Bruce Mau to Deliver Keynote Address at Rhode Island School of Design's 2014 Commencement

April 17, 2014

On Saturday, May 31 at 10:30AM, four leaders in contemporary culture will celebrate with approximately 700 bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients at RISD’s 2014 Commencement ceremony. This year’s special guests include two honorary degree recipients: author and multitalented designer Todd Oldham and cultural, diplomatic and health advocate Jean Kennedy Smith. Design visionary Bruce Mau, whose groundbreaking work on disruptive innovation reinforces the role of artist and designers as profound problem solvers, will deliver the Commencement address. In addition, architect and social justice advocate Hildegard Vasquez BArch 94 will accept the 2014 Alumni Award for Professional Achievement.The ceremony will take place at the Rhode Island Convention Center in downtown Providence, adjacent to the space that houses the annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition.

An innovator, designer and author, Bruce Mau is the co-founder of Massive Change Network, a strategic business consultancy in Chicago dedicated to promoting the power of design as a holistic global change agent. His 25 years of achievement through design thinking include collaborations with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, MoMA, Herman Miller, Shaw Industries, The New Meadowlands Stadium and Arizona State University, along with countries such as Denmark, Guatemala and Saudi Arabia. From 1985–2009 Mau served as creative director of Bruce Mau Design, a multidisciplinary design studio still based in Toronto. He is the author and designer of several award-winning books, including Massive Change; Life Style; S,M,L,XL (in collaboration with architect Rem Koolhaas) and the iconic and celebrated ZONE BOOKS series. Translated into 17 languages, The Incomplete Manifesto for Growth presents Mau’s personal philosophy and design strategies.

Known for his unique sense of color, extravagant details and fun, lighthearted approach, Todd Oldham has influenced many areas of art and design in the three decades since he started out as a fashion designer. The founder of Todd Oldham Studio in New York City is known for everything from film directing and photography to furniture, graphic, interior, exhibition and product design. A noted author and editor of more than 22 books, Oldham has produced monographs on artists Charley Harper, Wayne White, Alexander Girard and John Waters, among others, and this fall he will release monographs on illustrator Ed Emberley and photographer Gerald Davis. Since 2009 his Kid Made Modernart and craft book for young artists has inspired the All About how-to series for creative kids along with a collection of art supplies for children. In 2008 Oldham’s Place/Space series included Home Studio Home ­­­– an edition on the unfettered creativity he found when photographing the way selected RISD students live.

Jean Kennedy Smith, a former US Ambassador to Ireland (1993–98) who served under President Bill Clinton, played a key role in the peace process in Northern Ireland and has long been an advocate for art as a catalyst for health, empowerment and equity. For the last half century she has served as a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Boston, where she is now an honorary member of the board. In 1974 Smith founded VSA (formerly known as Very Special Arts), the well-known international organization dedicated to providing people with disabilities with increased access to the arts and education. Her 1993 book Chronicles of Courage: Very Special Artists, written in collaboration with George Plimpton, points to the underlying the principles behind the VSA and the impact it has had around the world. In 2012 President Barack Obama awarded Ambassador Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her lifelong commitment to public service, peace and social justice.

Among the other awards presented at Commencement, architect Hildegard Vasquez BArch 94, born and based in Panama,is being honored with the 2014 Alumni Award for her extraordinary work in helping to revitalize the historic heart of Panama City. Since establishing her practice Hache Uve in 1998, she has used architecture as a catalyst for social change, infusing new life into the urban core of Panama City through a thoughtful approach to renovation and renewal and the people it’s designed to serve.

A series of exhibitions leading up to Commencement will highlight new works produced by graduating students, including the Senior Invitational Exhibition at Woods-Gerry Gallery, the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition at the RI Convention Center, a selection of graduate student works at Sol Koffler Gallery, a student-curated exhibition at the Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery in the Chace Center, and the Senior Film/Animation/Video Festival at the RISD Auditorium. Details about each can be found in the Exhibitions area of RISD’s website.

Commencement is a true representation of the students’ time spent at RISD, where their spirits of individuality and creative minds come to life via both playful and innovative costumes created specially for the occasion and the thoughtful decoration of otherwise traditional caps and gowns. For more information on RISD’s 2014 Commencement, visit