Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité...et Courage! Some Words of Wisdom from Michael Petry to the Class of '16

PCA Graduation

On May 21st, PCA class of ’16 embarked on their lives as young professionals, and the PCA Faculty, who have had the pleasure of accompanying them throughout their educational journey, gave them a grand farewell.

The graduates had the privilege of having artist Michael Petry give the commencement address, and we share with you some of his inspiring speech:

Liberté, égalité, fraternité… and courage

You are young artists about to launch yourselves into the world of art, within whatever field you find most suits your artistic voice and I wish you all the best. Here in France you will know the phrase ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’. I want to look at each of these aspects as they might apply to you as young artists.

Liberté. Liberty — this is something we as artists not only need, we have to demand, and we have to take it, because at the end of the day no one ever gives you liberty. (…) As artists, I am not encouraging you to storm the barricades, nor set palaces on fire, but I do want you to go out there and set the world on fire, with your desires, your ideas, your art. Most importantly give yourself the liberty to make the work that is deep inside you, that speaks for you, that is you.

Égalité The second part of the French ideal is Égalité, and it is so important to us as artists. (…) I don’t like artistic competitions where one artist is pitted against another. It is of course what happens in the art world where the market rules. But on a day like today, we should all consider notions of égalité and fraternité and how best to live up to those ideals.

Fraternité. As artists we have to be there for each other, we have to help each other out where we can. I hope I do that. I try to introduce young artists into the art world — as do many of my friends. I curate shows and write books that help many get a first step on the ladder. We do have to look out for each other and I hope you will.

Courage. We all need courage more or less all the time now. Most importantly we need to have courage as artists not to self-censor, especially when so many politicians and clerics of all religions want to do that job for us. We have to have the courage of our artistic convictions like those artists who I have already mentioned. Don’t stop yourself from making that painting or that photograph or that sculpture or that dress just because someone else thinks that you don’t have the right to do so. Because you do — of course you do — because you are an artist. This is a true form of freedom, liberté, and with such freedom we have the responsibility to use it wisely and bravely.

So — out you go into the world — but go, with courage!”

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