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.
It was a very different time when I graduated in 1965, and it's hard to imagine what you are going through now, but I want to encourage you to keep on creating. Creating has uplifted me in so many ways and given me the inspiration to keep going. I remember times when I'd come home from my 9 to 5 job exhausted and would pick up my brush and get a whole new life. So don't let the current situation get you down. Pick up that brush or chisel or brayer or whatever you use and get renewed. We'll all get through this together and art will contribute to that in a big way.
Congratulations to all of you for getting this far. Keep on keeping on and stay safe.
My painting is called "Six Feet."
Brooklyn, New York
Events & Space Use Manager, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity
Be flexible! I knew making art would be hard, but I also knew that finding a job would be key (I could eat! Pay the rent! Go out sometimes!). My biggest piece of advice is to TALK TO PEOPLE! This is how you build your community. It can also be how you get really interesting jobs. I talked to a neighbor in NYC and ended up managing the office of the oldest printmaking studio in the country. From there, I kept in touch with one of the artists and worked for him. Then I worked for his dealer and became the director of her gallery for 18 years. Now I work managing all kinds of cultural events at St. Ann's like The Moth, book talks with Zadie Smith, Mona Eltahawy, DeRay Mckesson, and Steven King, concerts with Patti Smith, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, and theater projects with Theater of War. I love the work I do, and guess what—I still make art. I show sometimes and even sell sometimes! Keep going, but keep talking, too!
Sam Fox and I graduated in 1951!!! That year I was awarded the John T. Milliken Travel Scholarship, and Sam continued to excel in business and contribute to WashU. I feel it is important to realize that your education, along with your endeavors, were made possible primarily because of Sam Fox... He made 'things' happen! I am so sorry that you will not experience the usual graduation ceremony. It is certainly a major disappointment! However, you will be extremely proud to be a graduate of WashU.
Charlotte Obst Barbaresi
Brooklyn, New York
Artists have a "Sense of Invention," and today, need as well a philosophy of "Expecting the Unexpected!" As a 1965 WashU graduate with a BFA in painting, I recommend remaining open to new technology and adapting to re-education to develop new skills. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to study U4ia, a CAD program originally developed for aeronautical texture mapping (and also, in conjunction, Photoshop) in order to utilize these skills towards a career in textile print design! As an offshoot idea, I stacked up in CAD programs my ink drawings of wild plants from the Hawthorne Conservation Area to create, in gouache watercolor, a new approach towards paintings, which to my surprise, were juried into exhibitions at The State Capital in Pennsylvania, The Watercolor Honor Society in Springfield, The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, and Salmagundi, in New York City.
Best of luck to Washington University graduates!
New York, New York
I live in New York City and have been told one of the epicenters of COVID-19. Although I am homebound now and will be for some time, my open window supplies the laughs of children playing. Be it in their secured backyards, it is a comfort. It makes me smile when often we do not these days. Birds chirp, kids laugh, I have turned off CNN. A new generation is starting despite this little hiccup, and we have a chance for a fresh start. Breath, relax, and look forward to the challenges you will have to face. If not for yourself, then for all of us. Cherish your education: It is so important.
We will all have to make changes in our lives, and I am confident that you will make the right ones. I am counting on it. Congratulations! We will be able to celebrate together soon. Until then, listen out your window, and you will hear the future: It is yours to define.
Brooklyn, New York
After many hours and sleepless nights learning to design buildings, spaces, and cities, it's now time to focus on designing your career. The education I received at WashU prepared me for life well beyond the corners of the profession. It's time to leverage your imagination and confidence to define your own outcome. Survival instigates entrepreneurship, and now is the time to revel in the opportunity in front of you. Spend your time wisely, invest in yourself, and take risks. At the end of the day, luck is a skill.
It’s such a bummer not to be able to finish your last semester on the amazing WashU campus this spring. It’s a great loss, and I grieve for you, with you. Know, however, how lucky you are to be an artist. Being an artist and enjoying that will provide great solace your whole life. As you know from school projects, there is no one right solution. Most important is that you be yourself, use what you have, both inside and beside you, to make something that solves the problem, that approaches pleasing you. If it fails to do what you need it to, change it to make it better. That’s what an artist does.
Communicate with your colleagues, and your faculty mentors if that works for you. Use them and work on your own while remembering what you have learned. It’s the beginning of your life’s practice, which will always require that you do that. Then learn more.
Welcome to the strong community of WU alumni who are all over the map with what we have done with our educations. Congrats!
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.
New York, New York
Associate Designer, Sarankco
While it was nontraditional, congrats to the Class of 2020 on graduating! Finishing senior year from quarantine is just further showing how your class can overcome challenges. I have faith that you all will come out of this crisis both as stronger people and better artists! People will need art more than ever during this time, so take advantage of your new skills! Lots of love from the Class of 2018.
Professor, Norwalk Community College
I think that artists are the most fortunate people in the world; never bored; always engaged. We are free to think whatever we want to think. Art is an endless dialogue that traverses time and geography. My conversation with my work and others has continued over 50 years. I wake up looking forward to what I will see, learn, and produce tomorrow.
You are so lucky to be at the beginning of this wonderful journey.
Maplewood, New Jersey
Fine Arts Professor, Seton Hall University
Dear Sam Fox Class of 2020,
Stay healthy and I hope your loved ones are safe.
I'm sure many of you are unimaginably frustrated and your dreams feel like they have gone astray. But I am confident that all of you will rise, stare down, and overcome all of the challenges presented during this unprecedented moment in history. The world will be profoundly different at the end of this saga and you, as the first artists and visionaries of a new generation, will define and shape our next steps.
Hang on and charge forward.
Prof. Moss Freedman
Fine Arts instructor, Seton Hall University
Wash U. MFA 94
New Canaan, Connecticut
Architecture is a profession that can be practiced well into your 80s and beyond. We were taught to believe that tomorrow would be better than today. So think of the coronavirus as a terrifying epic storm that, although seemingly bleak and hopeless, can build character, making you a stronger, more caring, and thoughtful person. That was my experience when my architectural career was interrupted after graduation, and I was drafted into the army to serve two years in the Korean War.
The architecture curriculum is fraught with creative and physical challenges. If you made it to graduation, you probably have what it takes to be an architect. It's a long journey, but one you will never regret taking.
Alan Eliot Goldberg BA '54
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!
Partner, 1/1 Studio
Dear Class of 2020,
I can only imagine how disheartening it must be for you to have your final semester and graduation festivities so abruptly cut short in these unprecedented times. And I am sorry for your loss. Please take comfort in knowing that it always feels too soon to leave the Washington University community, regardless of circumstance.
Let me have the honor of being one of the first to welcome you to the community of architecture and the fine arts. You have earned a place in this community by virtue of your dedication and talent. I heartily and sincerely congratulate you.
Having graduated during a recession myself, I know the world can look dauntingly difficult right now. No doubt you will doubt yourself. But know that you have the talent and the education to succeed. Hold your beliefs steady in your heart and take action without fear of failing. This is but a brief moment in time. It just so happens it is your time. There is much to be done!
Lambertville, New Jersey
Publisher, Art and Architecture, Princeton University Press
It can be challenging coming out of college at any time. There isn't always a clear path to the next thing, no matter the world's circumstances. But artists and visual thinkers are more able than many to create or forge their own paths, rather than follow existing ones. Times of major transition can also present new opportunities, ways of thinking, and ways of being in the world. The world needs these new approaches now more than ever. If this seems daunting, take small steps. A lot of small steps equal a route, and a route is built over a duration of time.
When I graduated no one could have told me where I'd be in five years. It was a field, book publishing, with which I was only vaguely familiar. I did not land here right away, the process took four years, and began much earlier, before I was even aware of it. You are already on your way. Congratulations, graduates—we welcome and need your energy, spirit, innovation, and dedication, now more than ever.
Owner, Leaf Design Associates
I graduated in 1980 from the School of Architecture (and again in 1983 with a master's degree) and was planning to attend our 40th reunion in April. I am so disappointed to not see WashU, as it would have been my first time in 30 years. So I can't imagine the disappointment all of you graduates are feeling, but I do have a few words of ADVICE:
1. Take chances with your life.
2. Take chances with your architecture career.
3. Be bold.
4. Work hard AND play hard.
5. Recognize the key moments in your life—"decision points"—if you can. These are the doors to new phases.
6. Find someone to love, a "partner" to share your life and make decisions with.
7. This is a crazy and surreal time not just for you, but for EVERYONE in the entire world, of any age, and experience in any country. As with all things, this, too, shall pass...
8. When you are on the other side of this experience, go give 'em hell!
Best to all!
Brooklyn, New York
Congratulations! I was so impressed by the work I saw when I was last at WashU for my 45th reunion. I was a painting major in 1973 with an eye toward becoming a costume designer. WashU encouraged my work with the Drama Department as well as on my painting. I'm happy to say that 44 years later I am still a costume designer, and I still enjoy painting! I've been able to make a living while considering myself an artist. I encourage all of you to continue being creative in this time of the plague. It, too, will pass, and you may find something within yourselves that you can express and help heal the world. Art can change hearts and minds. I've witnessed it and believe you can be the agents for hope and change as well. I wish you all good luck and hope you will find and live your dreams.
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.
My dad, my cousin, and I were all architecture grads from WashU. John Forgy became a partner of the Wittenberg, Deloney, and Davidson firm in Arkansas. I worked for his and another firm, Modulation Designs in Massachusetts. Later, I went another direction and homeschooled my sons for 13 years. Afterwards, I had a construction-related job I enjoyed very much. Allison Conley is currently leading the design team of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture for the Al Wasl Plaza, the center of the Dubai Expo 2020 masterplan. I also didn't get to attend my graduation ceremony. A little sad but there were exciting days ahead with my new job. Also, WashU's excellent training and reputation still remained with me. Congratulations.
New Woodstock, New York
Principal & Creative Director, WilliamPadgettDesign
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!!!
People will always remember this year. You will always remember this year. How you will remember it will be based on what you did this year and beyond.
I can tell you that you will get through this rough part of the road and be successful. How? The secret is your attitude! Always be a Perverse Optimist (thx Tibor). Embrace change. Treat all problems as opportunities. Help save the planet and all of its inhabitants. Work with strong teams. See failures as tools for learning. Practice lifelong learning. Share and teach what you have learned. Be happy: It is more contagious than this damn virus.
Also: Do what you love, love what you do. It is a very simple and balanced philosophy that allows to you never really have to "work" a day in your life! Plus you will work twice as hard because of it.
Change starts with each of you. Your class can be the catalyst for massive shifts that will determine the future of our species.
in bocca del lupo,
New York, New York
In the past couple of weeks, I have found myself referring back to times at Sam Fox much more than I ever thought I would. From creating a virtual studio to mimic days at Sam Fox, to referencing a reading I learned in a class, to pushing myself like I know one of my professors would have, I have never been more grateful for the community and impact WashU and Sam Fox had on me.
Keep that momentum going for yourselves. The value of WashU and Sam Fox transcends your physical studio space, the WashU campus, and St. Louis itself. Leverage the community around you and the tools you've been given to allow yourself to push your work and the limits of your work even farther than it would have gone during the last days of a "regular" semester. Push your classmates and professors with the power of what you can produce in this time. I think you will all surprise yourselves with what you find is possible.
Oh, and remember. Getting dressed each day is power in itself (fashion design alum here).
ODE to WUSTL Art Class of 2020
Color, shape, type, art, design,
Your art school years at Fox were fine
You learned to work with form and line
And turn your projects in on time
Unique artists at Museum
Hot exhibits, got to see ‘em
Learning all about art history
Helped explain some artworks’ mystery
Long walks out in Forest Park
Bixby, Kemper, after dark
A secret most art students know
is night life in the studio;
sharing treats, ideas and winks
opinions, dancing, laughs and clinks
Staying up for nights each week
preparing work for your critique
and if a crit gave you the blues,
Forgetaboutit with Ted Drewes!
LOLs and OMGs
and BFFs at galleries
The friends you made, a few’s enough
May help you out when life gets tough
Please know that art alumni care
of disappointment that you bear
it’s creativity we share
I hope you’ll get your work “out there”
Go Illustrate, or Animate
Paint that portrait now, don’t wait!
Design an outfit so unique
to be a hit at fashion week
and Photograph so we can see
your brand of creativity
Or focus on Typography
or Etching or Lithography
or Sculpture, Book arts, Collagraph
a Comic strip that makes us laugh
Render plans for buildings grand
structures, houses, all on land
that shows the earth you understand
with fauna, flowers in a range
to help diminish climate change
Be sure to get your own website
that folks can look at day and night
The world right now is open to
Creative people from WashU
So get some paper, pen or pad
and draw your cap, cause you’re a grad!
Congratulations Class of 2020!
©Karen E. Roehr, MFA ’84
Olin Fellow in Art
Creator of Gymratz
My heart goes out to all of you who have had your college experience cut short. Yet this unprecedented moment may help you truly cherish all of your amazing opportunities over the past years at WashU. In hindsight, I didn't fully value my time there and see what a privilege it was until long after I graduated. As you go forward, remember: Art creates change, art connects hearts, art heals!
Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
You are right to grieve; to be upset about what you're missing; to mourn the loss of the experiences you were envisioning. Graduation is one of those rare, beautiful, important moments when we, as a culture, stop and formally recognize—a signifier of your transition from one part of your life to the next. It is special. And while the ceremonies may be different or delayed for you, it is no less significant. Those who have supported you to this point of celebration are incredibly proud of you. This includes all of the alumni that preceded you. We are very proud and will celebrate with you from afar. Keep in mind, you are about to enter a global network of creatives that you can count on for support. My winding journey has taken me into art and design higher education administration. At my institution, I work with several professors who are also alumni—spanning at least three decades. Your WashU family will always be there for you. Congratulations and hang in there.
Director, Operations, JLL
Graduation in the time of COVID19—what a mixed bag of emotions you must have!
It's a test of resiliency for both institutions and individuals, but I know you all are prepared.
Your work at the WashU School of Architecture has demonstrated your ability to deal with the vague, unknown, and even the unknowable, in many creative and thoughtful ways.
You are ready for the world, and it needs you now more than ever!
Congratulations! Go forth, do good work, and wash your hands.
Although the situation we're in now is unprecedented, soon you'll be out in the workforce. Value yourself. Wages haven't gone up in over a decade so don't accept initial low offers which will put you in a financial struggle for years. Advocate for yourself and the profession—never work for free. Don't deify the old guard; know that the future lies in you and your ideas.
New York, New York
Weiss/Manfredi Architecture Landscape Urbanism
Dear Class of 2020,
I'm sure this has been a challenging time for you, your family, friends, and colleagues. It has really been a difficult time for all of us, as we constantly adjust to this new, surreal reality. However, we are, like you all, still busy at work, drawing from our home desks and kitchen tables. We are continuing to collaborate, but at a distance.
These are far from ordinary times. The rapid spread of this virus has thrown everyday life into a fragile and delicate balance. But this won't last forever.
We look forward to the day when we can, once again, throw open the doors of our studios and welcome people back inside. In the meantime, stay safe, keep connected, and take care of one another. Be kind. Be generous. And, above all, be a good citizen.
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.
Art Specialist, Boston Public Schools
You have created, you have grown, and now you begin again, upside down, backwards, and stronger than ever. Remember that your art education is all about problem-solving. There is nothing you can't figure out, work your way through, and make something new out of. You are new, your community is new, and your world will be new. Be birthed into what will be a blinding light of new opportunity and life. Congratulations.