Commencement 2016 Student Address
by: Michelle Domanowski, Art '16
Class of 2016,
I’ve always felt very lucky to be here at Cornish. I still feel lucky. To most of the world, this school is a luxury. We are a luxury. We see it, time and time again, when the budget gets tight, the arts get cut. So, what does that mean for us? What does it mean for the people for whom luxury is a necessity?
For me, it meant a beginning of doubt. I spent my freshman year waiting for any telltale sign that I was not an artist. I kept waiting for a comment, a bad grade—anything, really, that would tell me this was not what I was meant to do. In hindsight, I don’t think I was waiting—I was hoping . What a relief it would be, I thought, to be told this wasn’t my field, that I would never make it, that I should switch to a more conventional major. I would imagine coming home and saying, “At least I tried.” That’s what I would tell everyone. “At least I tried.” …Is this not the anthem of all those who have given up?
Well, I never got that telltale sign. No one ever told me to drop out. No one ever said I was a failure, that I was never going to succeed. That isn’t to say there weren’t hints. That isn’t to say there weren’t Facebook friends graduating from nursing programs, that there weren’t siblings already starting to settle into cushy jobs, that there weren’t classmates who didn’t like my work. There was all of that and more. All of these hints accumulated into one big sign that read, “Get out now while you’re still young.” Everyday, before any of my classes had even started, I had to accomplish something that took more courage than the most personal, revealing art project—I had to remake the decision that I wanted to be an artist.
With the way our society is set up now, the arts require much more than creativity and innovation. It takes guts to be an artist. To look society in the face and declare, “We are not a luxury!”—that takes guts. To ignore a sign the rest of the world is reading—that takes guts. When I think of what it means to be a Cornish student, I can think of only one definition that unifies us: everyday, for the past four years, we’ve all had the guts to say, “I’m gonna keep trying.” In the face of discouragement, in the face of embarrassment, failure, exhaustion, we’ve all had the guts to continue saying, “I’m gonna keep trying.” Whether we had a bad critique, struggled with memorizing lines, were stressed out over ESP, didn’t do our best at the CDT audition, or didn’t get any HS assignments done because we were too busy teching all weekend—through all of this, we said, “I’m gonna keep trying.” …Is this not the anthem of all those who eventually find success?
I don’t know how many of us will continue practicing art in the future. As someone who came to Cornish as a painter and who is leaving as a playwright, I am the last person to judge sudden career changes. The only thing I can safely say is that while we were here, we kept trying. In spite of the warning signs, we kept trying. We were gutsy people surrounded by other gutsy people. We were lucky. We are very, very lucky. Thank you.
Although Ben Vereen was scheduled to give the Commencement Address (as shown in the program), he was unable to speak that day due to a short bout of flu. In his place, the Commencement Address was given by Pete Docter of Pixar. Cornish College of the Arts would like to thank both gentlemen for their kind wishes and inspiring words to our students.