Renowned visual artist Lorna Simpson to deliver University of the Arts’ Commencement address, receive Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts

Renowned visual artist Lorna Simpson to deliver University of the Arts’ Commencement address, receive Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts

University of the Arts Philadelphia

Lorna Simpson. Photo: James Wang.

May 2, 2018
Renowned visual artist Lorna Simpson to deliver University of the Arts’ Commencement address, receive Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts
Lionsgate TV Chairman Kevin Beggs, Alfred West (chairman of financial services firm SEI/founder of West Collection of contemporary art) will also receive honorary degrees
May 10, 2018, 10:30am
Merriam Theater
250 S Broad St
19102 Philadelphia PA
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Acclaimed visual artist Lorna Simpson will receive an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts (HDFA) degree and deliver an address to graduating students at the University of the Arts’ 140th Commencement ceremony in Philadelphia on May 10, 2018.

Also being recognized with honorary degrees will be Alfred P. West, Jr., founder, chairman & CEO of SEI, a financial services company that manages or administers 861 billion USD in assets, and founder of the West Collection of contemporary art; and Kevin L. Beggs, chairman of Lionsgate Television Group. Beggs will also deliver an address to students. 

“We are thrilled to honor these individuals who have made such significant impacts on the arts,” said UArts President & CEO David Yager. “Lorna Simpson is one of the most compelling and original artists of her generation, a risk-taker whose work continues to challenge the most difficult social and cultural issues. She is an extraordinary role model for the next generation of artistic and cultural leaders.”

Simpson’s signature style is “photo-text,” in which graphic text is inserted into studio-like portraiture to bring new conceptual meaning into the work. In 1990, she became the first African-American woman to exhibit at the Venice Biennale. In the same year, she had one-woman exhibitions at several major museums, including the Denver Art Museum, the Portland Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Her name has become synonymous with photo-text artworks that confront and challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history and memory, generally related to the perception of African-American women within American culture.

By the 2000s Simpson had started exploring the medium of video installations. In 2007, her work was featured in a 20-year retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art. In 2016 she created the album artwork for Black America Again by Common. During the same year, she was featured in the book In the Company of Women, Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs.

The second distinguished recipient of an honorary doctor of Fine Arts degree is Alfred P. West, Jr. The West Collection of contemporary art features 3,100 compelling works by more than 700 leading international artists. At any given time 1,500 works are installed at the SEI Corporate Campus in suburban Philadelphia, and other works are displayed in rotating exhibitions at the nearby West Collection Warehouse. Works have been loaned for exhibitions to museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Tate Modern.

Also receiving an HDFA and delivering a Commencement address is Kevin L. Beggs, chairman of Lionsgate Television Group, creators of 90 hit shows on more than 40 networks, including AMC’s Mad Men, Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, CMT’s Nashville, Hulu’s Casual, Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and Weeds, and many more. 

The University of the Arts’ joyous ceremony, featuring performances by its award winning School of Music ensembles, will be streamed live at

Founded in 1876, the University of the Arts is the only college of the arts in the United States that that allows its students to collaborate across the visual, performing, and media arts, design, and writing. A rigorous and well-rounded curriculum prepares its 1,900 undergraduate and graduate students to become innovative leaders, whether in a specific artistic discipline or by applying their creative educations to virtually any career. UArts’ campus is located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts, in one of the nation’s most culturally vibrant cities.

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May 2, 2018

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