Thirty-three students received diplomas at the LSU College of Art & Design fall 2015 commencement ceremony, which took place at the LSU Student Union Theatre, Friday, December 18.
The college conferred 29 undergraduate degrees, 28 BFAs in studio art and one in interior design (BID). Noelle Tollett (BFA) graduated with honors, Magna cum Laude. Four master’s degrees were granted, three in landscape architecture (MLA) and one in art history (MA).
The fall 2015 LSU College of Art & Design commencement speaker was Kristin Sosnowsky, executive associate dean of the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts, chair of the School of Theatre, and managing director of Swine Palace, the school’s affiliated Equity Theatre Company. In addition, she is finishing one year of service as the interim executive director of the LSU Museum of Art. Sosnowsky has more than 25 years of experience as a professional arts administrator working across disciplines. During her tenure at LSU, she has produced over 40 major professional productions including The Heidi Chronicles, which was performed at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and Beijing Central Academy of Drama; the world premiere of Cocktail, which w as one of 36 productions selected to represent the United States at the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space; and the world premiere of Spill, a multimedia theatre event and visual art installation based on the impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In 2006, Swine Palace was recognized for its work on issues of social justice with the Louisiana Governor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Large Arts Organization and the 13th Annual YWCA Greater Baton Rouge Racial Justice Award. Sosnowsky developed the first comprehensive undergraduate arts administration curriculum at LSU and teaches courses on arts marketing, fundraising and development for the arts, nonprofit financial management, and board development. She has been the recipient of the Brij Mohan Distinguished Professorship, a Tiger Athletic Undergraduate Teaching Award, and the Phi Kappa Phi Non‐Tenured Faculty Award in the Creative and Performing Arts. In 2008, she was named an LSU Rainmaker. She holds an MFA from Yale University and a BA from the University of Delaware.
The commencement ceremony was followed by a reception and BFA exhibition at the LSU Foster Gallery, where the studio art graduates shared their work with family and friends.
Congratulations to our fall 2015 graduates, and welcome to our alumni family!
Sosnowsky’s LSU College of Art & Design Commencement Speech—December 18, 2015
Dear graduates, I am so pleased and honored to be here with you. Today you celebrate a milestone in your academic career. Yours is an achievement that came from determination, dedication and sacrifice. You graduates worked hard, navigating rigorous academic standards coupled with long hours in studios and other venues to support your creative development. Congratulations on these accomplishments.
When Dean Tsolakis invited me to be your commencement speaker, I was already aware of the College of Art & Design’s wonderful practice of having the speaker choose an image to help convey their message. I also knew that I would need to select an image that represented my own experiences as an arts administrator and theatre producer but was also relevant to you as you reflect on your academic journey and explore your evolution from student to global citizen.
What you have before you is a costume rendering. It depicts the Ghost of Christmas Past and was created by Polly Boersig, one of your fellow alumni, a 1983 graduate of the School of Art. As a costume designer, Polly created the rendering for a production of A Christmas Carol, which was presented by Swine Palace here on campus in 2001. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the theatrical process, this costume rendering was used as both a design and communication tool. It conveyed the artistic impulse of the designer as well as critical technical information to be employed by the creative team. From a functional perspective, this image had very limited use. Yet, there is an underlying message that I believe has much more longevity. To me, it is a reminder of the union of individuality and collaboration; how one small element can retain its unique significance yet serve as part of a comprehensive whole that transcends its perceived boundaries.
This costume rendering was probably one of twenty designed for that individual production. Its useful life was defined by the time it took to create the final product, only long enough for the team of costume technicians to interpret the necessary information and build the costume. The rendering was not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Although it has outlived its original purpose, it remains an aesthetically appealing piece in its own right. In fact, I found it so striking that it has traveled with me over 14 years, long after the costume had been built, worn, and retired, all the way to your commencement this afternoon. This small image lives on.
Today, visual representation has become the universal language we use to communicate with one another. Indeed, society expects there to be an artistic quality infused in every aspect of our daily lives. As new alumni of the College of Art & Design, you occupy a unique space. Architects and visual artists, interior designers, landscape architects, and graphic designers, each of you approaches your work in a distinctive way. Yet each of you is intimately involved in the process of connecting the intellectual with the sensory to create meaning and impact. In the theatre world, our stories are ethereal and our audiences must make a conscious choice to experience our artistic product. Your efforts have a much broader and sweeping reach. Your innovations impact everyone; they become wholly integrated into our daily lives. You create living and learning spaces; communicate messages through your imagery; and instill beauty or cause disruption through your works of art. You have each chosen a path which allows you to explore the human experience to more fully connect the individual with their environment. It is your unique ability to magnify the beauty of what already exists while pushing the boundaries of what is possible, which will continue to enrich society and improve the quality of life for its inhabitants.
This leads me to my second thought—which is that despite all of your individual work and singular accomplishments, you remain part of a collaborative process contributing to a greater whole.
As I mentioned earlier, my image is just a small part of a greater effort. You all know the story of A Christmas Carol. The Ghost of Christmas Past appears for a brief moment in time to exert her influence on Scrooge’s transformation. As global and local citizens, we too are just one piece of the puzzle. Each of you has spent countless hours toiling in your studios, classrooms, and libraries to advance your academic pursuits. However, despite all of the individual work you have accomplished, one of the most important roles you had during your time at LSU is that of a citizen of our community. You did not just sit back and learn passively. You were part of a knowledge-building community contributing to the learning environment of your contemporaries while gaining from their perspectives, opinions, and experiences. Those countless—often maddening—group projects, class participation requirements, and team-based exercises cultivated your capacity for mutual respect, creativity, and learning. Those undertakings illuminated your role as not just an individual but also a collaborator, part of a larger collective. Each of you made your own invaluable contribution to the life of LSU, yet it is the coalescence of talent, experience, and diligence that has allowed our community to thrive.
As you reflect on your time at LSU, I hope you will treasure the network of relationships, both personal and professional, that you have forged and continue to consider your role as both a local and global citizen. This will take on many forms: partner, spouse, colleague, parent, sister, brother, innovator, creator, volunteer, and countless others. I urge you to be ever conscious of the impact you have in your community wherever your future path leads you.
Finally, this image reminds me of the importance of challenging conventions. It’s unlikely that this is the image that comes to your mind when you think of A Christmas Carol. Most of you would not instantly picture the Ghost of Christmas Past wearing a multi-colored, psychedelic kimono. It breaks with our traditional idea for that character after years of seeing her portrayed on TV, film, and on the stage. Convention is important; there are standards and practices that we must uphold to ensure the integrity of our professions. Of equal importance is continued evolution. Each of you has spent years honing your craft and gleaning the important principles that are essential for you to achieve success. You are all creators. You create structures, blueprints and floor plans and schematics; you create sculptures and objects and other works of art. You create environments, visual interpretations and representations. However as parting words, I would also encourage you to engage in some destruction. Break rules, tear down conventions, challenge assumptions, depart from traditions, rip through barriers, and shatter your own self-imposed limitations. Don’t let the end of your academic career be the end of your ability to learn and grow. Keep true to your passion and continue to strive for excellence. But never lose the impulse to stretch beyond your own boundaries. It is your courage to explore new territory that will enable society to see beyond straight lines and continue its progression towards a nobler and stronger world.
Finally, don’t be afraid to be what Jack Kerouac calls one of the mad ones.
“Mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn . . . like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
With that I again offer my congratulations.