Writer Hilton Als to Deliver Keynote Address at Rhode Island School of Design’s 2016 Commencement

May 11, 2016

Als will accept an honorary degree, as will artist and writer Martha Rosler and educator Esther Wojcicki

On Saturday, June 4 at 10:30AM, 491 undergraduate and 217 graduate students from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will receive their diplomas at RISD’s 2016 Commencement. The ceremony will take place at the Rhode Island Convention Center in downtown Providence, where the annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition will also be on view.

This year RISD will present three honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees. Writer and critic Hilton Als is accepting an honorary degree and will also deliver the Commencement keynote address. Artist and writer Martha Rosler and educator and journalist Esther Wojcicki will accept honorary degrees at the ceremony as well. In addition, painter and educator Bunny Harvey (RISD ’67/MFA ’72 Painting, ’71 Masters of Arts in Teaching) is being honored with the 2016 Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement.

Best known for his incisive theater reviews for The New Yorker ,Hilton Als has been chief theater critic since 2013 and a contributor to the magazine since 1989. As an author, he has written about race, gender and identity for more than a decade, with his most recent book, White Girls, nominated for a 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. Als also maintains a site called Et Als: My Life in Culture and presents talks on everything from the role of the critic to “bravery in poetry.” He often collaborates with artists, and in 2009 worked with the performer Justin Bond on Cold Water, an exhibition of paintings, drawings and videos at La MaMa Gallery, before co-curating Self-Consciousness the following year at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin. Prior to working at The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for The Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. He has taught at Wesleyan, Wellesley, Smith and the Yale School of Drama, collaborated on film scripts and written for The Nation, The Believer and The New York Review of Books, among others.

Through her work in photo-montage, video, installation and performance art, Martha Rosler has long focused on the public sphere and issues of everyday life. Her pioneering work dates back to the mid 1960s when she first began conveying strong feminist and anti-war messages by contrasting domestic life with global politics, national security issues and depictions of conflict. Her diverse projects – from a traveling library and a community garden in Singapore to visual studies of airports – have been well received throughout the world. Rosler has earned numerous awards, including the inaugural prize from the New Foundation Seattle in 2015, which led to a multifaceted public project on homelessness and housing in that city. Her solo installation Meta-Monumental Garage Sale ran at the Museum of Modern Art in 2012 and the following year her book Culture Class offered critical thoughts on gentrification. In 1989 Rosler organized If You Lived Here..., a project in which artists, architects, activists and people experiencing homelessness addressed questions of who owns “the right to the city.” Her current exhibition If you can’t afford to live here, m-o-o-v-e! continues these efforts.

A leader in educational reform, Esther Wojcicki is passionate in her belief that young people respond best to learning from each other and through a smart use of digital resources. Her 2015 book Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom focuses on digital and online learning in K–12 schools and what it takes for motivated teachers to achieve a successful “moonshot.” As the founder of the Palo Alto [CA] High School Media Arts Program, Wojcicki has inspired thousands of students to learn about themselves and the world by pushing the possibilities of producing content-rich newspapers, magazines, websites, videos and radio and television programs. She helped lead the Google Teacher Academy, was named California Teacher of the Year in 2002 and is actively involved in educational reform as both a consultant and board member. For many years, Wojcicki served as chair and then vice chair of the Board of Creative Commons and is now on the boards of the Center for the Collaborative Classroom and the Developmental Studies Center, among many other educational organizations.

The 2016 Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement will be presented to Bunny Harvey (RISD ’67/MFA ’72 Painting, ’71 Masters of Arts in Teaching) at Commencement. As someone who reads the dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica as if they’re novels, Harvey has spent her life exploring a broad range of interests that eventually find their way into her lush paintings. The large body of work she has made in the past half century follows the twists and turns of her intellectual curiosity over the decades as she explored aspects of archaeology, particle physics, biology, sound and the intricacies of nature, among other passions. To culminate her 40 years of teaching at Wellesley College, Harvey helped organize a comprehensive retrospective of her work, which was on view last fall at the college’s Davis Museum. She also earned the Rome Prize in Painting in the early 1970s and has since been a frequent visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome.
Through both her practice and her ongoing mentoring of young artists, Harvey has found the ideal match for her peripatetic mind.

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.

RISD’s exuberant Commencement ceremony offers a festive culmination to years of creative exploration in the studio. Students typically transform their caps and gowns in idiosyncratic ways – by painting, reimagining and embellishing them to make a more personal artistic statement or simply to have fun with this colorful RISD tradition. For more information on RISD’s 2016 Commencement and to view the ceremony streaming live on June 4, visit commencement.risd.edu.

About Rhode Island School of Design
Known as the leading college of art and design in the United States, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is ranked #1 in Business Insider’s survey of The World’s 25 Best Design Schools. Approximately 2,450 students from around the world are enrolled in full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 majors. Students value RISD’s accomplished faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on approach to studio-based learning. Required courses in the liberal arts enrich the studio experience, equipping graduates to make meaningful contributions to their communities. Through their creative thinking and problem solving in a broad range of fields, RISD’s 26,000 alumni exemplify the vital role artists and designers play in fueling global innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit risd.edu and our.risd.edu.