California Institute of the Arts held its second graduation ceremony since the pandemic on Friday, conferring 370 degrees from six different schools in the process.
While the traditionally untraditional ceremony didn’t seem as rowdy or to be letting out all of the pent-up anticipation collected over three years, as it did last year, the popping of champagne bottles and the “anything goes” atmosphere was definitely retained.
Many different types of fashion and self-expression, once again, adorned the student body.
Abigail Salling, staff producer of the graduation event and a Cal Arts alumna, said this year the team worked with an entirely new set of student designers since November to plan the event.
Seeing it all come together is among Salling’s favorite things about the ceremony.
“Just getting to see all of the graduates finally walk across the stage that we spent so long building, we’ve been out here in the courtyard for two weeks, rigging and hanging lights and putting up sound equipment … getting to see this moment come to fruition and see everyone’s families here and everyone just celebrating (is rewarding),” said Salling.
Being an arts university, everything, from the event program to the stage design, was designed by students — with a little help from staff.
The students decided that water would be this year’s theme, because it symbolically fills any space and carves new pathways.
Taso Dimitriadas, associate vice president of student experience, said everything you’ve probably heard about Cal Arts and its students is most likely true.
“I think when you hear ‘Cal Arts,’ there’s a connotation and after being here a year, I can say that all of those things are true,” said Dimitriadas. “It’s the wonder, it’s the imagination, it’s the inventiveness and we are defined by our students. They are our heart and soul and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Leading the procession once again was the African Music and Dance Ensemble, which was followed by an invocation from Tataviam Elder Dennis Garcia. CalArts acknowledged it sits on the unceded ancestral lands of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians in its program.
“My hope for you is that your struggles are few and that you succeed in all that you do,” said Garcia. “Continue to tell your stories in whatever genre you have chosen, because there are stories in every form of ours. Be proud of all your work, because we are usually our own worst critics. No one can promote you better than yourselves. Always continue to create, even if it’s only for yourself.”
Tyler Harper, a student graduating with a master’s degree, said some of his favorite memories from his time at CalArts were seeing other students show their art and their soul. He was sad to be leaving, but happy to get out into the world and start his career.
“I’m excited to invest what I’ve worked on and what I’ve considered in Los Angeles and make it a more beautiful place,” said Harper.
Music and performances before the graduation ceremony were provided by the CalArts Balinese Gamelan Ensemble, directed by Nyoman Wenten, and Balinese Dance directed by Nanik Wenten. Honorary doctorates were given to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer N. Scott Momaday and his daughter, Jill Momaday.
Trevor Morgan covers community, culture, health and breaking news for The Signal. Before coming to Santa Clarita, he was the online editor for Cal State University Northridge's student newspaper, The Daily Sundial. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from CSUN and an associate's degree in music from Ventura College. Have a tip? Message him on twitter @trevorwmorgan or at [email protected]