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Commencement Speaker and Pulitzer Prize Winner Holland Cotter Advises "Go With the Passion You Have for Art"

Cotter complimented the graduating class on its Commencement Exhibition, saying he has "never seen a student show of that scale and of that variety"

Posted 05.16.11 by MICA Communications

Commencement speaker Holland Cotter, an art critic at The New York Times

BALTIMORE--More than 500 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees at the College's 162nd Commencement, which took place in the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on May 16.

President Fred Lazarus IV, who opened the ceremonies, told the graduates they have helped "make MICA the College it is today" through their suggestions, initiatives and ideas.

Commencement speaker Holland Cotter, an art critic at The New York Times where he won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, complimented the graduating class on its Commencement Exhibition, saying he has "never seen a student show of that scale and of that variety." Cotter continued his speech with the advice, "go with the passion you have for art." Explaining that "passion defines true artists," Cotter encouraged the graduates to ask questions that would help move culture forward. By doing so, he told the graduates "you will change the world."

commencement audienceKatie Taylor, graduating from the Hoffberger School of Painting, provided a humorous speech as the graduate student speaker. She provided examples of recent MICA projects that included slip and slides in chocolate and a student carrying around a broom for a year. In seriousness, Taylor declared "Art is about looking deep within yourself; taking critique and knowing how to give it too." She explained "You can take the girl out of art school, but you can't take art school out of the girl" no matter what she pursued after graduation.

Graphic design major Stephen Edmond provided the undergraduate address, explaining why he chose MICA. On top of MICA's curriculum flexibility and requirement of excellence, he explained he was at MICA to be surrounded by creative minds who knew that "success was always a failure away." He finished with, "Let's remember the hard work and foolish dreams that brought us all together."

Cotter received an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters. For the Times, he has written widely about "non-Western" art and culture. In the 1990s, he introduced readers to a broad range of Asian contemporary art as the first wave of new art from China was building and breaking. He helped bring contemporary art from India to the attention of a Western audience. He previously worked at Art in America, Art News and New York Arts Journal. Cotter is working on a study of contemporary Indian art and a poetry manuscript.

Receiving Honorary Degrees of Fine Arts was James L. Tucker Jr., lauded Maryland art educator who the National Art Education Association cited as Eastern Region Art Educator of the year; John Bielenberg, partner and co-founder of San Francisco-based C2 who works with youth to show them their work can have a positive impact on the world; and Leslie Shepard, director of the Baltimore School for the Arts since 2001, who has played a leadership role at the school since its founding in 1979.

2010 MacArthur Fellow Elizabeth Turk '94 (Rinehart School of Sculpture) received the Alumni Award. This year's Medal of Honor recipients are art history faculty member Jane Elkinton and painting faculty member Raoul Middleman.

The Commencement program is available to read here.

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 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, 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.