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SVA Commencement 2018 and a Look Back at Past Highlights
April 18, 2018
black and white photograph of smiling woman with glasses on white background
A black and white picture of an Asian woman wearing eyeglasses.
Maya Lin. Photo by Jesse Frohman.

Artist, designer and environmentalist Maya Lin will be the keynote speaker at the College’s 43rd annual commencement exercises, to be held at 1:00pm on Monday, May 7, 2018, at the landmark Radio City Music Hall, in New York City (you'll be able to watch the live stream here). SVA President David Rhodes will confer BFA, MA, MAT, MFA and MPS degrees on some 1,180 undergraduate and graduate degree candidates enrolled in the College's 32 academic programs.

Lin’s celebrated and seminal body of work has transformed our collective consciousness around monuments, and often explored critical aspects of our country’s history, politics and culture. Her interpretations of the physical and psychological elements of the natural world as they relate to time, memory and language, fused with her prowess in sculpture, design and architecture, have resonated with millions of viewers. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lin’s first design, which she conceptualized as a Yale undergraduate at the remarkable age of 21, is widely considered to be one of the most powerful monuments of our time. Her other notable works include her land art “wave fields” for the Storm King Art Center in Cornwall, New York (2009), the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. federal courthouse in Miami, Florida (2005), and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (1995); her design for the Museum of Chinese in America, in Manhattan (2009); and her Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama (1989).

Among Lin’s several current projects is What Is Missing?, a multimedia endeavor that the artist has called her last memorial. Decades in the making, What Is Missing? seeks to inspire action to combat the ongoing species extinction crisis brought on by climate change and incorporates video, photography, audio recordings, sculptures, data visualizations and a website, whatismissing.net.

Lin’s work is in the permanent collections of a number of museums and institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art; and the Smithsonian Institution. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and her many honors include a 2009 National Medal of Arts and a 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom—America’s highest civilian honor.

A Distinguished Group of Leaders

Maya Lin will join a distinguished group of leaders in the arts, humanities and public service who have spoken at SVA's commencement exercises in past years, including writer, activist and feminist icon Gloria Steinem, United States Congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis, cultural critic Greil Marcus, multimedia artist Laurie Anderson, playwrights Edward Albee and Tony Kushner, historian Robert A. Caro, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, biologist Dr. Gerald Edelman, artist Louise Nevelson and actor B.D. Wong, as well as New York Times columnists Maureen Dowd, Nicholas Kristof and Frank Rich.

Highlights From Past Years

Writer, activist and feminist icon Gloria Steinem: "We are woke! There’s so much to be learned if you go beyond your boundaries and now is the time we need to blast those boundaries.” (SVA Commencement 2017)

Photographer and MacArthur Fellow Carrie Mae Weems: “Let it be said that when you look back over the course of your measured life, you had absolutely no regrets.” (SVA Commencement 2016)

Opera and stage director Peter Sellars: “What is required are serious portraitists—people who know how to look into someone’s eyes and see a life. Not only see a person’s past but see their future. In a time of massive dehumanization of nine tenths of the planet, this is a time for humanities to step forward.” (SVA Commencement 2015)

United States Congressman John Lewis: “Use the pen, use the pencil, use the camera, use your learning to go out and find a way to get in good trouble, necessary trouble, to make our world a better world. . . . You have a moral obligation, you have a mission, you have a mandate to get out and disturb the order of things.” (SVA Commencement 2014)

Journalist and cultural critic Greil Marcus: “What art does—maybe what it does most completely—is tell us, make us feel that what we think we know, we don’t. There are whole worlds around us that we’ve never glimpsed.” (SVA Commencement 2013)

And multimedia artist Laurie Anderson, whose pillow speaker performance at Commencement 2012 will go down in SVA history (watch the video):

Watch the video below of Gloria Steinem given her speech at Commencement 2017.

SVA Features: SVA Commencement 2018 and a Look Back at Past Highlights
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