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Commencement Speakers Give Guidance to the Class of 2014

James Turrell and Fred Wilson addressed undergraduate and graduate classes of 2014, respectively

Posted 05.19.14 by MICA COMMUNICATIONS

MICA students prepare for the College’s 165th Commencement (photo by Kim Llerena ’12).

BALTIMORE--More than 600 students received degrees and certificates at the College's 165th Commencement, which included the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies, on Monday, May 19 at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

President Fred Lazarus IV was greeted with a standing ovation as he welcomed guests to Undergraduate Commencement. Lazarus recognized the class of 2014, as well as faculty and staff. In addition, he paused to applaud parents in attendance for their encouragement and support of their children--financially and emotionally. 

See photos from Undergraduate Commencement and Graduate Commencement.

Lazarus referenced his retirement after 36 years as MICA president as a graduation of sorts, too. He stated the importance of the student body of past and present as his legacy, saying "students make MICA the College it is today."

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Ray Allen congratulated graduating seniors. He also complimented them on the Commencement Exhibition 2014, saying the showcase by MICA's artists and designers is a "consistent excellence of work."

Allen read remarks introducing Commencement speaker and internationally acclaimed light and space artist James Turrell.

Turrell shared with graduates a story about life's signs. He told graduates, "Now it's your turn to be the sign to others" adding, "What you do with your life has meaning and importance." He emphasized the need for art in society, describing it as "substance for the soul."

"The future is in our hands and so is success," said Jennifer-Rose Rizzo '14 (illustration), who delivered student remarks in front of more than 400 of her peers. Rizzo shared an anecdote with her classmates to not "bite off more than you can chew." She also encouraged them to not be burdened with the pressure of obtaining instant success. She concluded with, "Let the world experience us." 

Lazarus conferred honorary degrees and special awards for: Turrell, Doctor of Fine Arts; Betty Cooke '46 (art education), Doctor of Fine Arts, who reflected on her undergraduate and continued engagement with the College; Bill Steinmetz '50 (general design), Doctor of Fine Arts; Congressman Elijah Cummings, Doctor of Humane Letters, who praised Lazarus' commitment to MICA, and also saying, "Graduates, wherever life takes you, feed your souls;" Associate Vice President for Advancement, Planning & Special Projects Mary Ann Lambros '63 P'88 P'01, Alumni Award and Medal of Honor; and Graduate Dean Emerita and Founding Director of MICA's Center for Race and Culture Leslie King-Hammond, PhD, Medal of Honor.

Lazarus was presented with an honorary degree as well. MICA Board Chair Neil Meyerhoff read the citation saying, "Your boundless love, unwavering commitment, indefatigable energy and, most of all, far-sighted vision transformed the College from a small, regional institution into an international leader in art and design education positioned to leverage ever-expanding opportunities...For all you have done to strengthen the quality and prestige of the College, MICA's graduates will forever be grateful."

Lazarus opened the Graduate Commencement ceremony, welcoming the audience, including "some of our first students graduating from new programs." Lazarus thanked the students, who have helped make MICA the College it is. Lazarus said, "Even the best can be better, help make that happen by staying engaged with us."

Allen called Lazarus' last Graduate Commencement "bittersweet," sharing that the MICA president had received an honorary doctorate at Undergraduate Commencement. "Now he is an alum like you," Allen said.

Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies Gwynne Keathley told the graduates, "You've surprised me, impressed me" and you "showed me what makes MICA, MICA." Keathley said the thesis graduate exhibitions are not the end but the beginning of the graduates' careers. She also expressed her delight in the cross graduate program networking through events, and that the most important, unique aspect of MICA is its creative, dedicated community of students, staff and faculty.

Commencement speaker and conceptual artist Fred Wilson gave advice about creating a creative career, including: "you make your best art when you create in the moment;" "release yourself from pride and fear of failure;" and "reflect on past creative moments, learn from good and bad." Wilson continued, "Remember why you want to make art...if your artwork is not the best it can be, you will fail in the long run...You're not competing with anyone but yourself." "Live the way you live best, interact the way you interact best, make art the way you make art best," he said. He concluded with, "Art is not a career, it's your life...You've chosen the best life imaginable."

Graduate student speakers Emma Elizabeth Sherwood-Forbes '14 and Nour Tabet '14, both of the M.F.A. in Graphic Design program, spoke on "saying ‘yes,'" because "exciting things happen when you say ‘yes.'" They recommended using the theatre technique of "‘yes and...' no matter what others suggest," which "makes you listen, stop judging, makes everyone feel less judged and more willing to share...makes you let go of your ego." Practicing what they preach, they had said "‘Yes and...' we should do the Commencement speech together."

Philanthropists Eddie Brown P'02, founder, chairman and CEO of Maryland's Brown Capital Management, and educator Sylvia Brown P'02 received Honorary Degrees of Humane Letters. Eddie Brown called MICA, "One of our favorite institutions in the world." MICA faculty member and sculptor Alice Aycock; choreographer and dancer Yvonne Rainer; and Wilson received Honorary Degrees of Fine Arts.

Lazarus presented Honorary Degrees while on his trip to China last fall to Pan Gongkai, president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China, and to controversial contemporary artist Ai Weiwei.

Additional awards were presented at both ceremonies to students, faculty and staff.

READ: 2014 Commencement program.

Image Captions (top to bottom): MICA students prepare for the College's 165th Commencement; Undergraduate Commencement speaker James Turrell; Undergraduate Commencement student speaker Jennifer-Rose Rizzo '14; MICA President Fred Lazarus IV; Conferring of graduate degrees, with Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies Gwynne Keathley; Graduate Commencement speaker Fred Wilson; and Graduate Commencement student speakers Emma Elizabeth Sherwood-Forbes '14 and Nour Tabet '14 (all photos by Kim Llerena '12).

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 48 states and 61 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. Redefining art and design education, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.