The Rediscovery of Wonder


The goal of my capstone project is simple – to help Duke students rediscover a sense of wonder that I feel is essential for true learning and creativity. Below, please find a summarized proposal for my installation, and click on the link for a more detailed description.

For this installation, I plan to provide Duke students with 5000 Keva Planks in a designated area on the first floor of Perkins Library, with which they can build and create. In the building area will be a few original structures that I build, along with many loose planks, to encourage interaction. The space will also have a few Polaroid cameras that will allow students to capture and display images of their work. My hope is that the growing ‘photo wall’ will encourage students to see and be inspired by what their peers have created. By using things from our childhoods such as building blocks and instant cameras, I hope to encourage Duke students to take a break from the demands of university and the work-force, and to once again do something that many of us may not have done since childhood – play. I believe that doing so will help students bring that sense of wonder, that is sometimes only seen in children, to situations and experiences in our adulthoods. I hope to use still photography to document this ‘rediscovery of wonder’.

I will then take the planks and photos (Polaroids and my photography) and create a final exhibit in the Smith Warehouse, to be on display at the end of April. The exhibit will again remind viewers of that wonder that we often lose as we grow older, and will also encourage some engagement with the blocks.

Complete Project Proposal

Inspiration and Summary: After my time in Hyderabad this summer with Dr. Leela Prasad’s DukeEngage program, one of the things that struck me most was a certain energy and vibe I felt in the kids we worked with, and in the Duke students on my team. I noticed the absence of this vibe tremendously when I came back to campus, and wanted desperately to know what it was, and to find it again. To do so, I began by revisiting photos I had taken during my summer – pictures that I felt captured the energy I was looking for. I also enrolled myself in two classes that would allow me to explore the topic in more depth, with valuable mentorship. One of these was an Ethics of Civic Engagement class taught by Leela Prasad, and consisted of five other undergraduate students who also had significant civic engagement experiences. The second was an Independent Study with the Visual Arts department, with Professor Pedro Lasch as my mentor. Through these classes, I was able to thoroughly reflect on my time in India, and to supplement my reflections with readings from the fields of psychology, art history, mythology, education, and ethics, in addition to conversations with my mentors and peers. Doing so finally helped me realize that this ‘vibe’ I was searching for was in fact a sense of wonder. I began brainstorming ways to rediscover wonder on campus, and after some initial artworks and prototypes, I finally settled on the idea of building a treehouse-like structure on West Campus, intended to be a space that would recreate wonder for those who visited. The hope is that if students are reminded about their childhoods, a time when wonder is abundant in many of us, this rekindled sense may help my peers and I carry through adulthood with the essential openness and curiosity that wonder fosters.