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Commencement Speaker Mel Chin Challenges Class of 2009 to 'Do Things Outside Your Realm'

Jeff Koons '76: 'I wouldn't have the platform today as an artist if I didn't share this cultural history with you'

Posted 05.18.09 by MICA Media Relations

MICA President Fred Lazarus and Mel Chin.

BALTIMORE--MICA President Fred Lazarus on May 18 presented degrees to 466 undergraduate and graduate students at the College's 183rd Commencement, which took place in the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Ecologically and politically engaged sculptor Mel Chin delivered remarks. "I consider you my peers," Chin said. "It's not about what I think art is, but what it will become" with the next generation of artists. Chin challenged the class of 2009 to be "compelled to do things outside your realm."

Christopher Whittey, dean of academic services, presented Chin with an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts "for your body of work, and for pioneering an approach to art-making that is an inspiration for future generations of artists."

Joyce E. Robinson, vice president and executive director of The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Theresa Bedoya, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid, presented Robinson with the degree. She praised Robinson's major contributions in support of the arts and artists.

Internationally acclaimed sculptor Jeff Koons '76 received the Alumni Award. He was introduced by longtime faculty member Abby Sangiamo, who acknowledged the artist's contributions to contemporary art, evolving body of work, and ongoing support of his alma mater. Sangiamo also noted Koons' work to combat global issues of child abduction and exploitation.

Koons said Sangiamo was an important figure in his art education. "He led me to really start to focus on the possibilities of what art can be," Koons said.

The artist discussed the importance of a MICA education with the class of 2009.

"I wouldn't have the platform today as an artist if I didn't share this cultural history with you," Koons said. He added that the College taught him "how art can connect you through human history."

This year's Medal of Honor winner was longtime sculpture faculty Tylden Streett '54, '57.

Ledelle Moe, chair of the interdisciplinary sculpture department, presented Streett with the award. "In addition, the College is naming the figurative sculpture studio that has long been 'your' room in your honor, installing a plaque and the bas relief self-portrait that we cast here this spring to commemorate your impact on generations of students and on MICA's program in sculpture," Moe said.

General sculptural studies student Beki Basch delivered the undergraduate address.

"How do we quantify our college education? she said. "Today I propose we don't. To quantify it would be to name it ... To give our education a name would not equate with all that we have experienced and learned. Like the Tao, this education is eternal."

She ended her speech with a rap: "...I just wanna thank you. Wanna show you I respect you. Commence me this Monday. And I'll never forget you."

Mount Royal School of Art graduate Robby Rackleff also delivered a spirited address that made the audience howl with laughter.

"The moment, the moment of action-packed destiny will come," he said. "And we will stop chasing our tails and spring forth with fantastic resolution. Yes!"

Degrees were awarded to 466 MICA students, including bachelor's of fine arts (BFA) degrees in art history, ceramics, fiber, general sculptural studies, interdisciplinary sculpture, sculpture, drawing, general fine arts, painting, printmaking, photography, environmental design, graphic design, illustration, experimental animation, interactive media, and video; as well as the post-baccalaureate certificate in fine arts, master of arts (MA) in art education, community arts, and teaching; and master of fine arts (MFA) in graphic design, Hoffberger School of Painting, Mount Royal School of Art, Photographic & Electronic Media, Rinehart School of Sculpture, and studio art.

General fine arts major Gabriella Camejo, who died tragically in February, received an honorary BFA degree. Suzanne Camejo appeared at Commencement to accept the degree on behalf of her daughter.

The Trustee Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching was presented to painting faculty Sangram Majumdar, video faculty Allen Moore, and Whitney Sherman '71, chair of the illustration department. The Distinguished Service Award was presented to Katie Faulstich, office manager in the department of art education.

For more information, please call 410-225-2300.

Image caption: MICA President Fred Lazarus (right) presents Commencement speaker Mel Chin with the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts as Christopher Whittey, dean of academic services, looks on.

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.

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