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MassArt to Award Honorary Degrees to Nationally Recognized Artists at 2023 Commencement

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Oscar Nominated Filmmaker to Deliver Commencement Address

BOSTON, MA – Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) President Mary K. Grant today announced the college’s 2023 commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Debra Granik will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree at the ceremony, to be held on Thursday, May 18th at the Leader Bank Pavilion.

The ceremony will also feature the awarding of honorary doctor of fine arts degrees to Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs, local visual artist, organizer, and community builder; and M. David Lee, architect, planner and educator. Dr. Katherine Sloan, MassArt President Emerita, will be awarded the college’s Morton R. Godine Award.

The commencement ceremony, which is a highlight of the 150th Anniversary year, will be live-streamed at

“We are thrilled to welcome these distinguished guests to our 2023 Commencement,” said Elisa Hamilton, Chair of the MassArt Board of Trustees. “Each of these honorees represents the profound impact an education in art and design can have on our society. I am grateful that we will have the opportunity to recognize their contributions as we celebrate our graduates who will, undoubtedly, also help to shape our world for the better through their own creations.”

“For 150 years our graduates have been using art and design to engage with their communities and to contribute to the public good,” said President Grant. “It’s a joy to celebrate our 2023 graduates together with our esteemed honorees, whose impact as artists, designers and educators is enhanced by their service as mentors and role models for the next generation.”

About the Honorary Degree Recipients

Debra Granik is an American New York City-based independent film and documentary film director and screenwriter. She is best known for 2010’s Winter’s Bone, which starred Jennifer Lawrence and led to four Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence and Best Supporting Actor for John Hawkes. Among Granik’s other acclaimed films are 2004’s Down to the Bone, which starred Vera Farmiga, and 2018’s Leave No Trace, a New York Times critic’s pick. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Granik grew up outside Washington D.C., received her B.A. in political science from Brandeis University and her MFA in filmmaking from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. While at Brandeis, Granik volunteered with the grassroots filmmaking organization Women’s Video Collective, and in production on educational media projects and long form documentaries by Boston-area filmmakers, while taking film classes at MassArt’s Studio for Interrelated Media (SIM).

Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs is a visual artist, organizer, and community builder who has transformed the cultural landscape of Boston through his powerful art and commitment to youth education. Born and raised in Roxbury, Massachusetts during the hip-hop golden era, Gibbs saw the power of graffiti as a form of self-expression. As a teen, graffiti became a tool for him to chronicle and immortalize his culture and history, and his vision to beautify the predominantly Black and Brown communities of Boston remains a driving force behind his artistic practice. A co-founder of Artists for Humanity (AFH), for three decades he has served as an art educator and mentor throughout Greater Boston. Gibbs’ work has been covered in media outlets such as WBUR, WGBH, the Boston Art Review, Boston Magazine, Best of Boston, Forbes, PBS NewsHour, and the Boston Globe, among others. As part of the GN Crew Boston team, Gibbs was named the inaugural Maurice Tyrone Adderley artist-in-residence at MassArt in 2022.

M. David Lee is an award-winning architect, planner and educator who has completed planning and urban design projects nationwide. He served on the MassArt Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2019 (including as Chair), and has held faculty positions at Rhode Island School of Design, MIT, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Architectural projects completed under his leadership include The Clarion, a 39-unit mixed-use mixed-income apartment building in Roxbury, the Savin Hill MBTA station, the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute at Northeastern University, and Morning Star Baptist Church, all in Boston. Mr. Lee recently completed the Ruggles Corridor Vision Plan in Roxbury, which led to a coveted HUD Choice Neighborhoods designation. Highly recognized within his profession, Lee served as President of the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) in 1992, and received the BSA Year 2000 Award of Honor, and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award, along with his late business partner and the firm’s founder, Donald Stull, FAIA.

About the Godine Award and 2023 Awardee
The Godine Award

The Morton R. Godine Award for Service to the Community was established in 1989 in memory of a former Vice President and Trustee of Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Morton Godine, an admired community leader, teacher, and passionate advocate for the college’s public mission. The recipient of the award is that rare individual whose history of service to the community exemplifies Godine and MassArt’s mission to help students engage creatively in the well-being of society. Past awardees include former Mayor Thomas Menino and Mrs. Angela Menino (2013) and former Governor Michael Dukakis and Mrs. Kitty Dukakis (2011).

Dr. Katherine “Kay” Sloan, President Emerita of MassArt, will receive the college’s Morton R. Godine Award in recognition of her professional and personal dedication to the advancement of arts and culture in society. As President from 1996 to 2011, Dr. Sloan led MassArt to unprecedented growth, and fostered the development of its national and international reputation as a leading college for visual art and design. During her tenure, MassArt added two new residence halls, including the award-winning TreeHouse, and laid the plans for what would become the interdisciplinary academic space, the Design and Media Center. Sloan inspired the planning for the MassArt Museum (MAAM), and inaugurated its successful private fund-raising campaign. In 2004, she launched the Center for Art and Community Partnerships (CACP) to support the college’s commitment to developing the “citizen artist.” Since her retirement from MassArt in 2011, Dr. Sloan has remained active in several cultural and education organizations, including the Conservatory Lab School in Dorchester, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and as commissioner and accreditor for the New England Commission on Higher Education.



Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) is a public, independent institution that prepares artists, designers, and educators to shape communities, economies, and cultures for the common good. Since 1873, MassArt has built a legacy of leadership as the first freestanding public college of art and design in the country, and the nation’s first art school to grant a degree. MassArt offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate degrees in art, design, and art education, taught by world-class faculty

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