PROVIDENCE, R.I.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--This morning, 486 undergraduate and 183 graduate students from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) received their diplomas at RISD’s 2015 Commencement. The ceremony took place at the Rhode Island Convention Center in downtown Providence.
This year RISD presented five outstanding cultural leaders with honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees. Influential filmmaker and author John Waters accepted his first honorary degree and delivered the Commencement keynote address. Author and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik and musicians Chris Frantz (RISD ’74 Painting), Martina Weymouth (RISD ’74 Painting) and Jerry Harrison, all former members of the breakthrough band Talking Heads, accepted honorary degrees at the ceremony as well. In addition, painter Miriam Beerman (RISD ’45 Painting) was honored with the 2015 Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement.
RISD’s exuberant Commencement ceremony offers a festive culmination to years of creative exploration in the studio. Students are encouraged to express their ideas, passions and individuality by having fun with visually altering their traditional black caps and gowns in any way they would like. To watch RISD’s 2015 Commencement ceremony in full, visit commencement.risd.edu. John Waters’ remarks are available at: our.risd.edu.
About the 2015 RISD Commencement Honorees
John Waters, recognized as one of the most outrageous filmmakers in America, has written and directed 16 movies, several starring the actor Divine. In 2014 the Film Society of Lincoln Center honored him with a 10-day retrospective entitled Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take?, screening such all-time favorites as Pink Flamingos (1972), Polyester (1981), Hairspray (1988), Cry-Baby (1990), Serial Mom (1991) and A Dirty Shame (2004), among others. Waters has published a number of books and screenplays, including the New York Times bestsellers Carsick (2014) and Role Models (2010), and has shown his photographs and sculptures in galleries throughout the world. A member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Waters is a former member of the board of The Andy Warhol Foundation and currently serves on the boards for both the Maryland Film Festival and the Provincetown International Film Festival.
Adam Gopnik, a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1986, has contributed fiction, humor, book reviews and profiles to the magazine, earning the National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism three times. He served as The New Yorker’s art critic from 1987–95 before moving to Paris for five years and writing the magazine’s Paris Journal. Those essays form the basis of his well-received first book, Paris to the Moon (2000), which has been followed by a series of others, including the “spectacularly fine children’s novel” The King in the Window (2005). In addition to his prolific writing, Gopnik is a much-admired speaker. Among his top honors are the Canadian National Magazine Gold Medal for arts writing, the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting, France’s medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters and an honoris causa from McGill University, where he earned a BA in Art History before completing graduate work at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts.
Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth co-wrote the hit song Psycho Killer with David Byrne while they were still at RISD but founded the band Talking Heads two years later, performing for the first time in 1975. Jerry Harrison had played keyboards in the seminal punk rock band The Modern Lovers before joining Talking Heads in 1976. A year later, the band released its first album, which was immediately hailed as a breakthrough. Talking Heads went on to tour the world, record 10 albums and work with Jonathan Demme in making Stop Making Sense, among the best concert films of all time. Harrison has since released three solo albums, produced recordings for such artists as the Violent Femmes, Foo Fighters and No Doubt, and helped to define the online music industry. In 2013 his film Take Me to the River won the SXSW Audience Award and the Feature Film of the Festival Award at the Raindance Film Festival in London. Frantz and Weymouth formed the band Tom Tom Club in 1981, which led to their first gold record through the hits Wordy Rappinghood and Genius of Love. They continue to record and tour, and have embarked on a new electronic music project. Frantz, Harrison and Weymouth were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 for their work with Talking Heads.
The 2015 Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement was also presented at Commencement. Since accomplished painter Miriam Beerman was unable to travel to Providence, her son accepted the award on her behalf. Studying with the legendary RISD professor and painter John Frazier (a graduate of the Class of 1912 and later, president of the college) instilled in Beerman a lifelong love of abstract expressionism. During her 65-year career, she embraced the “beauty and vigor” of painting as a means of bearing witness to the injustices, atrocities and absurdities of our times. An accomplished colorist, Beerman infused her organic, layered canvases with a political and emotional intensity that is often balanced by moments of comic relief. This spring a new film is being released chronicling her life and work, which has been on view in 32 solo shows – including one this year at the Wriston Art Center in Appleton, WI. Beerman’s paintings are also represented in the collections of the RISD Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, among many others.
About Rhode Island School of Design
Known as the leading college of art and design in the United States, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is ranked #1 in Business Insider’s survey of The World’s 25 Best Design Schools. Approximately 2,450 students from around the world are enrolled in full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 majors. Students value RISD’s accomplished faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on approach to studio-based learning. Required courses in the liberal arts enrich the studio experience, equipping graduates to make meaningful contributions to their communities. Through their creative thinking and problem solving in a broad range of fields, RISD’s 26,000 alumni exemplify the vital role artists and designers play in fueling global innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit risd.edu and our.risd.edu.