Commencement Speaker Holland Cotter Encourages Graduates to "Stay Connected to Your Passion”

Commencement speaker Holland Cotter

More than 500 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees at CCA’s 107th Commencement Exercises, which took place on May 17 at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco.

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The Culture of Critique

President Stephen Beal, who opened the ceremonies, told the graduates to embrace what they’ve learned from years of participating in critiques. “The critique should be a rich and rigorous process that leads to a deeper understanding of our own work and the work of others.”

Later in his remarks, President Beal noted how the critical eye and voice have become increasingly important in today’s world. “As artists, architects, designers, curators, and writers, you have the ability to transform the world around us.

"And you have a special responsibility to find new ways to see, feel, and create meaning in our world.”

Following his speech, President Beal called to the podium CCA Board Chair Diane Christensen, who gave highlights of the academic year.

Commencement Speaker Holland Cotter

The honorary doctorate degree was conferred upon Holland Cotter, art critic at the New York Times and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He then delivered the commencement speech before a crowd of more than 3,000 attendees.

Cotter began his remarks by telling the graduates that in these circumstances “it’s customary to say ‘welcome to the real world.’ But if you’ve been making art, you’ve been in the real world all along.”

Read more about Holland Cotter »

“Passion Is the Engine for Your Work”

Admitting he was reluctant to give advice "because I’m so bad at taking it,” Cotter nonetheless advised the graduates: "Go with the passion you have for art." Explaining “passion is the engine for your work," Cotter urged the graduates to travel and experience the world.

“Given the choice between owning an object and having an experience, I always choose experience.”

He then told of his own “crazy quilt” employment experience, including working at a bank, a law firm, a daycare center, and an emergency room. These seemingly unrelated experiences, which he called his “moral and mortal education,” had a huge effect on him as a writer.

Cotter stressed the importance of staying connected to your passion. "By doing so," he told the graduates, "You will change the world whether you know it or not."

See past recipients of CCA's honorary doctorate of fine arts »

Student Speakers

Undergraduate student Kryshana Ananthan and graduate student Jennifer Goldsmith gave heartfelt speeches that touched on their personal journeys at CCA.

Sleep deprivation seemed to be a recurrent theme.

And then at last the students of the Class of 2014 walked triumphantly one by one across the stage to receive their diplomas.

New Alumni Reception

Following the ceremony, CCA's Alumni Association invited graduates and their families to converge at the San Francisco campus to celebrate their accomplishments and enjoy the vibrant MFA Thesis Exhibition, Graduate Program in Design Thesis Exhibition, and the Baccalaureate Exhibition.