Chain-link canvas: Attendees at the Arts Annex opening reception create a living mural by decorating a fence with materials provided by Durham's Scrap Exchange. Credit: Jared Lazarus
Chain-link canvas: Attendees at the Arts Annex opening reception create a living mural by decorating a fence with materials provided by Durham's Scrap Exchange. Credit: Jared Lazarus

A Warehouse’s Second Act

Former linen center is converted into the Arts Annex.
November 5, 2012

Inspiring is hardly the word most alumni would assign to the old Duke Linen Service Center, a nondescript warehouse off Campus Drive near East Campus. Gray and spare, the building befits its utilitarian roots as the site where massive quantities of campus bedding were laundered.

But this fall, the building reopened with a loftier ambition. A renovation project has converted the space into the Arts Annex, a 10,000-square-foot haven for student arts groups. The interior, which most recently had been used for storage, now features two enormous rooms with sprung dance floors and wall-to-wall mirrors, as well as a visual-arts studio. Outside, a rainbow of new cloth banners frames a path up the hill from Campus Drive, leading students to an ample courtyard.

The annex adds much-needed rehearsal and gathering space for groups that fall under the newly formed duARTS, the umbrella organization for Duke’s six arts councils. The building’s spartan functionality allowed for some thoughtful touches: The two performance studios, for example, are the same size as the stages of Page and Reynolds auditoriums, allowing for precise choreography and rehearsals.

And student artists already have made their mark on the annex. “All of it was designed and laid out by students,” says Caitlin Shaw, program coordinator for University Center Activities and Events and adviser to duARTS. She notes that the facility’s spraypaint- and-stencil-inspired logo was a student design.

“I’d love for it to become a place for student artists to call a home on campus,” she says.