by Ana Sekler (MA 2016)
More than 950 students walked across the stage at this year’s Commencement Ceremony at the historic Auditorium Theatre. Acclaimed painter and Commencement speaker, Albert Oehlen addressed the class with a humorous and insightful speech. Oehlen spoke about the importance of freedom to the artistic practice. As artists, Oehlen reminded graduates, "we are technicians of freedom, and it is our duty to make use of this privilege."
Other honorary doctorate recipients came from a wide range of backgrounds and were recognized for their ties to our community and alignment with our institutional mission, or for their major contributions to the cultural landscape. This included Douglas Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, who spoke of the power of the school-museum partnership; Rhona Hoffman, an influential and internationally renowned Chicago gallerist who advised graduates to have “courage, resilience, optimism, [and] belief in yourself”; Janet Byrne Neiman, visual artist, arts advocate, and co-benefactor of SAIC’s LeRoy Neiman Center; and Kanye West, pioneering recording artist, songwriter, producer, and entrepreneur, who spoke of his humility before the honor of being recognized by SAIC.
The night before Commencement, honorary degree recipient, Kanye West gave an artist talk. West took questions from the audience members individually and collectively. “The privilege of art is to express exactly what you feel and to never lose that,” said West. “You know, I say all the time every opportunity that I get, every expanded opportunity to paint, I feel like I’m getting younger and younger and younger. The idea of becoming an adult is the idea of conforming and compromising. My daughter, I know she goes to sleep and she dreams this whole plan about how she’s going to get away with whatever she can by the time she wakes up. And I think that that’s also a responsibility of artists: To try to get away with whatever you can.”