Graduation is a time when many students are getting ready to join “the real world” and are often uncertain of the road ahead for them.
But PAFA’s 2019 graduation speaker, artist Chitra Ganesh, urges students to recognize that while they are on the cusp of something new they shouldn’t discount the experiences they’ve already had.
“You are not entering the real world, you have already been living in the real world. The responsibilities, emotional attachments, curiosities, and struggles that have brought you all the way to this moment; you should honor those experiences and the courage and determination it has taken to come this far.”
For some graduates they may be the first to graduate from college in their family or the only artist in their family.
PAFA recognized 87 graduating students, including 17 Certificate program graduates; 24 Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates; 3 BFA-Certificate graduates; 5 PAFA-Penn BFA graduates; 5 Post-Baccalaureate graduates, 1 Fine Arts Foundation Certificate graduate, 2 Low Residency MFA students, and 30 Master of Fine Arts graduates at the May 10th ceremony.
Ganesh, an artist whose multi-disciplinary, drawing-based practice addresses narrative representations of femininity, sexuality, and power, reflected on her own time as a student during her commencement speech.
“I can’t believe how many people from the community of students and faculty with whom I went to school, I am still in touch with, who I am so connected with, who I mentor with now, give drawing classes to their children,” Ganesh said. “These connections are really valuable.”
Ganesh has received numerous awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship and Joan Mitchell Foundation awards, and her work is held by many collections, including the Whitney Museum, MOMA, and PAFA. Ganesh has also produced a portfolio of silkscreen prints with the Brodsky Center, a collaborative paper and printmaking center devoted to the creation of new work, which relocated from Rutgers to PAFA last year.
She credits the community she built and friendships she forged during her time in school with helping her career and artistic practice.
“The people that are most likely going to help you, who are going to think of you, who are going to give your ideas legs and wings, and give you opportunities as you move forward are in this room,” she said. “They’re not going to come from high above pull you out and bring you somewhere else.”
As our students embark on the next step of their journey, Ganesh encouraged everyone to keep close the people they met at PAFA.
“I’m so happy that you have been in a nurturing environment where you can feel that tightness,” she said. “In this foggy journey, friendship has been everything—my torch, my support system. Friendship and community have provided me with the armor, the gentle push, and the permission to fail.”
Selected works by Chitra Ganesh are currently on view at PAFA now through August 4, 2019.