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A 'tradition' continues

Students forget caps and gowns, wear what represents personalities

Posted: May 17, 2008 1:28 a.m.
Updated: July 18, 2008 5:03 a.m.

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With the sound of cheering parents, friends and alumni coming from the courtyard and balconies, nearly 400 students from the California Institute of the Arts received their degrees Friday evening during the 2008 graduation ceremony.

Out of the 392 graduating students from the Valencia art institute, 194 received a Bachelor of Fine Arts, while 198 took home their Master of Fine Arts.

With the drum beats from the African Storytellers and Dance Ensemble in the background, the art students walked to their seats, stopping to pose for photos, mingle with the audience and wave to the crowds of people.

Even though it was a graduation ceremony, hardly any of the graduates wore the traditional cap and gown. Instead, the vast majority wore eye-catching outfits, representing the individualistic nature of the Valencia institute.

For instance, one male graduate sported a black afro wig, while another female graduate wore a Minnie Mouse-inspired outfit. And with the evening's warm weather, others opted to go for a casual T-shirt and jeans look.

During the ceremony, Harry Belafonte, artist, producer and humanitarian, Hebert Blau, the first provost of CalArts, and Terry Riley, who launched the Minimalist movement in contemporary music, received honorary degrees and offered wisdom to the crowd of art students, faculty and their supporters.

Belafonte, who received a standing ovation as he walked to the artistically-decorated stage to speak, explained the purpose of artists, noting that it is not about winning awards, but about inspiring others.

CalArts President Steven Lavine, who noted that he wanted to keep his address "brief and cheery," gave an optimistic speech, inspiring the students to help each other and remember their school in the future.

"I can't tell you how proud we are of you," he told the crowd of cheering students.

Before the ceremony, graduate Michael Browne, who studied photography at CalArts, said he was able to become socially conscious as a result of his years at CalArts and is now able to "apply creativity to problem- solving."

After graduation, Browne, a Burbank native, plans to continue his involvement with Just Knowledge, a nonprofit organization he founded, which works with the Los Angeles Police Department to navigate criminals through the system.

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