Last Friday afternoon Avery Fisher Hall sprung to life as the College’s Class of 2002 received their walking papers for entrée into the real world. It was a dazzling display of diversity and ritual that was electric, official, and irrevocable. According to SVA president David Rhodes, it was the largest graduating class in SVA history, as the 12 classes preceding it were. The College’s relentless growth and the urgent pace of change form the subtext of these exhilarating events.
The exuberance of the nearly 900 graduates and 2,000-plus well-wishers ricocheted off the proscenium and bounced around the balconies, exploding into a chorus of celebration and engulfing the hallowed hall in a blaze of good cheer. The conflagration was fueled by the boisterous glee and eruption of flashes emanating from camera-wielding kin clogging the aisles and jockeying for shots. Everyone from fuchsia-haired vixens and gnarled visions from the creative life’s lower depths to bejeweled art princesses in evening wear were fair game for the ravenous lenses poised to capture a sublime moment. Each graduate collected his/her sheepskin and proceeded past the row of seated SVA luminaries, choosing either a solemn stride or a funky strut across the stage of fate and future.
Commencement speaker Ronan Tynan, one-third of the hugely popular Three Irish Tenors, transfixed the crowd with an inspirational message drawn from his storybook life. He lost his legs due to a congenital disease, then went on to become a champion athlete, doctor of sports medicine, and opera superstar. “Keep your vision, your most cherished dreams can come true,” he told the art hopefuls in the audience. “Take risks and don’t let anyone stand in your way.” Then the towering tenor treated the room to an acappella version of the Gershwin chestnut, Summertime. When he finished, the collective chills of the dead-silent audience segued into a fusillade of applause. It was a feel-good moment of gargantuan proportions and a most fitting send-off to the Class of 2002.
Photos by Joseph Sinnott