On Thursday, May 12, the School of Visual Arts held its 36th formal commencement exercises at Manhattan’s landmark Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Family, friends and faculty joined the College’s graduating students as they received BFA, MAT, MFA and MPS degrees in two consecutive ceremonies marked by thoughtful speeches. This year’s activities included four new departments who celebrated the graduation of their inaugural classes: MFA Interaction Design, MFA Social Documentary Film, MPS Branding and MPS Live Action Short Film.
At the 10am ceremony, the undergraduate address was delivered by Victoria Rivera (BFA 2011 Film and Video). She was followed by Ariane R. West (MFA 2011 Social Documentary Film) who delivered the graduate address. Both speakers touched on the importance of fostering creativity, especially during our current economic times. Jason E. Bakutis (BFA 2011 Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects) delivered the undergraduate address at the 2pm ceremony. He was followed by Valeria Koutmina (MPS 2011 Art Therapy) who delivered the graduate address, urging her fellow graduates to bear witness to the world’s challenges in their art.
Following the student addresses, SVA President David Rhodes took the podium to deliver a timely speech that focused on the recent political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. He spoke to the responsibility that the graduates have for their fellow global citizens. President Rhodes noted, “I should not tell you how to go about fulfilling this responsibility of solidarity, nor to whom you should lend your support. But I can tell you that these gestures of support are part of what it means to be an artist in the 21st century. And doing these deeds for others will make it less likely that others will be required to do these deeds for you.”
The graduates and guests then heard an insightful address from two-time Nobel Prize-winning biologist Dr. Gerald M. Edelman. In a speech complemented with a multi-slide presentation, Dr. Edelman drew on his decades of research on the development and organization of higher brain functions. He detailed how emotions travel through the brain and the role art plays in eliciting emotions. By the end of the afternoon ceremony, more than 1,000 graduate and undergraduate degrees had been awarded to the Class of 2011.
Images: (first and second) SVA graduates at Avery Fisher Hall; (third) commencement speaker Dr. Gerald M. Edelman. Photos by Joseph Sinnott.