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MassArt to Honor Nationally Recognized Art and Civic Leaders at 2024 Commencement

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Alumna and Local Artist to Deliver Commencement Address

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BOSTON – Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), the nation’s first and only independent public college of art and design, will host its Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Boston. Three nationally recognized art leaders including Elisa Hamilton, Jill Medvedow, and Gary Tyler will receive honorary degrees from the college. Hamilton, a MassArt alumna, will deliver the commencement address. M. Lee Pelton, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation, will receive the Morton R. Godine Medal, bestowed annually in recognition of a person’s professional and personal dedication to the advancement of arts and culture in society.

“Each of these honorees has changed our perspective, given us new understanding, and connected humanity through their art and life’s work,” said Karen M. Keane, Chair of the MassArt Board of Trustees. “As represented by this year’s honorees, the world of art and design is multifaceted, diverse, and critical to our economy. We hope the impressive careers and success of these distinguished honorees serves as a reminder to the Class of 2024 that their potential to make lasting contributions wherever they choose has no limit.”

“It is with a great sense of pride that we will honor these incredible leaders at this year’s Commencement,” said Dr. Mary K. Grant, President of MassArt. “Each of our honorees, in their own right, have elevated the work of many unsung artists, made art and design more accessible, and encouraged us all to come together to make our communities more vibrant and inclusive. We are thrilled to honor their many accomplishments with our College’s highest recognition.”

WHO:       MassArt Graduates
Dr. Mary K. Grant, President, MassArt
Elisa Hamilton, Artist, Commencement Speaker
Jill Medvedow, Honoree
Lee Pelton, Honoree
Gary Tyler, Honoree

WHEN:     Thursday, May 16, 2024
1 p.m.

WHERE:   Leader Bank Pavilion
290 Northern Ave
Boston

The commencement ceremony will be live-streamed at massart.edu/commencement.

Honorary Degree Recipients:

Elisa H. Hamilton is a socially engaged multimedia artist who creates artworks and community-centered projects that emphasize shared spaces and the hopeful examination of our everyday places, objects, and experiences. 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.

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.  Her work has been shown locally and nationally in solo and group exhibitions. She has been the recipient of numerous commissions and grants to create artworks, community projects, and participatory programs.  These works include “Jukebox,” a permanent art installation and archive of community narratives, commissioned by the City of Cambridge; “Can you see me?” a participatory art project at ICA Boston’s Art Lab; and “Sound Lab,” an interactive installation commissioned by The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and showcasing the sounds and voices of Boston-area community organizations.

Hamilton has created projects for institutions including Boston Center for the Arts, The Currier Museum of Art, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Tyler School of Art, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, The MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, Now+There, and For Freedoms. 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 is currently Visiting Community Artist at Olin College of Engineering and Affiliated Faculty at Emerson College. A proud alumna and a dedicated member of the MassArt community, Hamilton served on the MassArt Alumni Leadership Council from 2008-2013 (as Chair from 2011-2013) and served on the MassArt Board of Trustees from 2013-2023 (as Chair from 2021-2023).

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 the 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 the 2024 Right of Return Fellowship and the  2024 Frieze Impact Prize winner. And the City of Santa Monica Art Fund has acquired his artwork to be displayed.

Morton R. Godine Medal Recipient

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). Pelton began his academic career at Harvard University, where he earned a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Languages with an academic focus on 19th-century British prose and poetry.

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. A signature Boston Foundation program is its Racial Wealth Partnership, established in late 2022, as part of the Boston Foundation’s commitment to close racial wealth gaps in Greater Boston and the region by expanding homeownership for people of color. 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 effectiveness. He has been awarded three honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions for educational excellence and social justice, including, A Living Legend by the Boston Museum of African American History (2021), the Governor’s Award from Mass Humanities (2020). In 2023, he ranked #3 on Boston Magazine’s annual list of the most influential people in Boston, following Maura Healey, the newly elected governor of the Commonwealth and Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.

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About Massachusetts College of Art and Design
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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