Monday, May 23, 2011

Graduation in the Park

Heavy rains with some thunder last night, though not an especially violent storm. The real violence yesterday was being directed at Joplin, Mo.

On Saturday morning in downtown Chicago under threatening spring skies, we attended the graduation ceremony of the School of the Art Institute Class of '11. Patti Smith, godmother of punk, gave the commencement speech. Or rather, a speech and a couple of songs. Mainly it was a "don't worry, follow your art" pep talk, and the songs were more the poetic Patti than the punk Patti. After all, the '70s were a long time ago.

Any outdoor event risks being rained on, and at one point fairly late in the event, sprinkles came down. Remarkable how fast the audience whipped out umbrellas at the first hint of water.

Pictured here is the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion, with an alphabetical-by-last-name line of undergraduates waiting to receive their diplomas. A lot of master's candidates had proceeded them. I was able to spot my nephew Robert as he moved forward.

Almost no one in line was wearing a cap or gown, which was optional for the ceremony, according to the school. All kinds of clothing were on view, including a woman who appeared on stage in her belly dancing costume -- or maybe it was, as graduate seminar participants might put it, a distinctive Middle Eastern style of dress, paying homage to a dance by and for women that serves as an expression of women’s empowerment -- and another woman in rollerskates, or maybe rollerblades.

After all that was done, I took a picture of Robert with his SAIC diploma-holder.

The actual diploma, as a note inside the diploma-holder said, would be mailed to him shortly. Meaning that the entire alphabetical line-up was unnecessary, strictly speaking, since everyone got the same empty holder with a note. It would have been more fun, and certainly less traditional, to pile up the diploma-holders and have the students rush the stage to get them. Prevailing paradigms can be smashed in so many creative ways.

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