Foundersland: “Graduation – The Face of Diversity, The Journey to Achievement”

By Marty Sklar – Founder, Past President, Chairman of Leadership Council

My big Random House-Webster's desk dictionary is almost too heavy to lift, but I still prefer my old habits – even if the Google definition is almost identical (wonder where Google got theirs?).

In this case, I was looking up the definition of “graduate” in the bright afterglow of the Ryman Arts annual event on Thursday, May 26. “To receive a degree or diploma on completing a course of study” – the agreed upon definition by Webster’s and Google – is on point, but does not nearly tell the whole story.

From a Ryman Arts standpoint, “the story” was truly told through a snapshot of things we saw and things we heard at our 2016 Graduation Ceremony. Here are a few of the things I especially noted:

  • Five Hundred (500!) family, friends and graduates packed The Cloud Room at The Reef – the arts building on South Broadway in Los Angeles where our Ryman Arts offices are now located, to honor our 177 graduates for 2016. When individual student graduate names were called, it was “rock star” time – time to celebrate and honor by taking those family photos, always to be treasured in the future.

  • It mattered not whether the graduate was from our Sunday program at Otis College of Art & Design, or the Saturday program at California State University, Fullerton. Every student received the same recognition – and that meant many things to student, family and friends, including:
  • Achievement in the face of healthy competition from the cream of Southern California high school art talent.
  • Persistence despite the challenges of time, family and school commitments.
  • A step into the future. For many, that step will be onto a college campus – perhaps becoming the first in their family to achieve that opportunity.
  • Memories of the meaningful send-off by so many – including Ryman Arts President Wayne Hunt and Board members Marshall Ayers, Eddie Newquist and Alumni Representative Christina Saucedo; and of course, Executive Director Diane Brigham and Rebecca Tuynman, Ryman Arts Education Manager.
  • The inspirational words of James Takata, Ryman Arts ‘95. Not only is James’ journey in the arts a meaningful work of art; it was a generational treat to have James’ father, spouse and two beautiful young daughters joining Dad for the event.

  • The affection/thanks/appreciation the graduates showed for their Ryman Arts teachers, who came to honor their students.

  • The so-meaningful essays about their Ryman Arts experience read by MacKenzie Godinez of Fullerton Union High School and Marian Huang of Rowland High School – summarizing   special and positive views of their Ryman experiences.

  • And the “proof of the pudding” – the display of student art on the walls of the 11th floor corridors at The Reef.  I distilled this part of the evening into one word: spectacular! (Don’t miss it – this gallery-quality display of Ryman Arts student work will remain viewable during weekdays through June 24 at The Reef.)

As I watched the graduates of 2016 coming on stage to receive their certificates – admiring the spectacle and variety of teen fashions passing by – I looked out at the audience of 500 again, realizing that I was seeing the face of Southern California smiling and cheering back at those graduates. The diversity I saw – in every definition of that word – is once again an inspiration to me. No wonder that Ryman Arts graduates like James Takata and Christine Saucedo have begun their “Journey of Achievement” at Ryman Arts, and have gone on to become part of the “Community of Artists” -- inspired by our teachers and staff  -- who now make their living and life through dedication to the arts of Southern California. It’s who we are, and what so many of our graduates have become.