Posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 by Lindsey Westbrook
Brittany Luby (with friend Chhat Chea in the CCA photo booth) and Larissa Erin Greer
The following speeches were delivered by CCA students at the spring 2012 commencement ceremony.
Brittany Luby, Undergraduate Student Speaker
While I am proud to have been chosen to speak to my graduating class, I had to ask myself, What qualifies me to address my own peers, the very people who spent entire nights in the studio alongside myself? What advice could I possibly bestow upon those with whom I have been growing and learning in concert . . . other than "Ginger is good for settling an upset stomach, and always drink water."
I'm not quite sure, and hopefully by the end of this something pithy yet insightful will have fallen out of my being here. But for now, I think I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the last four years and congratulate my classmates on following through to the end.
This is for everyone who slept in their studio. For those who took poorly paying freelance jobs only to empty their bank accounts again the next day in the name of art. This is for my friends who took two buses and a train five days a week to get to their six classes and two jobs (you know who you are); for those who left home without looking back to fearlessly take charge of their own destiny. You are the reason that I keep going, keep making, keep thriving.
I remember hours spent planning, shooting, and developing, only to realize that my film had been accidentally exposed. I remember frustrated nights in the Glass Hot Shop trying (and failing) to make glass lollipops that ended up looking like snails. I remember staring at a screen, hoping my paper would write itself and that my teacher would forget that I was in the class altogether . . . last week. I remember being hungry, tired, disenchanted, and uneasy. Did I choose the right major? Did I attend the right school? Why didn't they get my joke? Is being an artist even a real thing? What am I doing with my life?!
And then my mother tells me to breathe, and once again, I begin to remember . . .
I remember the excitement in the dorms when we voted in 2008. I remember the camaraderie in the darkroom and the satisfaction of seeing my work on a wall for the first time. I remember the free food when I needed it most and the enlightening words of a teacher who really understood where I was coming from. Late nights and cheeseburgers in the studio, impromptu trips to catch views of the Bay, Michael Jackson-themed parties in a pink house. I remember it all. The best part is when I remember that I wasn't alone. In the last four years, we hopped fences, and climbed to rooftops for the perfect shot. We danced in the streets, and masqueraded as Cal students to get free rides on the bus. We Occupied and took internships in the same week. And in the bittersweet chaos that is college, we have begun to find ourselves.
I've heard that this is only the beginning -- that even more ridiculous, fulfilling, and challenging experiences pave our future ways. And I'd like to speak for everyone when I say this: I'm ready. As we make deposits on studios, apply to grad school, and pursue dreams of MoMA and beyond, I think we can all agree that CCA has prepared us to confront just about anything that comes our way, be it Postmodernism or BDSM. We are creative and critical, conscious and confident. I only wonder if the real world is ready for us.
So I will come to a close, full of gratitude to those who provided me support through love, encouragement, corrections in bright red, car rides, and Trader Joe's gift cards. I thank my parents, my best friends, the faculty and staff. I even thank Sallie Mae just a little bit for now. But I will leave you with three things -- my attempt at advice that I am only willing to give to you because I have learned to follow it myself:
First: Do something that scares you a little bit. Whether it's opening up Illustrator for the first time, taking a ceramics class, or teaching kids, those anxious butterflies will keep you from forgetting that you are dynamic, complex, and talented.
Second: Never underestimate your ability to push furniture uphill in the rain. Your forearms will be burning, but you'll remember that you are empowered and resilient.
And finally: Check your privilege. We must remember how lucky we are to have experienced so much this early in life, and that it is our duty as artists to humbly and beautifully remind the world that our existence is a miracle and that the essence of our being is love.
Thank you, and CONGRATULATIONS CLASS OF 2012!!!
Larissa Erin Greer, Graduate Student Speaker
"Make the things you want to see."
This is something that my main advisor said to me, when he felt like I needed a little extra push prior to my final review. And it actually worked so well that I have adopted it as a sort of creative mantra -- for everything.
Whenever I feel trapped inside of a concept, or an aesthetic, or the everyday struggles related to surviving as an artist, this is the piece of advice that comes back to me. These seven words somehow manage to refocus me when I don't feel courageous enough to move forward with my own vision. It can be hard at times, but we should keep reminding ourselves that our vision is something worth fighting for.
During my time here at California College of the Arts, I have witnessed some amazing triumphs and a few truly spectacular failures. But one cannot exist without the other, and when you're taking risks and trying to uncover something new, success is not guaranteed.
While we were here, we were taught to embrace failure as a stepping stone to something better than success. As artists, as designers, as makers, we have learned how to navigate failure, embracing it as a part of the creative process. This is our most valuable asset as graduates of the class of 2012, because our world needs people like us, now more than ever. People who aren't afraid to fail, get back up, and try even harder.
As our time together here comes to an end, we must not lose momentum. We must only move forward, doing the things we never thought we could do, creating the kind of world where we truly want to live. A world full of well-designed catalogues, gorgeous, light-filled public gathering spaces, better photographic techniques, innovative tools to help improve everyday life, really chic sustainable clothing, rich, colorful paintings, esoteric poetry readings, social experiments, clever iPhone apps, and award-winning films.
The people wearing caps and gowns here today are entirely capable of creating these things if they continue to push forward, take risks, and stick to their ideals. I have faith that you will do it, because you're people who already know what it is to rise to the occasion. You understand challenge as an opportunity to create.
I was 25 when I made the choice to apply to graduate school at CCA. It was 2009, a year that will likely be remembered for how truly depressing it was. I will remember it as the year I spent commuting 45 minutes from my parents' house to work the world’s most boring daytime bartending shifts. It was a solid, steady drag.
The recession was in full swing, and I was working really hard to start my career. For the first time in my life, it wasn't so easy. I applied for job after job, crossing my fingers that something -- anything -- would work out. It didn't.
As I watched the people around me fail, one by one -- losing everything -- the things I wanted seemed to move further out of reach. I was extremely unhappy with my situation, and instead of accepting it, I decided to do something about it.
So I applied, not knowing how much that decision would improve my life, because at that point, there was really nothing left to lose.
I figured that spending two years getting better at what I love to do could only help bring me closer to where I wanted to be in life. I never thought that it would lead me to something even better: to a thoughtful community of artists and makers who have taught me how to trust myself, how to ask questions, and how to be even more fearless. I didn’t intend for it to happen, but the things I've learned here have truly changed my life.
That's the one thing we all have in common. We came here in the middle of an economic nightmare. We collectively refused to give in to fear when things seemed almost impossible. We kept moving forward with our dreams, and that's why we're together here today.
I'm proud to say that we managed to beat the odds. We did this. Y'all, we finished!
The very best advice I can offer you here today is this:
"Make the things you want to see."
I say the words out loud to myself when I’m sitting down to write a story, when I'm deciding what to shoot with my camera, or when I'm deliberating over color swatches at my desk. It's a push forward -- a charged, self-affirming step in the right direction. It's just what we need to hear. Every time.
Please continue to embrace your creativity, your originality, your forward-thinking, your need to question and investigate, as you leave this place. We are the problem solvers, inventors, and innovators of right now, and the future needs people like us to stand firm in our vision, our ethics, and our desire to build a more beautiful world. Take all of the things you've learned at CCA and move forward with purpose, determination, and grace, seeing the challenges of our age not as an impasse, but as an opportunity to build something new.
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