Shelby Burchett

Good evening everyone. and Hi Mom and Dad! Surprise! Thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate the hard work and perseverance that the SOTA class of 2016 has suffered through.

Suffered, but survived. Yes. We survived. We survived the all-nighters, the momentarily soul-crushing critiques, and the folklore of fingers meeting table saws in the wood shop. We survived living out of the vending machines when deadlines were close, and fighting basketball fans for parking spaces in the evenings. We survived weirding out the rest of students on campus, and if you are in visual arts, you survived the great metal’s fire of 2015… We survived.

I am glad to have survived the last 3 years with you. I came to KU to pursue my graduate work in visual arts… textiles in particular. I wrote in my graduate entrance essay that my goal was to pursue weaving as my masters concentration. Well, that didn’t happen. You see, KU has been a true land of unending opportunity and I am so lucky to have been immersed in many unique paths of study, with full support from the School of the Arts.

I have collected and studied spiders and overcome my arachnophobia with the help of the biology department. I have consolidated T-Rex bones in the award-winning Natural History Museum. I have helped take care of small creatures in KU’s Animal Care Unit. I have seen (and illegally taken pictures of) amazing art in the Spencer Museum. I have learned from and been inspired by the brightest and most supportive faculty I have ever met. And I have made friends with people who are bound for great things. You are bound for great things.

I experienced all of these things, but I did not pursue weaving. KU has made me unafraid to question and explore all that life has to offer, and because of this I do not regret a single decision I have made here. I have been privileged to have experienced an amazingly transformative three years while at KU.

My thesis work revolved around creating moments of magic and wonder through artmaking. So my five pieces of parting advice are these:

Number 1: Tirelessly and relentlessly pursue the magic you make. Never stop searching for the things, the moments, and the feelings in life that fill you with child-like wonder.

Number 2:.Feed your soul. It is just as important as feeding your wallets, your resumes, and your to-do lists.

Number 3: Always work hard, but do not let your hard work dampen or extinguish the fire in your heart. Fuel that fire with curiosity, imagination, and a hunger for more: more knowledge, more skill, more life, more magic.

Number 4: Forget the notion that once you walk across this stage you stop being a student. You will always be a student. There will always be deadlines, great mentors pushing you, things to procrastinate on, and plenty of tests, though probably  not in the form of a blue book. Being a student means you are always learning, growing, becoming better. So why stop here?

and Number 5: It is now not only your job to continue making magic, but to share your magic with someone else. Spread the wonder, imagination, and passion that your generate, with those who need it most. When you feed other’s souls, you feed you own tenfold.

These words of advice are sentiments I will grasp onto tightly as I venture out into this big world. No matter what you do, whether you work in the arts, or pursue your passions in the wee hours of the night after a long day at a job unrelated, make your magic and make it well. You are more than capable. You have proven it here at KU over and over again.

I will end the speech with one more piece of advice… from the wise words of the always curious Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus: “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, & Get Messy!”

Congratulations Class of 2016!


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