Art Enlivens Westbrook
The white walls of two classrooms in the Westbrook building have been transformed with vibrant color after the installation of nearly 50 paintings by local artist Bob Blake.
Blake came to Durham in 1942 and worked as a leading medical illustrator at Duke. In his spare time, he traveled around Durham County painting scenes that caught his eye. “I must have painted every tobacco barn in the county,” he said.
The collection displayed in the Westbrook classrooms depicts scenes from downtown Durham from the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.
After seeing the installation, Blake’s wife of 70 years, Hildur, commented, “I’m thrilled to have this art displayed here at the Divinity School. As a woman of faith who believes in Christian education, I believe that God’s world is beautiful and God gives gifts to people to share with others. It does my heart good to see this.”
Jo Bailey Wells, associate professor of the practice of Christian ministry and Bible and director of Anglican studies, added, “These pieces are not just adorning a place where Christian education happens. They are part and parcel of our education as Christians. They help us root our theology in our local context, especially visions of the beauty of Durham, which without these paintings is otherwise less visible. I dream that future students will be thrilled not just to come to Duke Divinity School but also Durham, where the church has hands and feet in a socially complex world.”
This long-term loan from the Duke-Semans Fine Art Foundation was coordinated by Douglas Zinn, executive director of the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and member of the Divinity School Board of Visitors, and the Arts and Aesthetics Committee at Duke Divinity School, led by Wells.