The Art of Commencement-School of Art - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Art of Commencement

How-To Write a Commencement Speech, One Pun At A Time

"...We were determined to extend this tradition with a mock "Visiting Artist Lecture Series" performance in which A.C and I assumed the roles of two world famous French/American artists who dabbled in kinetic sculptures constructed entirely from roadkill..."

Being asked to represent our senior class graduating in 2010 was quite an honor for A.C. Harkness and myself. To our knowledge, the school of art commencement speech had always taken on the role of comedic act, rather than conventional farewell. Understanding this, we were determined to extend this tradition with a mock "Visiting Artist Lecture Series" performance in which A.C and I assumed the roles of two world famous French/American artists who dabbled in kinetic sculptures constructed entirely from roadkill.

We assembled a PowerPoint presentation of our "most celebrated" work. Our images included green-screen mock ups of artist alter-egos boasting themselves before the Venice Biennial, Art Basel, and other international expositions. In the end, what we thought would be a comedic riot, turned out to be a bit of a charade. A.C. possessed great stage presence. My performance, however, reminded me of the time I mc'd my middle school's 7th grade talent show. My ability as a stage performer had clearly not matured since then, and neither had my sense of humor. Nonetheless, I think we captured the quirky spirit of our class.

Since graduating, I found my way to Lima, Peru, where I'm currently living and working as a free-lance illustrator. Going down to South America was a way for me to coax myself out of my comfort zone. I'm adapting myself to a new culture and language, and so far I think it has had a positive effect on my artwork. Since graduating I've also participated in two group shows in Pittsburgh and look forward to being apart of a couple of exhibitions both back in the US and here in Lima in the coming months. This year my work has been mentioned (albeit briefly) in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and has also been featured on the art/design blog okaygreat. I was told upon graduating that the first year out of art school would be the most difficult. Thus far, this year has been challenging but ultimately invigorating, and I have continued to make a lot of work. Patience and persistence is the name of the game, I guess. 

As for the future, I'm still unsure. I will probably remain in South America until the fall or end of the year before heading back to the States. I am happy to have remained in touch with several of my friends and fellow CMU alumni and will most likely follow them in establishing a tight community of like minded people somewhere. Until then, I am excited to be exploring new places down in the southern hemisphere. My ultimate goals are to attend a few residencies in the coming years and apply to a distinguished MFA program in the US. 


By: Paul Rouphail (BFA '10)