Brooklyn, New York
Senior Director of Academic Computing and Support, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
As you read this, I hope you are able to find some comfort, take heart, and be encouraged with a simple, yet profound notion.
I am reminded that art and artists (I use this term broadly.) are extremely important in times of unrest and crisis, such as now.
It is precisely by the act of creating and embodying one's inner vision—in whatever medium and by whatever means they are called—that artists (and all those in creative fields) counter fear, stasis, myopia, and depression that challenges everyone. It is the ability to envision something new, the practice of imagining and acting in new ways to accomplish our goals, and the discipline of repeatedly trying, failing, and re-trying that demonstrates to the world the possibilities that exist, that there are possibilities, and that there are other ways of thinking and acting in this moment. Creating is a form of generation and is life-giving, and that is your super power. Use it now. Share it with others.
Personal Stylist, J. Hilburn
I am so sorry the end of your year was taken from you. I know you had big things planned, celebrations of all your hard work. You deserved that. I hope right now you are creating, using this time to further your art and explore the way you see the world. I hope you will share it with us. I would love to see your paintings, drawings, fashion, sculptures, photography. I want to see it all! Know that all of the alums are so proud of what you have achieved so far, and we know this experience will inform your creations in ways that you will come to see as wonderful in time. You will come out stronger; we all will. Wishing you health and happiness!
My graduating class ('06) entered the job market during a recession that hit the field of architecture particularly hard. Luckily, our design education at WashU was so well rounded and process-based that it prepared us to enter an uncertain market with skills and perspectives students from other universities didn't have. And while my class did have a graduation ceremony, when you remember or draw on you time at WashU, a sweltering day wearing a black polyester robe to mark your accomplishment isn't what will be important to your success. It's what you will do with your education that matters. So congratulations, Class of 2020. What will help you through this and will make you successful after this you already carry with you.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles Program Director, ProjectArt
I am the LA Program Director for ProjectArt. We, like so many, took our content online. One of my teachers didn't skip a beat and started Zoom classes with his teens. I joined in, and it was a wonderful meditative experience, and I'm so glad the bond with his students has not faded. I hope you know you will always have the bond of your fellow classmates, regardless of what is currently happening. This has been a wonderful time to reconnect with my friends from WashU, as well. We will all keep doing wonderful things in this world despite the "schedule change."
The last words Professor Ron Leax spoke to me the week before I graduated in 2001 were, "Never give in." It set a concluding stamp on a chunk of memory I banked in my brain from my favorite mentor. I wrote it down at the time, and I am glad to have that memory to draw strength from when I need it most.
May you, the graduates of 2020, find ways to remember the essential lessons your mentors at WashU created for you. This hiccup in your progress as a creative soul will only make you more determined to never give in.
We are living in unprecedented times, but it won't last forever. Who will you be after? A ceremony has never defined who we are. What defines who we are is what we do with challenges. You have the advantage of great intellect combined with creativity. You can imagine a world, a space, that no one else yet sees, and what you create will shape our world for centuries. Don't let this time get you down. Use it to see a better world that only you can.
Congratulations, Class of 2020!
It's okay to mourn what didn't happen. It's okay to mourn the lost opportunities. It's okay. Then take yourself out into the world with a strong sense of what matters—your community, caring for others, bringing brightness into a world where things feel murky. Your creativity matters. It can be an outlet for you, and the things you share can be a gift for those of us who are struggling through this with you. Take it from someone from the class of 2007, who graduated into the great recession—this too will pass. Sending love and hope for a bright future for you.
To the class of 2020: Don't stop being creative dreamers! I graduated WashU not knowing what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to somehow see the world. I found an internship program and bought a one-way ticket to Barcelona. I met great people, worked in design, was artistically inspired daily, learned fluent Spanish, and met the love of my life. Be smart, but have fun in the world... you never know where your bold choices will eventually take you and their impact on the rest of your life.
Kansas City, Kansas
Associate Professor and Chair of Sculpture, Kansas City Art Institute
Adversity has the power to generate meaningful art. Remember that Frida Kahlo painted her cast while convalescing in bed. Arshile Gorky held his dying mother in his arms while the Armenian Genocide raged. Andre Breton returned from the front lines of WWI, embraced fear and absurdity to upend culture by birthing the surrealist movement. The journey each of these artists took led them through the way of love, and we are the beneficiaries of their imaginations unleashed by suffering.
New York, New York
Co-Founder/Creative Lead, SpecialGuest.co
For the past dozen years, I have been running a creative studio that mostly produces video communications. Even a small video crew for a commercial production needs over 10 people congregating to get the right shots done. It's not possible to do that right now. Recently I listened in on a "town hall" call with video producers from all over the country, and I heard someone say that the result of this stalled moment will be a "race to the bottom," with producers needing to capture video content on their iPhones at home or collecting content from YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok to create video work. That phrase "race to the bottom" really stood out to me. It sounds depressing to anyone who might be very established in the creative industry. But for you, the students who will be stepping into the creative job market, it really means "race to the top." You will be the new growth pushing up from the ashes.
On the occasion of my WashU commencement, I recall Peter MacKeith noting the inherently optimistic nature of the practice of architecture.
This fundamental characteristic of what we do is good to reflect on under normal circumstances, and I hope it can resonate for you in these challenging times as well. Architecture always has the potential to make a positive contribution. Our work seeking to manifest that potential takes intent and commitment, but it is literally crafting things to be better.
To the Class of 2020, congratulations! An old Irish blessing and prayer sums up our wishes for you:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
Welcome to the distinguished privilege of calling yourself an alumni of Washington University!
Jeff and Valerie Greer (MArch 2002) + Isla Greer (WU Cub Bear)
Chief Executive Artivist, The W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Group, Inc.
Your Life Is A Movie 🎥 🍿 🎞...You Are The Screenwriter, Producer, Director, Soundtrack Composer, & ⭐️ Star Mane...You Can Pick The Genre, The Theme & You Can Even At Times Decide The Ending (Director’s Cut Is Possible)… However, Whatever You Decide To Do, Make Sure To Make It Interesting, Watchable, Memorable & Worthy Of Your Talents... In Other Words, Make It A Blockbuster!!! SEE HOW IT WORKS??? WE 🖤 U MADLY CLASS OF 2020!!!
#R2c2h2Says #ThaArtivist #WUSTLClassOf2002
Shaker Heights, Ohio
Art Teacher, Cleveland Metropolitan School District
Congratulations on completing an art or architecture degree. I know you worked hard, slept little, and occasionally cried after (or during) critiques. Your final semester probably didn't go the way you had envisioned, and it's okay to grieve that loss. But now it's time for you to navigate your life as an artist, designer, creator, or what-have-you, and that is exciting! It's okay to take a break from creating and come back to it later, but I highly recommend finding a community to engage with, be it real or virtual, that will keep you grappling with creative challenges. Congratulations again, stay safe, and best wishes for wherever you're headed next!
Brooklyn, New York
Founder, Studio PHH Architects
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Maybe not in this case but I believe this moment affords us a chance to re-evaluate our goals and to gain the perspective required for happiness and success; a rare break in the rat race that most graduating seniors from a top school like Wash U (me included) are likely to join.
Spend the free time that is forced upon each of us by this event to focus on what does make you stronger. For me these are as follows and each is actionable:
- Strengthen the relationships made over the last several years and remember that each plays a critical yet often unpredictable role in our lives.
- Write down life goals: create "mantras" that allow you to look back at the past and look forward to your future with certainty that you are working towards the goals you wanted for yourself.
- Giving is the most rewarding, and the rewards come in many forms. The world is big and we are in this together.
- Invest in knowledge. Your head is your greatest asset.
Brooklyn, New York
Dear Class of 2020,
I went to WashU for an MFA in sculpture program from 2003 to 2005.
Before that, I was in the middle of apprenticeship of Japanese lacquer craft art in Japan. But I decided to come to the US to improve my English for some issues.
Things changed 180-degrees for my unexpected life experience. At the age of 27, I instead had to take art class in New Orleans and ended up earning a BFA. It changed my career, as I then pursued my MFA.
When I decided to study art at age of 27, I was extremely anxious and even in a foreign country. It was not my first choice, and I did not know much of the future career path...
Fifteen years later, I am now a professional artist in New York City with a two year-old baby! This COVID-19 emergency time: all of my job were gone even, ugh. But I am so thankful to have life now. Even if it was not by natural cause, my detour life probably has given me more enriched experience and makes it easier to get over some struggles.
Be safe first. Don't worry about school; rather, do what you can do!
St. Louis, Missouri
Cheers to you all!
I know the future seems more unknown than it ever has been, but it has always been unknown: Our narratives of it make it feel controlled.
Things will always happen that completely change the direction of your life. For me, it was going to a conference as a volunteer right after graduating from WashU and meeting someone who raved about the program they just graduated from. Four years later I had sold most of what I had and boarded a one-way flight to a graduate program I never visited in Reading, England (photo from that time at our local pub). I had no idea what would come of making that leap. It was scary, but it turned into a career I would have never expected or foreseen.
You have accomplished much already; more is to come. All my best to you and the unknown. May both surprise us in delightful ways!
New Orleans, Louisiana
Architect & Urban Designer, Waggonner & Ball Architecture/Environment
Hunter S. Thompson once said, "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." There's no doubt that the going is getting weird... but think about how you are prepared for the challenges ahead! Spatial thinking, holistic problem solving, and envisioning a compelling future—these are core skills and practices that you have and the world needs. Normative practices of design will continue to shift in response to global health and climate challenges, and you are well positioned to be right in the middle of it all. Stick with it and think of this all as a "difficult site" that demands ingenious design thinking.
Principal, DLR Group
CHEERS TO YOU ALL! You are all such strong people, giving up the end of your college experience. Being part of the Class of 2020 under these conditions is going to make you all closer, lifelong friends. More than anyone else will ever understand. You are (hopefully) the only class that will ever have this experience. You are ready to take on the world and prove that this experience has made you a better citizen. You will succeed more than we can imagine. I look forward to you joining our community of design professionals.
Cheers to you and may your successes start immediately. Travel together often and far. Take the world by storm, and show them you are the best to come in.
Similar to when a child is born early, "And though she be but little, she is fierce," you are sent away from school early, but you are going to succeed more than we can imagine.
Congrats and best wishes to you,
San Diego, California
President & CEO, Malick Infill Corp
I graduated with two master's degrees from WashU in 2009. With job prospects non-existent, I was forced to find my own way. Having invested years in my professional development, I wasn't willing to give up on architecture and urban design as a career path. More than 10 years later, I look back at my situation at graduation and am grateful I graduated during a recession. I now have my own design and development company. Had I been given a job out of school, I likely wouldn't have chosen this path. Remember, put yourself in a place where you have no option but to succeed, and you will surpass your expectations.
To my fellow WashU artists, architects, and creative minds,
Having had the pleasure and the honor to pursue my undergraduate and graduate studies at Washington University, I am aware of challenges, both intellectual and academic, required of your program. You are now approaching the successful conclusion of your exciting journey.
Allow me to congratulate you for your wonderful achievement. I want to tell you that you should feel nothing but pride in achieving your hard-earned goals. Your discoveries, projects, and theses are no less powerful than any others done prior, regardless of these exceptional times we live in. As a matter of fact, your success is to be credited more so now than in years past. This is the way I see it: In these exceptional times, the world needs exceptional leaders. The world needs you. Welcome!!!
Goran Maric, Alumni
BFA / MFA Washington U.
Brooklyn, New York
Senior Software Engineer, SmartAsset
Hello from New York, from an Art School Class of 2003 alumna. When I think of how to confront this moment we're all living through, especially from the perspective of a graduating senior, I reflect on some of the advice I've been given in difficult moments. One in particular stands out: I was a sophomore in 2001 when the planes hit the World Trade Center. Two days later in a dance comp class, we sat in a circle to talk about how we were doing. Our professor, David Marchant, encouraged us and said there's no right or wrong way to feel right now. You can be sad or confused; it's also ok if you look for escape and try to find joy in order to cope. Nearly 19 years later, I'm remembering and applying that same advice as we live through this pandemic. Laugh and cry with your loved ones. Wallow in sadness if it helps. We will get through this. Along the way do your best to be kind to yourself. Happy graduation, Class of 2020! The best is yet to come.
Assistant Professor & Art Ed Coordinator, Tennessee State University
To the Class of 2020,
Sending well wishes to you as this journey is changing in ways you probably never expected and then some! Life is and will always be in full force, moving you to act, grow, and become better with each new adventure. The education I received from WashU was more than enough to put me on the right track of self-discovery. Each decision I made post graduation led me closer to becoming a better person, educator, and creator.
Never stop dreaming, learning, growing, and finding your way. Once you find that spark that really gets you going, you'll see that each step was meant for you to embark on and experience. You are creators—so create the life you've always wanted and continue to authentically impact the world and those around you in ways that only you can imagine! I wish you all the best that life has to offer.
Blessings and peace in abundance.
Manager of Family Programs and Student Engagement, Smart Museum of Art
Dear friends and fellow artists,
I hope you're well and staying healthy and safe during this pandemic. You all have been faced with a task that is daunting but is made for artists. You're scrappy, you're creative, you can make things. Your craziest, most surreal ideas now fit perfectly with the times.
You have the chance to build a "DIY" semester—a post-apocalyptic Mad-Max kind of art school experience for yourselves. How can you build your own sort of utopia of friends and confidantes that lasts far longer than mid-June? I still meet once a year for "Reunion" with a group of friends from WashU's School of Art and their partners. Do it! Plan a date to reunite with your friends each year after you graduate.
How can you utilize your ingenuity to make the most of this very odd time? Adventure Playgrounds took off in England when mothers and kids turned bombed out buildings in WWI into playgrounds. How can we use calamity to create human connection?
You got this, you're an artist.
San Francisco, California
Software Engineer, Pinterest
Dear Class of 2020,
While now is an especially tough time for many people around the world, I can only imagine how it feels to have your final year abruptly cut short with many of the exciting year-end activities, including graduation, canceled.
I know you've been working extremely hard preparing for your year-end milestone (I remember spending many hours in the studio in preparation for our printmaking senior thesis show!), but please don't assume your work will go to waste! Now, more than ever, is the time to use those critical-thinking skills you've been developing and GET CREATIVE. If you can't have an in-person gallery show, figure out how to show your work online—create a video to present your work or do a live presentation over Zoom or Google Hangouts!
While it's easy to be frustrated by the situation, I challenge you to flip that on its head and think about how you can create opportunity in new ways during this time!
Stay safe and healthy—wishing you all the best!
Project Architect, Heitman Architects Inc.
Class of 2020, I'm mourning with you. My 15th reunion was also canceled this year, but building community with you is one way to reclaim what I lost. My BFA is in Sculpture & Film + Media Studies, & I also have a Master's of Architecture, so I love connecting with all Sam Fox students.
I know well wishes will only go so far in a time like this, so I'm going to try to give some really practical advice.
* Put photos of campus/classmates on your many screens, cuz visuals communicate! (I jazzed up my work-from-home monitors & love it.)
* Make sure to update WashU with your current/next address and contact info. This is the best way to connect with the WONDERFUL & SUPPORTIVE alumni community. We will be more eager to help you than ever.
* Use the Career Center. (One of my biggest fails!)
* See if there's an alumni professionals network in your area, great networking.
* Join professional organizations, some are free to start.
* Use all your resources & ask for help without shame!
Chairman, Philia Earth Limited
Dear Class of 2020,
This is a challenging year to graduate as our world faces a global pandemic of COVID-19. As architecture graduates, you have the talents and trainings to imagine and create spaces. The world requires architects who are able to think more creatively in re-imagining spatial environments to meet the paradigm shift of the way people work and live in the 21st Century. Climate change and un-equal development in the built environment require a lot of collaborative efforts to push the boundary of green architecture. In a difficult time like this, ask yourself what you can do to utilize your talents and trainings to create a healthier and greener built environment. I hope in the next decades you will be able to look back and take pride in your contributions to make our world a better place to live.
Kenneth K.Y. Poon
Chairman of Philia Earth Limited
St. Paul, Minnesota
Sr. Architectual Historian, 106 Group
Keep dreaming and keep making—you are creative problem-solvers, and you will change our world! As you enter the workforce, your first job may not be what you planned, but make the most of it. Each job will prepare you for the next one. Make time to create and connect. You never know where it may lead you. I've run into WashU alumni everywhere, whether on vacation and at the Y. We're here to support you, we're proud of you, and we can't wait to see what you'll do next!
I am SO sorry your final spring has been spent like this! If I can give you all any advice it would be this: Spend the summer together with your fellow friends/classmates. Hang out in St. Louis and make art or move together to the same city. Fifteen years after graduating I still work with and hang out with many of my fellow Sam Fox alumni and those lifelong friends ground you and inspire you to keep making art in all its many forms. After this is all over, use the alumni network in whatever city/town you end up in as well. I hear Austin's pretty great ;)
Good luck and stay safe!
Class of 2005
San Francisco, California
Dear Class of 2020,
I wanted to let you know that I'm thinking of you, even though we've never met! I can't imagine how tough this semester has been for you with the state of the world. Keep pursuing your goals even when it all feels impossible. As someone who graduated in the last economic downturn, I know it won't be easy, but you can do it. Help each other and stay in touch—you're part of a valuable network. Our hearts go out to you.
Allison Rinaldi (Class of 2009)
Corpus Christi, Texas
Curator, Rockport Center for the Arts
Hello from the Class of 2007! Congratulations on graduating from one of the best art schools in the country.
Your chosen career is so important during these types of crises. Art gives us hope, purpose, and meaning in our lives. As we are forced to be apart, it's art and creativity that keep us together as a community. And when this is all over, it'll be the artists who distill and make sense of the shared trauma of the COVID pandemic.
I graduated right before the Recession of 2008. I know that now is not an ideal economy to enter, but everyone I graduated with turned out okay. We're WashU bears, we are resilient.
To the Class of 2020:
Congratulations! Be proud of all of that you’ve accomplished, and celebrate this success in each and every way you can. The world feels unusually bleak these days, so claim this joy and pride. It’s yours. You’ve earned it. Revel in it.
You’re entering the post-collegiate world at such a strange and unusual time, and it’s going to take courage, resilience, and self-compassion to make this transition. Luckily, if you’ve learned only two things in art school, it’s to be resourceful and to think creatively. I can’t think of two better skills to have in a time of great uncertainty. You’ve got this.
Dear Graduating Class of 2020,
Though it might seem like this is not fair or you ask yourself why us, why our class?, just remember you are stronger and more resilient than you know. You're graduating during this troubling time will not be lost on your family, friends, colleagues, or future employers. It certainly is not lost on me. As a fellow alumnus, I know how committed each one of you are, and I have no doubt you will succeed in all your endeavors!
Blessings and Godspeed, Sam Fox School Class of 2020!
Senior Associate & DIrector of Lam Labs, Lam Partners
Hi! Congratulations! Mazel Tov! How this will impact your next steps is anyone's guess. When life gives you lemons... well, you know the rest. If I can impart one piece of wisdom, it is this: "Yes, and." Ripped from the playbook of improv, it means to take any opportunity and build on it. Never pass on something intriguing even if it's unexpected and may change previous assumptions. As a designer, this could be applied at the smallest scale of a detailing exercise, or taking a job or project that doesn't meet your previous expectations of what you'd be doing with your life. See above "lemons" for further information on that one! Always put a north arrow on your drawings. Light what you want to see. Support your community. Do good work.