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Massart Announces Honorary Degree Recipients And Commencement Speaker For Class Of 2024

  • Alumni in the News

Celebrating Excellence: MassArt Announces Honorary Degree Recipients and Commencement Speaker for Class of 2024


Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) is proud to announce the distinguished recipients of honorary degrees and the commencement speaker for the Class of 2024. Elisa Hamilton (MassArt alumna, local artist, and former Chair of MassArt’s Board of Trustees) will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree in recognition of her multimedia work and community-centered projects. Hamilton’s work emphasizes community-centered projects and the exploration of everyday spaces, earning her recognition as a transformative force in the cultural landscape.

Additionally, honorary doctorates will be conferred upon Jill Medvedow, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and fabric artist Gary Tyler, both renowned for their contributions to contemporary art and social justice. The prestigious Godine Award will be presented to M. Lee Pelton, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation, in recognition of his dedication to equity and social change.

Honorees Embody MassArt’s Ethos of Creative Excellence and Social Impact

Elisa Hamilton’s commitment to engaging communities through art, alongside Jill Medvedow’s pioneering leadership in contemporary art, and Gary Tyler’s advocacy for social justice through fabric art, exemplify MassArt’s ethos of creative excellence for the common good. M. Lee Pelton’s transformative leadership at The Boston Foundation underscores the importance of equitable practices in philanthropy and civic engagement. As we eagerly anticipate the commencement ceremony on May 16 at the Leader Bank Pavilion, MassArt extends its congratulations to the Class of 2024 and looks forward to celebrating their achievements alongside these distinguished honorees.


Elisa H. Hamilton is a socially engaged multimedia artist who creates artwork and community-centered projects that emphasize shared spaces and the hopeful examination of our everyday places, objects, and experiences. Hamilton is a 2023 Brother Thomas Fellow, and she has been recognized by WBUR as one of 25 Artists of Color Transforming The Cultural Landscape. In addition to her work as an artist, Hamilton is an educator who has served in multiple roles at institutions in the Greater Boston academic community. She holds a BFA in Painting from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and an MA in Civic Media from Emerson College. Hamilton grew up in Arlington, MA and is a proud Massachusetts native.

Jill Medvedow is the Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art and is recognized as a national leader in contemporary art and civic life. She altered the landscape for contemporary art in Boston when, in 2006, she opened the city’s first new art museum in nearly a century. Over her 26-year tenure, Medvedow began the museum’s permanent collection; developed a national model for teen arts education; and opened the ICA Watershed, transforming a former factory into a free space for immersive art. Under her leadership, the ICA has produced influential exhibitions and commissioned major works of art, supporting women artists and artists underrepresented in the art-historical canon. In 2022, Medvedow served as co-commissioner for the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Prior to the ICA, Medvedow began her career championing artists’ books and working in artist-run spaces in New York and Seattle before founding Vita Brevis in Boston.

Gary Tyler is a fabric artist, living and working in Los Angeles, California. For over four decades, Tyler has been working at the intersection of art and social justice, teaching himself how to quilt to support the Angola Prison Hospice program, where he was a volunteer. For three decades, Tyler was the President of the Angola Prison Drama Club, using the position to promote a culture of community civic responsibility and optimism. At age 16, Tyler was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Though his case was the subject of international outcry, the artist spent 42 years in Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana, before being released at the age of 57. Although his artistic practice was born out of injustice, it eminently generates hope. Tyler is a 2019 and 2020 Art Matters Awardee, and his work is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and The Historic New Orleans Collection Museum in New Orleans, LA. Also, this year, Tyler is a 2024 Right of Return Fellowship recipient and 2024 Frieze Impact Prize winner.


M. Lee Pelton is the President and CEO of The Boston Foundation, one of the nation’s leading philanthropic organizations with $1.8 billion in assets. He joined the Foundation in June 2021, after a long career in academia, most recently serving as President of Emerson College (2011-2021) and Willamette University (1998-2011). Under his leadership, Pelton has positioned the Boston Foundation, one of the nation’s first and most influential community foundations, as an agent for social change, by centering equity in its programs, grantmaking and civic leadership. The Foundation’s defining ambition is to achieve equity, which involves acknowledging and then seeking to eliminate the structural and underlying causes of outcome disparities for historically marginalized communities. Throughout his career, Pelton has combined authentic leadership, civic engagement, and a deep commitment to social justice with his skill and vision for growing institutional capacity and effectiven

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