Art in Action

Linked to its teaching and research, Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts promotes direct engagement with the arts. It aims to:

  • foster and encourage the arts within Duke Divinity School
  • promote public events involving the practice or display of the arts, using spaces available at Duke University and in the Durham community
  • sponsor artistic activities wider afield, both in the United States and Europe

Recent Events

The Word Made Fresh: Renewing scriptural imagination through word, poetry, and song

Word Made Fresh Event UK-based poet and theologian Malcolm Guite and Canadian singer-songwriter Steve Bell joined musician and theologian Jeremy Begbie for a three-day poetry, music, and teaching event at Duke Divinity School in Spring Semester 2014. The three friends gathered to explore the possibilities of poetry and music, in composition and performance, to make sense of the world, wrestle with Scripture, and re-imagine Christian life.

Three days of public lecture-concerts, readings, and theological discussion were held in Duke Divinity School and Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian Church, and culminated in a final evening performance in Goodson Chapel.  


Sounding the Passion: 
 Encounters in poetry, theology, and music

Since 2010, the Duke-Cambridge Consultation—a group of scholars, musicians, and writers from the U.S., UK, and Ireland—have met in the University of Cambridge and at Duke to discover together a musical, theological, and poetical project centering on the account of Christ’s Passion in the Gospel of Luke. The consultation has given birth to several collaborations over the years as the project has evolved, but at its center has remained a commissioned work by Scottish composer James MacMillan: a new St Luke Passion.
Music score for St. Luke Passion.

In April 2014, DITA welcomed the Consultation to Duke for the final visit surrounding this project. Duke Divinity School, Duke Chapel, and Duke Music Department hosted three days (April 9-11) of lectures, panels, and theological discussion, as well as a poetry reading by Irish poet and linguist Micheal O’Siadhail, and a graduate student workshop in Bone Hall with Dr. MacMillan. The beautiful and fervent St Luke Passion premiered in the U.S. on Palm Sunday (April 13) in Duke Chapel, conducted by Dr. Rodney Wynkoop with the Duke Chapel Choir. 

The Consultation included: James MacMillan, Sarah Coakley, Micheal O’Siadhail, David Ford, Alan Torrance, Jeremy Begbie, Richard B. Hays, Ellen F. Davis, Kavin Rowe, and Ray Barfield.

Documentary video

Recordings of the St. Luke Passion concert are not currently available.

James MacMillan conducting St Luke Passion

Past Events

Engaging Eliot in Word, Color and Sound

In January 2013, Duke Initiatives in Theology and Arts (DITA) premiered QU4RTETS, a visual and musical celebration of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, in Duke Chapel.

A multifaceted engagement of art and faith, the opening night featured a display of 16 original works by painters Bruce Herman and Makoto Fujimura; a performance of “At the Still Point,” a quintet by Christopher Theofanidis commissioned for the event; and lectures by the artists. 

DITA Presents Oliver Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen in a Two-Piano Concert

In August 2012, Duke Divinity School’s Goodson Chapel was filled to capacity as Duke Initiatives in Theology and Arts presented DITA director Dr. Jeremy Begbie and London-based concert pianist Ms. Cordelia Williams in a two-piano concert featuring Oliver Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen

Musicians Jeremy Begbie and Cordelia Williams play Messiaen's Visions de l'Amen.

The 2012 Duke-Cambridge Collaboration

During Easter 2012, 25 members and friends of Duke Divinity School traveled to Cambridge, England for a week of theology and the arts in and around the historic setting of King’s College Chapel. The Duke-Cambridge Collaboration developed from a similar venture in 2010, building on a growing partnership with Cambridge. 

Mendelssohn St Paul

In April 2011 Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts and Duke Chapel co-sponsored a performance of Mendelssohn’s St. Paul. This rarely heard choral work sets texts mainly from the Acts of the Apostles to music, carrying the listener through the drama of the church’s story. The piece was performed by the Duke Chapel Choir and Orchestra conducted by Rodney Wynkoop. The event was preceded by a pre-concert panel discussion "St. Paul's Conversion: from Word to Music", with presentations from Richard Hays, Larry Todd and Siegwart Reichwald.

Makoto Fujimura at Duke Divinity School

DITA welcomed award-winning artist Makoto Fujimura to Duke Divinity School on March 31 and April 1, 2011.  He interacted with students and faculty, delivering a public lecture as well as visiting the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies.

Britten’s Holy Sonnets of John Donne

DITA collaborated with the Divinity School and the Department of Music in a performance of Benjamin Britten’s The Holy Sonnets of John Donne to celebrate the Installation of Richard B. Hays as the Twelfth Dean of Duke Divinity School.

Elizabeth Byrum Linnartz, a lecturing fellow in Duke’s Department of Music, was accompanied on the piano by DITA’s Director, Jeremy Begbie. 

Duke – Cambridge 2010

In Holy Week 2010, a group of scholars from Duke met with a group from Cambridge at King’s College, Cambridge, to collaborate on a research project centering on artistic engagements with the Passion story. The Consultation coincided with a performance of the St John Passion by the distinguished composer, James MacMillan, in King’s College Chapel on Good Friday. The joint group of scholars worked with MacMillan during the week.

Distinguished Lectures in Theology and the Arts

A series of Distinguished Lectures in Theology and the Arts began in Spring Semester 2010 at Duke with guest speakers Professor Nicholas Wolterstorff, Professor Roger Lundin, and Professor Robin Jensen.