SVA Commencement 2021—and a Look Back at Past Highlights
May 20, 2021
A portrait photograph of a woman's head and shoulders. She is smiling with her chin resting on the back of her left hand.

Artist and SVA MFA Fine Arts faculty member Marilyn Minter. Minter will give the keynote address at the School of Visual Arts 2021 Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 23.

Credit: RYAN MCGINLEY

Watch the 2021 SVA Commencement Exercises beginning Sunday, May 23, 7:00pm ET, at sva.edu/commencement or facebook.com/SchoolOfVisualArts.

Renowned visual artist and longtime MFA Fine Arts faculty member Marilyn Minter will give the keynote speech at the School of Visual Arts’ 46th annual—and second virtual—commencement exercises, streaming online this Sunday, May 23, at 7:00pm ET, on sva.edu/commencement and Facebook Live. During the exercises, SVA President David Rhodes will recognize some 1,000 degree candidates from the College’s 31 undergraduate and graduate programs.

 

Marilyn Minter’s art, which spans the mediums of photography, videography and painting, has long been celebrated and debated for its vivid, provocative and sensual qualities. Her primary subject is the female body and society’s relationship to it, and her hyper-real approach, with its emphasis on intermingled and heightened textures and emotions, compels viewers to question their ideas about beauty, sexuality and glamour. Her work is included in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Museum of Fine Art, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In 2015, Minter’s retrospective “Pretty/Dirty” opened at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, before traveling to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, the Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Ana, and finally the Brooklyn Museum in 2016.

 

Minter joins a distinguished group of leaders in the arts, humanities and public service who have delivered commencement addresses at SVA, including artist and filmmaker John Waters, musician and poet Patti Smith, activist and author Gloria Steinem, U.S. Congressman and civil-rights hero John Lewis, cultural critic Greil Marcus, artists Laurie Anderson and Carrie Mae Weems, playwrights Edward Albee and Tony Kushner, and historian Robert A. Caro. Read on for selected quotes from SVA commencement exercises of years past, and join the College this Sunday at 7:00pm ET to hear from Minter and celebrate the SVA class of 2021.


Congratulations to this year’s graduates!

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Artists are magicians—you can see what others cannot. You can change history with one ludicrous idea.
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John Waters
Artist, author and filmmaker. From the 2020 SVA Commencement Exercises.
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May your work incite, excite, illuminate and serve human need. May you be the harbingers of rugged hope.
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Patti Smith
Musician and writer. From the 2019 SVA Commencement Exercises.
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Art can be a reflection of our time, or it can pose a new way of looking at our world.
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Maya Lin
Artist, designer and environmentalist. From the 2018 SVA Commencement Exercises.
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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.
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Gloria Steinem
Writer, activist and feminist icon. From the 2017 SVA Commencement Exercises.
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Let it be said that when you look back over the course of your measured life, you had absolutely no regrets.
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Carrie Mae Weems
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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.
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Peter Sellars
Opera and stage director. From the 2015 SVA Commencement Exercises.
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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.
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John Lewis
Civil-rights legend, author and U.S. Congressman. From the 2014 SVA Commencement Exercises.
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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.
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Greil Marcus
Journalist and cultural critic. From the 2013 SVA Commencement Exercises.
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The reason I’m an artist is that it’s one of the few things that you can do in this world in which you are totally free ... absolutely no one tells you what you can do and what you can’t do.
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Laurie Anderson
Artist and musician. From the 2012 SVA Commencement Exercises.