On Friday, May 14, the School of Visual Arts held its 35th formal commencement exercises at Manhattan’s landmark Radio City Music Hall. Family, friends and faculty joined the College’s graduating students as they received BFA, MAT, MFA and MPS degrees in a ceremony marked by lighthearted videos (created by 3D Design Chair Kevin O’Callaghan) and thoughtful speeches.
The undergraduate address was delivered by Kathryn Humphries (BFA 2010 Photography), who talked about how her father’s work as a landscape photographer had led to her interest in the field and told her fellow graduates, “Our work should begin with our own questions and lead others to ask more questions.” She was followed by Gary Osborne (MAT 2010 Art Education), whose graduate address talked about society’s great need for creative thinkers.
SVA President David Rhodes then took to the podium to deliver a probing speech that used examples of recent record-breaking art sales to question the efficacy and fairness of the United States’ system for paying artist royalties on resale of work. After putting recent headlines and policy initiatives in context, he pointed to France’s progressive system of resale royalties as a possible model for the future. The graduates and guests then heard a fast-paced and passionate address from award-winning playwright Tony Kushner. In his talk (which can be viewed in its entirety here), Kushner riffed on the difficulty of writing a speech for visual artists, spotlighted the political and social challenges of the moment (“Be citizens,” he told the graduates, “and work to fight despair.”), and weighed in on the contributions of image-makers to the society at large. “Art is the possibility of the impossible,” Kushner said, before accepting an honorary degree from SVA Board Member Walter Rivera. By the end of the ceremony, more than 1,000 graduate and undergraduate degrees were awarded to the class of 2010 by the College’s department chairs and President Rhodes.
Images: (top) SVA graduates at Radio City Music Hall; (bottom) commencement speaker Tony Kushner. Photos by Joe Sinnott.