Marketing & Communications: SAIC Announces Its 2016 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Doctorate Recipients

CHICAGO—The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), a global leader in art and design education, will welcome artist, activist and alum, Tania Bruguera, to deliver the school’s commencement address on Monday, May 16, at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress Parkway. Bruguera will receive an honorary doctorate from the school, along with esteemed honorees, including influential artist collective The HAIRY WHO (alumni James Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, Karl Wirsum); collectors and philanthropists Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson; and philanthropist and SAIC Board of Governor Emeritus Young-Ju Park.

Since 1938 SAIC has awarded honorary degrees to an elite group of individuals who have made significant contributions to art, design, scholarship and culture. Past recipients include Albert Oehlen, Jeff Koons, Yoko Ono, David Sedaris, Theaster Gates, Patti Smith, Marina Abramovic and Jeanne Gang.

“The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is proud to honor Tania Bruguera, Stefan Edlis, Gael Neeson, the HAIRY WHO and Young-Ju Park at this year’s commencement ceremony,” said Walter E. Massey, president of SAIC. “Through their work and scholarship, these individuals have shifted and strengthened the cultural landscape, and have greatly influenced the next generation of artists and designers.”

More than 900 students are expected to receive undergraduate and graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate certificates from the prestigious art and design institution.

About the Honorees

To see the full biographies of the honorees, please visit

Tania Bruguera (commencement speaker) is a leading performance artist. Bruguera (MFA 2001) researches relationships between art and politics, specifically transformations of social affect into political effectiveness and institutional structures of collective memory, education, and politics. Her performances often interrogate the Cuban Revolution's failed promises and evoke the realities masked by propaganda. After the Cuban government detained Bruguera and confiscated her passport after one such performance, she opened Havana's Hannah Arendt International Institute of Artivism. Bruguera is one of Foreign Policy magazine's "100 Leading Global Thinkers," she won the 2015 Herb Alpert Award, served as a Yale World Fellow and inaugurated the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs' artist-in-residence program. Bruguera also helped create the first document on cultural freedom and rights with the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson donated 44 iconic, contemporary works to the Art Institute of Chicago, making it the largest gift in the institution's 136-year history. The works—predominantly from the height of the Pop and Post-pop Art movement—are displayed together in the reopened galleries of contemporary art, The New Contemporary. The collection brings new depth and perspective to the museum’s presentation of contemporary art and serves as a one-of-a-kind teaching resource for SAIC students and faculty. Edlis and Neeson's journey as art collectors began in the auction houses of the 1970s, when they were chosen together as one of ARTNews’ "200 Top Collectors." The couple was also listed in Chicago magazine's "2016 Power 50 list" of most influential Chicagoans.

Young-Ju Park was a member of SAIC's Board of Governors from 2005 to 2011 and currently serves as Governor Emeritus. In 2009 Park made Forbes’ “48 Heroes of Philanthropy” list for his support of arts services for the elderly. He served as chairman of Board of Directors of Seoul Arts Center, Chairman of Korean Business Council for the Arts, chairman of Membership Society of National Museum of Contemporary Art and International Council Member of Tate Gallery London. A collector of prints, Park is president and chairman of Eagon Industrial Co., Ltd., a global wood product manufacturer. The Korea Management Association named Park "CEO of the Year" in 2002.

The HAIRY WHO is a collective founded by artists James Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca and Karl Wirsum. Fifty years ago, in 1966, six SAIC graduates—Falconer (BFA 1965), Green (BFA 1965), Nilsson (BFA 1962), Nutt (BFA 1967), Rocca (BFA 1964) and Wirsum (BFA 1962)—opened their first exhibition, the Hairy Who, at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC). The exhibition was a departure from the typical sober-sided display: a comic for a catalog, brash, sharp-elbowed works full of the detritus of everyday life. Following the success of the show, they opened two more shows in 1967 and 1968 at the HPAC, followed in 1968 and 1969 by three shows outside of Chicago in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC. Their extravagantly installed exhibitions, the artists' free-wheeling individual approaches, and their varied and compelling work have all had a wide-ranging and profound influence on several generations of their students and on many younger artists since then.

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