Award-winning writer, director and artist John Waters entered the screen, and situated himself behind a lectern, wearing a mask and gloves, a clear reference of the times amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Dressed in graduation regalia, Waters spoke in front of a green screen Wednesday afternoon from the comfort of his Baltimore home in a pre-recorded commencement ceremony, addressing the Class of 2020 at New York’s School of Visual Arts.
The 45th commencement for the art and design college, held annually at Radio Music City Hall in New York City, was rendered an online affair as the ongoing health crisis prevented in-person, end-of-year celebrations from taking place.
In the midst of the uncertainty of a global pandemic that has upended all walks of life, Waters delivered remarks filled with witty — and at times salacious — humor. No topic was off-limits for Waters, who urged the graduates to find inspiration in everything, even suggesting photo-ops inspired by the upcoming presidential election.
Speaking to the state of current events, Waters referred to nurses as “the new Marvel heroes who deserve our honorary degrees,” doctors as reality stars, Amazon workers as supermodels and delivery people as “NFL Super Bowl champions.”
As the pandemic continues, Waters told graduates to embrace the future and whatever may come with it.
“You’ll never walk alone. Besides, you’re artists and there were never any real jobs awaiting you in the workforce anyway, were there – even before this pandemic," Waters joked. "So what’s with all the moaning?
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“Artists are magicians,” Waters continued. “You see what others cannot, have a secret language, the power to make others follow, a dress code all your own and you can change history with one ludicrous idea. Plus, price-fixing is legal in your field. Count your artsy blessings and march on.”
Waters advised the future fashion designers, animators and curators to be flexible and open to new views in all their creative pursuits.
“Corona used to be only a beer, remember?” he quipped.
Waters finished his remarks by referring to the graduates as “COVID-19 commandos” who are, in fact, “the cure” to a tumultuous time in the country.
“But while you’re still young, maybe it’s time to become a virus yourself,” Waters said. “A good kind of virus, one fueled by the years of hard work you put in at the incubator known as the School of Visual Arts. An asymptomatic intellectual flu that stealthily infects the closed minded, strikes those who judges others first but never themselves.