Scenes from CalArts Graduation 2023

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On Friday, May 12, the Graduation Courtyard sprang to life, a series of textured vertical sculptures cropping up on the stage as vivid blue arches leapt across the building balcony like waves. Organized around the theme of water, the 2023 graduation promised to make a splash—in a way only CalArts can deliver.

The festivities kicked off at 4 pm with performances by the CalArts Balinese Gamelan Ensemble and Balinese Dance, directed by School of Music faculty Nyoman Wenten and Nanik Wenten, respectively, at the main entrance walkway. 

At 5 pm, graduates and guests headed to the Main Gallery for the president’s reception. Meanwhile in the Graduation Courtyard, guests enjoyed a pre-ceremony concert featuring two sets. The first showcased a bevy of CalArtian talent: School of Music faculty Lily Guarneros Maase, Aidan Cooper Ross (Music BFA 25, lead guitar), Joseph Dockery (Music BFA 24, drums), Graham McLaren-Finelli (Music BFA 23, rhythm guitar), Sebastian Alejandro Marulanda (Music BFA 23, bass), Jordyn Foley (Music BFA 23, vocals), and Emma Xu (Music BFA 24, vocals). The second set was presented by Los Angeles-based indie rock outfit Paper Citizen, led by producer and multi-instrumentalist Claire Gohst. 

As in years past, the commencement began with the procession of graduating students, led by the African Music and Dance Ensemble (directed by Music faculty Andrew Grueschow). Once all were seated, Tataviam Elder Dennis Garcia (Fernandeño Tataviam/Chumash) delivered the invocation, reminding the graduates of the importance of the power of their craft and storytelling: “For some of you, this is a culmination of your formal training, but you will never stop learning about your art. Whatever medium you have chosen, you will continue honing your skills. Be inspired by every facet in your life. May your inspiration come from your culture, nature, or any other muse that may come your way.”

Several members of the CalArts community similarly offered congratulations and words of encouragement to the graduates, including Provost Tracie Costantino, Chair of the Board of Trustees Charmaine Jefferson, and Student Union President Ishika Muchhal. Among the addresses was the conferral of an honorary doctoral degree upon Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, novelist, editor, and academic N. Scott Momaday. His daughter, writer and filmmaker Jill Momaday, accepted the award on his behalf.

President Ravi Rajan rounded out the addresses, impressing upon the graduating class the value of their artistic efforts and the proud legacy they join as CalArtians. 

“No matter which school you are in or your métier, your media, each of you comes to define your work with a mindset that favors rethinking and redefining concepts, re-envisioning possibilities,” said Rajan. “You are here to innovate, experiment, challenge assumptions and change the rules. CalArts is not large, and, by most standards in education, not very old, but what you might have seen is that its influence is quite enormous.”

The presentation of the 441 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 play as they walked across the stage.

The party continued into the evening as graduates and guests headed to the Main Gallery for a celebration reception, featuring performances by the African Music and Dance Ensemble and the CalArts Salsa Band, directed by Music faculty David Roitstein.

If you missed the ceremony livestream, we’ve added it below for your viewing pleasure. Congratulations again to the CalArts class of 2023!

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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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