California Institute of the Arts hosted graduation ceremonies Friday, May 13 in the CalArts Graduation Courtyard. After two years of virtual ceremonies the CalArts class of 2022 celebrated graduation with an in-person event at the Valencia campus.
Graduation ceremonies kicked off at 4 p.m. with performances by the CalArts Balinese Gamelan Ensemble and Balinese Dance, directed by Music faculty Nyoman Wenten and Nanik Wenten. As graduates and guests arrived for the event they found the Graduation Courtyard lawn was dotted with chairs and picnic blankets and live music echoed throughout the galleries of the main building.
In the Main Gallery CalArts President Ravi Rajan hosted a reception for the graduates and their families and friends. Music was supplied by a student jazz band.
As family and friends took their places in the Graduation Courtyard they were entertained by a pre-ceremony concert with an energetic DJ set by Askia Vargas Toure (Music MFA 2023), who performs as Biiirth.
The ceremonies began 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 of the 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, starting to sharpen your skills in the different media of art that you have chosen,” said Garcia. “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 welcome address, noting the students’ resilience throughout the past few years.
“Seeing the work you’ve created in spite of a 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.”
Costantino also introduced the 2022 honorary CalArts degree recipients including 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 comments by Tim Disney, former chair and newly appointed trustee emeritus, Student Union President Isha Khanzode (Art BFA 2022), Student Trustee Jordyn Ross (Theater BFA 2022) and Charmaine Jefferson, new chair of the Board of Trustees.
Rajan echoed the thoughts of the previous speakers when noting the challenges that faced the graduates, the majority of whom had to shift to virtual learning during the pandemic.
“You all got your admissions not knowing that 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,” said Rajan. “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.
The evening concluded with graduates and guests attending a celebratory reception in the Main Gallery. They were entertained with performances by the African Music and Dance Ensemble and the CalArts Salsa Band, directed by Music faculty David Roitstein.
A video of the 2022 CalArts Graduation ceremony can be found here.