For more than three decades, Duke University has demonstrated leadership in documentary arts, film and video, and visual studies, from the early efforts of the Center for Documentary Photography as part of the then-nascent Public Policy Studies program in the 1970s to the growth of the Center for Documentary Studies, founded in 1989 as an innovative multidisciplinary program merging scholarly pursuits with community engagement through fieldwork and creative expression, to the broadening of the Department of Art and Art History to include Visual Studies and the recent evolution of the popular Program in Film/Video/Digital to the more expansive Program in the Arts of the Moving Image.
Drawing upon these successful programs as well as the energy of the new Nasher Museum of Art and Duke University’s strong commitment to the arts in its current strategic plan, in 2006 Duke received a $2.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create and implement a Visual Studies Initiative, a broad-based effort to improve how visual images are understood and to foster research and teaching in visual studies. This initiative encourages collaboration within and across the arts and humanities and with engineering and the computation sciences. The recent addition of faculty in computational media places Duke in a leading role in the field, and provides significant intellectual energy and resources to take the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts into a distinguished category of its own.
In addition to these assets on campus, a wide range of local community resources will inform and support student coursework and theses. These include the annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, public radio station WUNC-FM, the Southern Documentary Fund (SDF), Working Films, the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.