Below is an edited version of my remarks.
A phrase that I love using as an educator and working artist is “former student/current colleague.” So with that, Good Morning Colleagues!
What does it mean to be colleagues? I put my nerd hat on (let’s face it, it never comes off), and dug into the etymology. The word itself means professionals working together towards a common goal.
I originally thought the word must come from the same root as “collaborate,” which would have been fodder or all kinds of waxing poetic this morning. But, I was wrong.
I learned that it descends from the Latin verb legare, which means “to choose or to send.” So as colleagues we have chosen to be in a community of artists.
And that brings me to my absolute favorite thing to be able to say about someone in our community, which is “that person is an artist who supports other artists.” I am happier to use this description more so than to say someone is talented, because talent alone is nothing.
I am humbled an honored to be among the first to welcome you into the profession. And I’d like to read you some of the rights and responsibilities.
Yes, there is an instruction manual.
Be an active participant in the success of the good people around you.
When I think about the people whose successes I celebrate the most, the for whom every time I hear they’re doing a show or film or have another publication I smile, it’s the artists who I know make a point to lift up those around them. The ones that I know that if I or anyone else fails in front of them, they will make a point to lift that person up and help them make their next attempt a success.
Please, be that person. Be the person in our community that is a reason that good things happen. Often, it’s as simple a matter of realizing that another colleague is the answer to someone else’s need. I can tell you that some of my most rewarding collaborations and professional relationships were the result of a third party saying to someone, “You know who would be good for this?” It takes very little to do that, but can mean so much to who you do that for. I have had amazing opportunities that started with someone I worked with years before tagging me in a social media post. It can take very little to open an opportunity up to a deserving person.
If I actually said the names of everyone who has helped me professionally and artistically, we would be here for hours and I would still wake up in the middle of the night next week realizing that I forgot someone important.
Please be the person who shows up when you can.
It is the very nature of our art that it is a thing you can’t do alone. That also means being there to see your colleague’s work.
Now that you’re out of class, make the choice to go see each other’s work, and to experience the work of as many artists, your larger world of colleagues, as you can. It is impossible to make it to everything, But we always remember who showed up for us, so be that person who shows up for others.
Create further opportunities not only from your successes, but from your failures.
You will find, much like I hope you did in class, that many of your greatest successes will spring from what you will originally perceive as failures. You will be lifted up by your colleagues.
Don’t pay it forward, pay it onwards.