June 30, 2017
Grafton Nunes was one of three members of the CIA family to be honored June 29 by the Cleveland Arts Prize. Along with Sarah Kabot (Drawing faculty) and Christi Birchfield ('06), who received visual arts awards, Grafton was honored with the Robert P. Bergman prize.
First of all, I sincerely thank the Cleveland Arts Prize and its jurors for this very special honor. Seven years ago, almost to the day, I arrived in Cleveland to assume my role as President of the Cleveland Institute of Art. The night I arrived, I attended the 2010 Cleveland Arts Prize ceremony. When I saw the wonderful work done by the winners, heard the heart-warming tributes and felt the aura of affection and support for the arts in this very same theater, I knew I had moved to the right city.
Many that night talked of Robert Bergman, of his vitality, of his love for the arts and artists, and his contributions to the city’s cultural life, and I thought “Now he’s a role model.” To receive this award bearing his name is very emotionally gratifying to me.
I accept this award recognizing that it honors the Cleveland Institute of Art as much as it recognizes me, if not more so. For 135 years, CIA has attracted talented teachers and students to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, creating art and designs that anchored the artistic life and creative economy of the region. All these faculty and graduates enhanced the quality of life here and beyond. And indeed, 61 members of the CIA community have won Cleveland Arts Prize awards, including the three here tonight.
At the heart of the CIA experience is the conviction that the experience of art and design touches us all and makes us truly human. They arise from our compulsion to construct some sort of order, to reveal some sort of unity in the apparent chaos around us, and in so doing, we feel connection, wonder, engagement and joy. Art is a human mechanism through which we fulfill our need to understand and improve our lot in life, both emotionally and aesthetically. I believe that everything we do at CIA is art, and this art, writ large, is both necessary and inevitable. To devote one’s life to this pursuit is a profoundly hopeful act.
When our students graduate, we charge them to create works that make people comfortable with being uncomfortable. We charge them to celebrate difference, to develop in themselves and promote in others the critical openness to quest and to question, to express themselves with courage and honesty, complexity and clarity, and to constantly re-create themselves and their work. We urge our students to continuously ask “WHAT IF” and “WHY NOT,” and by so doing, they will shape our world.
In closing, I would like to recognize the CIA Board of Directors, which gives me this wonderful opportunity to wield the baton at this great institution for a while; the wonderful faculty and staff of the Cleveland Institute of Art, who make it a joy for me to come to work everyday; my son Matthew, who currently attends CIA; my out-of-the ordinary wife, Julia Breslin, and the extended family she has blessed me with, and I thank all of you for sharing with me and mine this beautiful event.
To nurture the intellectual, artistic, and professional development of students and community members through rigorous visual arts and design education.
To advance culture, community, and global quality of life.