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News . Feature Stories . CIA welcomes Anthony and Joe Russo and Angela Russo-Otstot as Commencement speakers


April 27, 2021

CIA welcomes Anthony and Joe Russo and Angela Russo-Otstot as Commencement speakers

The creative forces behind some of Hollywood's biggest films and TV shows will soon say "Lights, camera, action!" to the Cleveland Institute of Art's newest class of artists and designers.

World-renowned producers, writers and directors Anthony and Joe Russo and Angela Russo-Otstot will serve as Commencement speakers for CIA's Class of 2021, the College announced April 27.

The Russos have been the driving force behind record-breaking box office successes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as critically acclaimed TV series like Arrested Development, V, The Shield and Community. Their next production will be delivering their inspiring message to 130 CIA graduates and their families during a pre-recorded ceremony at 8:30pm ET Friday, May 14.

"The graduating class of 2021 is an inspiration to us for many reasons, but particularly with regards to the resilience and resourcefulness required of them this past year," says Angela Russo-Otstot. "We are honored to be speaking with them on such a momentous occasion and look forward to celebrating all their incredible achievements."

The ceremony will premiere across several platforms, and for graduates and their families, the venue couldn't be more appropriate for hearing from the Russos. They'll experience Commencement by watching on the big screen during a ticketed event at Mayfield Road Drive-In Theatre in Munson Township.

"The Russos infuse their work, be it on the big screen or the small, with doses of human empathy and humane humor—understanding and dramatizing that all persons have their reasons, be they derelicts or superheroes. The humanity is at the core of their international appeal as cinema artists," says Grafton Nunes, CIA president and CEO. "We're thrilled that they're addressing the Class of 2021. The Russos' artistry, vision and passion will provide enduring inspiration to our graduates as they embark on their own creative careers."

The Russos' ties to Cleveland—and the Cleveland Institute of Art—run deep. The siblings grew up watching movies at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, and Russo-Otstot was once a professor of screenwriting and playwriting at CIA.

In March, CIA awarded Honorary Doctor of Art degrees to the Russos in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to film, television and their native Cleveland. CIA, a premier college of art and design, confers honorary doctorates upon visionaries and leaders in those fields. The Russos joined a prestigious group of only 15 others who've received honorary degrees from CIA in its 138-year history.

The Russo brothers are well-known for their cinematic contributions to Cleveland. Their first and most recent films—Welcome to Collinwood (2002) and Cherry (2021), respectively—were both set and shot in Cleveland, and they've been vocal advocates for growing the local and statewide film industry.

The brothers are widely known for their work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). They've also been innovative in their approach to television and earned a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for the pilot episode of Arrested Development.

Russo-Otstot is the co-screenwriter and producer on behalf of Cherry and President of Creative at AGBO, a Russo-founded artist-led collective that focuses on nurturing creative talent and creating global content for film, television and digital platforms. She also is a writer and producer on Amazon’s forthcoming international spy thriller series Citadel and recently served as executive producer on IFC’s Sundance hit Relic.

The ticketed Commencement watch party at Mayfield Road Drive-In Theatre is intended to allow graduates an opportunity to safely celebrate together by maintaining social distance. In addition to the ceremony, a sampling of BFA work by the Class of 2021 will be screened, and weather permitting, there will be a fireworks display.

The ceremony also will be offered virtually. The entire CIA community and general public are invited to watch the Commencement by tuning in either to or CIA's Facebook page, where the pre-recorded ceremony will be simultaneously broadcast. Following the initial broadcast, the recording will be accessible for viewing on CIA's website and Facebook.

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