A History of Land by Amanda C. Sweet

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Graduation Speaker: Piper Loyd, Graduate Student

Submitted on June 20, 2020 - 4:03pm
Piper Loyd
Piper Loyd

Piper Loyd received her Master of Design degree in June 2020. She was the graduate student speaker for the School's virtual Graduation Celebration 2020. Below is the text of her speech.

To my fellow classmates, to the class of 2020, designers, artists plus art historians — congratulations. What a year to graduate. Under normal circumstances, our degrees, this accomplishment, would be a feat. And yet, here we are amidst civil unrest, ongoing racial injustices, and a global pandemic.

We face a great deal of uncertainty.

Now, more than ever, we need creative expression, creative problem solving, and creative thinking. We need designers, artists, and art historians.

With everything happening in the world, I haven't spent much time thinking about the fact that I'm graduating, that we're graduating. But recently, I cleaned out my desk in the MDes studio on the third floor of the Art Building. I had been thinking of it in this very logistical way — pack my books, make piles of the ones I've borrowed, take down all the post-its and photos and posters collected over three years. And then when we turned onto the UW campus, I was overcome with emotion.

Like you, I was changed within these walls.

This will likely surprise no one, but I cried. A lot. I cried as I scanned my keycard and heard the familiar click of the door. I cried seeing the poster from the last show at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. I cried seeing nearly empty bulletin boards in the stairwells, and I cried because those three flights of stairs still make me really, really winded.

I stood at my desk, my heart still pounding from the stairs, and I smiled remembering why I wrote certain notes taped to my desk — one said, "small victories." Another said, "Everything starts as gibberish." I found drafts of assignments with scribbles and sketches from critiques. In many ways, I cherish these more than the final outcomes. They chronicle the process, and I remember how far I've come. I remember how important the process is. I remember how important critique is, even though I still get nervous — palms sweating — when I put work on the wall.

When I left the studio, I walked through the third-floor hallways, thankful for the ebb and flow of paintings and drawings, how they would change over the course of a quarter and then start all over again. I walked through the second-floor design hallway and noticed things I hadn't before, even though they weren't new. I got back to the first floor, and I laughed picturing Justin Lund and Cal Dobrzynski doing an impromptu interpretive dance to "a whole new world" outside 122.

Despite the sadness I felt, and still feel, over the fact that I couldn't pop my head into Ann's office, or bump into Karen pushing her cart full of everything you might ever possibly need, or see Annabelle carrying a cup of tea in the hallway, I also felt so incredibly grateful for a community that has supported me and my classmates no matter the situation.

Although it can feel odd to celebrate with the world around us so unsteady (I know I certainly feel uneasy), please take the time to celebrate. Be proud of this huge accomplishment. Share the love and the passion you have with others. Teach! Continue to tell stories in whatever medium is yours. We need stories. We need beauty. We need expressions of anger. We need honesty and rawness and compassion. We need the joy brought from a clever work of art or a delightful design.

Instead of returning to "normal" — what we thought was normal — let us, the class of 2020, question the status quo and use these terrible circumstances as constraints to grow stronger and create a better future.

University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design: thank you for this opportunity. Class of 2020, again, congratulations.

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