I am pleased to be here on behalf of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences to extend congratulations to all of you students, parents, friends, as well as to the faculty and staff of the Lamar Dodd School of Art, on this most important day. Students, you have earned a degree from one of the finest schools of art in the nation. You should be proud. Many of you will go out in the world to become practicing artists, or to teach and create art at a university, or to do research into the history and meaning of art, or to help prepare future teachers. Many of you will go out into the world and take up vocations that have little to do with what you have studied for the past four years—that is OK. You’ve had a great preparation to be an active and contributing citizen, whether as an artist or businessperson or teacher or parent or journalist or whatever. Use the creativity and appreciation for art and beauty that this UGA education has helped nurture in you to make the world a better place.
The public perception of the artist, a perception that some artists encourage, is that the artist stands apart from society, devoting him- or herself wholly to the production of art.
This is a false perception. You can’t allow it to persist. The main thing you must do in the world—a world fraught with serious problems and perils—is engage. Commit yourself to improving the world around you, and do it using the skills and values acquired through your experience with the Lamar Dodd School. Art doesn’t exist in isolation from society. The artist does not stand apart. The artist is part of a larger matrix of humanness, more important than any one individual, more important than art itself. Be a citizen of the nation and the world. Prove the values of the arts by using them to help others, to assuage the sick, to enhance the quality of individual lives, to elevate the thinking of people and of nations, to bring passion and insight to the business world, to give pause to those who think purely in terms of numbers, to enable those who suffer and despair to see above and beyond the constraints that hold them down. Make the arts your avenue towards doing things that matter in this world and this time that need your help.
Once again I congratulate you on this propitious day.