The Award Goes to…
ArtCenter's 2019 Alumni Awards
“The most important thing to me was exposure to people who are making things, to other artists,” says Doug Aitken of his education at ArtCenter College of Design. Last Saturday he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from his alma mater, honored along with three other alumni in a ceremony in Oculus Hall of The Broad, followed by a celebratory dinner at the posh Otium next door.
Aitken (BFA 91) was one of the two fine artists who got an award; the other was Sterling Ruby (MFA 15) who received the newly created Distinguished Mid-Career Award. When he got up to the podium, Ruby said, “For me, ArtCenter was a real beacon. The graduate program…was so beyond distinguished.”
In his speech, Aitken recalled how fateful it was when a high school teacher recommended him to ArtCenter. After getting in, he assisted the legendary Keith Haring who arrived to do a mural at the Hillside campus. The young man’s reward? The leftover enamel paint – a boon to any cash-strapped student. Recently, Aitken found a can of that historic paint in his mother’s garage, and here he pulled it out and presented it to ArtCenter President Lorne Buchman, who accepted with some bemusement.
“I was working with Keith Haring just a couple days,” Aitken says in a phone interview afterwards. “It was symbolic of my path through ArtCenter, which was very nonlinear. I was always zigzagging, sitting in on classes that interested me.” He believes that “You have to sculpt your own experience, you have to do it on your own, fueled by your own curiosity. It breeds a DIY aesthetic. If you believe in something, you find a way to do it. If you have a problem, you learn to solve it. It’s not a bad thing, it makes people who create have to step up.”
The other two awardees last Saturday were Gloria Kondrup for the Outstanding Service Award and Ini Archibong for the Young Innovator Award.
Photo credit for all images: Owen Kolasinki/BFA.com, courtesy ArtCenter College of Design