-on photography and book-making workshops:
(1) with CDS’s Documentary Diversity Program cohort of young artists
(2) with CDS’s Literacy Through Photography seminar, a Service-Learning designated course which connects undergraduates with Durham public middle school students
(3) with CDS’s Documentary Studies 101 lecture class, in which we brought a hands-on arts workshop to our first-year and sophomore students in the spirit of Dean Ashby’s call to infuse our gateway courses with signature experiences (I received four unsolicited e-mails the next week from students who relayed how much they enjoyed the workshops)
(4) with CDS’s Undergraduate Education faculty, to demonstrate his unique DYI method of bookmaking with limited materials and resources
(5) through a DukeCreates workshop, with Duke undergraduates, graduate students, and community members
CDS/DII partnered with the Rubenstein Arts Center to provide Gomes with studio space for the workshops and a pop-up exhibition, which ran the length of his stay, including in conjunction with the opening of the Nasher Sculpture Garden. Gomes gave a public artist talk and also meet throughout the week in individual meetings/critique sessions with graduate students from the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Art program and the History Department.