After Two Years, CalArts Graduation Returns to Campus

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The afternoon of Friday, May 13 saw the lawn of Graduation Courtyard dotted with chairs and picnic blankets, and the galleries of the main building thrumming with live music and in-person festivities. After two years of virtual ceremonies, the CalArts class of 2022 marked their graduation with a singular and joyous send-off that only the Institute could deliver.

The celebration kicked off at 4 pm with performances by the CalArts Balinese Gamelan Ensemble and Balinese Dance, directed by Music faculty Nyoman Wenten and Nanik Wenten, respectively, at the main entrance walkway. Happening concurrently in the Main Gallery was the President’s Reception for Family and Friends, featuring music from a student jazz band.

The Graduation Courtyard opened at 5 pm, where guests made haste in staking out their claims to blanket and chair spaces. There, graduates and guests enjoyed a pre-ceremony concert with an energetic DJ set by Askia Vargas Toure (Music MFA 23), who performs as Biiirth

The commencement began in earnest with the procession of graduating students, led by the African Music and Dance Ensemble (directed by Music faculty Andrew Grueschow). The graduates, sporting everything from special attire to costumes to everyday wear, circled the courtyard before taking their seats. 

Tataviam Elder Dennis Garcia (Fernandeño Tataviam/Chumash) delivered the invocation and land acknowledgement of the native peoples of the Santa Clarita Valley. “You will start a new journey after this part of your education,” Garcia addressed the class. “Starting to sharpen your skills in the different media of art that you have chosen. Each and every one of you is an artist. Whether it is in the stroke of a brush, the step of a dance, spoken word, the lyric of a song, or a photograph, all of you are storytellers.” 

Provost Tracie Costantino delivered the subsequent welcome address, noting the students’ resilience throughout the past few years. 

“Seeing the work you’ve created in spite of global pandemic, violence and war, threats to our civil rights and our bodily autonomy, so many psychological, emotional, physical obstacles,” said Costantino. “But you have persevered. You have supported each other, and shown us all the power of the arts to transform and to inspire action.” 

She also introduced the 2022 honorary CalArts degree recipients: jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter, multi-instrumentalist Charles Lloyd, and jazz bassist and singer esperanza spalding. Pre-recorded video by each of the honorees interspersed the Board Chair Address by Tim Disney, former chair and newly appointed trustee emeritus; the Student Union Address by President Isha Khanzode (Art BFA 22) and Student Trustee Jordyn Ross (Theater BFA 22); and the President’s Address by Ravi Rajan and new Chair of the Board Charmaine Jefferson. 

Rajan echoed the thoughts of the previous speakers when noting the challenges that faced the graduating cohort, the majority of whom had to shift to virtual learning during the pandemic:

You all got your admissions not knowing that the March of 2020 began the most disrupted 12 months in the history of CalArts …. But each of you today who are graduating made a decision amidst all of that chaos to persist. Through every unimaginable challenge that could have derailed you, you said, ‘I’m going on. I’m persevering instead.’ So your college experience might not have been what you envisioned when you started. In fact, it might have been the polar opposite, but that didn’t stop you from making art, from raising your voice, and from setting out to changing the world through the work you make.

The presentation of the 366 graduates began with The Herb Alpert School of Music, followed by The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, the School of Film/Video, the School of Critical Studies, the School of Art, and the School of Theater. In accordance with CalArts tradition, graduates selected brief snippets of music or sound to use as they walked across the stage. Those who did not submit their own audio walked out to a default song: Toto’s 1982 hit “Africa.”

Once all diplomas had been issued, Interim Vice President of Student Experience Harry Le Grande delivered the ceremony’s closing remarks.

But the evening didn’t stop just then—grads and guests headed to the Main Gallery for a celebratory reception, with performances by African Music and Dance Ensemble and the CalArts Salsa Band, directed by Music faculty David Roitstein.

If you missed the livestream from Friday’s ceremony, we’ve added it below for your watching/re-watching pleasure. Congratulations again to the CalArts class of 2022!

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PUBLISHED BY Taya Zoormandan

As digital content and social media producer, Taya enjoys lifting up the stories and accomplishments of CalArts' students, alums, and faculty. She fancies herself a visual artist but is really more of an overzealous collector of art supplies.

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