Ryman Arts Community Celebrates the Class of 2020 Virtually

By: Marilyn Nguyen (Ryman ’11), Development Coordinator

Every year, Ryman Arts celebrates the success of our students through a culminating graduation ceremony and student artwork exhibition. Because we were unable to gather in person this year, we took our graduation ceremony online. The Ryman Arts 2020 graduation ceremony was held on YouTube Live on July 30. We had over 150 households join in the virtual gathering to celebrate the class of 2020!

The graduation ceremony began with messages from Education Manager Rebecca Tuynman on the campus of Cal State Fullerton and Site and Outreach Coordinator Ana Garcia at Otis College of Art and Design. Addressing the graduates, Ana exclaimed, “I’m here at Otis College where most of you last saw me. I’m so excited and happy to celebrate you today!”

Watching graduation at home from her iPad, graduate Mary Zou (Ryman ‘20) commented: “I felt that it was safe and comfortable to join the virtual graduation on YouTube Live…I believe it was the best choice we had that allowed us to communicate with the people we enjoyed being with... I miss the classes…[and] all the [students] who were part of the program with me. I really hope that I will get a chance in the future to go back and say hi.”

Our keynote speaker for the evening was Artivist Nikkolas Smith, an artist and illustrator who encouraged our graduates to use their art and their unique perspectives to inspire others to create meaningful, positive change.

Scattered through the graduation ceremony were words from our graduates Madison Plotkin, Ariel Mauvais, Nathan Nam, Justine Frias, Kohle Jackson, Jacky Chang, and Miguelangel Martinez.

“The graduation was quite fun and emotional…Students were wonderful, all spoke beautifully. I especially enjoyed the chat and seeing everyone engage with each other there,” remarked Master Teaching Artist Holly Boruck.

Graduate Jacky Chang (Ryman ’20) thanks Ryman Arts faculty and Teaching Assistants who were integral to her artistic journey.

Graduate Nathan Nam (Ryman ’20) is grateful to have befriended many dedicated young artists like him.

At the heart of graduation were our 2020 graduates. We celebrated each graduate by announcing their names as each name was displayed on the screen.

Recognition of graduate Paul Dela Cruz (Ryman ’20), the recipient of this year’s Hani El-Masri Student Artist Award

Alonzo Venegas, a parent of graduate Gabriela Venegas (Ryman ’20) shared, “Since we received the notice of the event, we were looking forward to it, and it gave us yet another opportunity to spend time together and celebrate Gaby’s graduation from Ryman Arts. She truly enjoyed the time and experiences throughout the three sessions, as [she grew] as an artist and as a person. The event was a lot of fun. We got together at home and connected on the big screen for everyone to enjoy the presentations and speeches. Our favorite part was the slide show with all the pictures! And of course, seeing Gaby’s picture on the screen.”

We also were grateful to be able to share many messages of congratulations from our board members, faculty, teaching assistants, and Ryman Arts supporters after the recognition of graduates.

Board member Fri Forjindam

Teaching assistant Christine Marcelle (Ryman ’11) exclaimed, “It was a real treat to see so many students and their families chime in to the interactive chat alongside the Ryman Arts staff and faculty!…There were so many happy and funny moments in the stream and you could really feel the joy and pride emanating amongst the viewers. It was especially wonderful to see the board members, faculty, staff, and Nikkolas congratulate all the students on their journey with Ryman Arts! The YouTube live stream was a wonderful idea to keep us all together from a distance!”

We received great responses from our community who celebrated graduation with us! Board member Michelle Lund stated, “That was a great success! I think it was a great way to do it on this day and time. All the students got to see how loved they are! Congratulations on creativity."

Master Teaching Artist Robin Palanker also shared, “Thank you for the most beautiful and moving 2020 graduation. All of you did such a remarkable job, you made the event even more memorable. Every part of the production was spot-on, the presentations, the photos, even the music. From start to finish, the structure worked: it was both thoughtful and seamlessly made. Ryman Arts continues to be a leader, especially during difficult times.”

Executive Director Diane Brigham reflected, “Historically, our annual graduation ceremonies have been lively celebrations with parents, educators, and community members all joining in to applaud the accomplishments of Ryman Arts students. While this year is very different, our virtual graduation, at its core, became an even more important celebration. Despite the challenges we all face together, I was inspired by the gratitude of the student speakers, the passion for using art for good voiced by our guest speaker artist Nikkolas Smith, and the enthusiastic encouragement from families and peers shared throughout the online event.”

A big thank you to everyone who helped made our online graduation possible, especially our video editor, alumna Martha Fernandez-Grijalva (Ryman ’13) who felt, “Working on the Ryman Arts graduation video was very special because I was able to see first-hand the beautiful culmination of the hard work all of the talented high school students had done over their semesters at Ryman Arts…It felt great to be a part of the Ryman Arts team again and to help bring the students, faculty, and staff together for such a special celebration.”

We are very grateful for the support from our community and to be able to celebrate our 2020 graduates!

Continue the celebration by viewing the online 2020 Student Art Exhibition.