Since 1938, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has awarded honorary doctorates to an elite group of individuals who have made significant contributions to art, design, scholarship, and culture. Past recipients include Yoko Ono, David Sedaris, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Jeff Koons, Theaster Gates, Patti Smith, Ed Harris, Käthe Kollwitz of the Guerilla Girls, Renzo Piano, Marina Abramovic, Anna Deavere Smith, and Jeanne Gang.
These influential individuals earned this distinguished award through their work, which is always imaginative and aesthetically rich, and sometimes also provocative and controversial, shifting the cultural landscape in significant ways. They are visionaries who defy the boundaries of convention and whose cultural contributions reflect SAIC’s interdisciplinary mission. Most importantly, they are remarkable examples of creative success and determination, who are often inspirations to our students, faculty, and entire SAIC community.
It is our privilege to announce this year’s honorary degree recipients, who will be awarded at our Commencement ceremony on Monday, May 11.
Douglas Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago museum, is a leading scholar and curator in the field of 19th-century art. He has organized or contributed to some of the most significant exhibitions in this area including, Degas (1988); Odilon Redon: Prince of Dreams, 1840–1916 (1994); Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist (1994); Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South (2001); Manet and the Sea (2003); Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte (2004); Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre (2005); Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde (2006); and, in contemporary art, Jasper Johns: Gray (2007).
Rhona Hoffman is an influential Chicago gallerist who founded Rhona Hoffman Gallery, which specializes in international contemporary art in all media. Hoffman is very active in the Chicago arts community and maintains strong relationships with museums, schools, local artists, and arts organizations.
Janet Neiman is an artist and SAIC alumna who, along with her husband LeRoy, established SAIC’s first campus center. The 17,800-square-foot LeRoy Neiman Center opened in 2012 and today houses the largest mural ever created by LeRoy Neiman—Summertime Along the Indiana Dunes, a 56-foot-wide, 448-square-foot piece co-signed by Janet and completed in 1965.
Albert Oehlen (Commencement Speaker) is an acclaimed contemporary German artist whose practice is in the vanguard of postmodern painting. Boldly and inventively combining different painting languages, Oehlen has influenced many in the international scene. He has exhibited extensively throughout the US and Europe. Recent solo exhibitions of his work have been held in institutions such as the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy and the Musee d' Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2009.
Kanye West is a pioneering Grammy Award–winning recording artist, songwriter, producer, designer, film director and entrepreneur. He is an interdisciplinary artist whose work provokes cultural discourse. West is an advocate for education as well as a thinker and maker who often uses his work—his lyrics, videos, performances, designs and paintings—to deconstruct stereotypes and spur cultural discourse on important social issues.