Note from Joelle: The following text is a speech delivered by artist and designer Eva Neves, who just happens to be my best friend. I hope that her words, given on her graduation day at the Integrated Design BFA commencement ceremony at The New School, resonate with you as they have with me. Thanks for sharing them with us, Eva.
So I am going to tell a slightly embarrassing story. When I attended accepted students day in 2009 with my Dad, it was one of the few times that I visited New York before moving here. Part of the schedule was for prospective students to meet with teachers and current students in their intended major. I soon realized that I was the only student at the integrated design session. So only myself, my dad, Pascale, and a couple students chatted in a 2 west 13th St. studio about the program. I immediately felt at home. I wonder if Pascale remembers this, but while we were discussing the program, I started to cry. Someone asked me if everything was ok and I said “yes, I am just so happy, this is what I always dreamed of” So you might wonder why someone would be brought to tears by the idea of entering a specific college major. I mean, who does that. I cried because I am the cheesiest person alive, but I also cried because my world was opening up.
The world that I grew up in was very small. I was born in the smallest state in the country, and I grew up in a small town next to a farm. Despite being small, these places were full of magic, wonder, and beauty to me. However, as I grew older I started to lose this view of the world. Not everyone around me was like my family or shared this perspective. This was especially true at school. I even went so far as to fake sick for a week so I didn’t have to go. I saw eye to eye with few of my art teachers. This got worse in high school where, your projects were marked down if you didn’t follow the rule of thirds or have three objects that touched the edge of the page. There was no experimentation and no expressions of pure joy or playfulness in the process of making.
So when I visited colleges I searched for the opposite. I knew I wanted freedom, I wanted to study what people wear and why, I wanted to study languages, I wanted to study writing, I wanted to study fine arts and more. But most of all I wanted to make projects that brought all of these things together. When I came for accepted students day I cried because I knew that I had found this. I knew that I had found my team.
The beauty of the integrated design community is that we were all that weird little kid. Always curious, always questioning social norms and not knowing why, always exploring, and always making connections. One of the beauties of the program is the freedom we are given. And no matter how we have navigated that freedom whether it is by integrating graphic design, dance, ceramics, hat making, or printmaking we recognize and appreciate these qualities in our peers. Our nature, rather than our medium, brings us together. We are all open to the journey and the process.
Also, we are not like other graduates in the class of 2014. Many students go through their four years of college on a very defined path, ending with a job title that is the name of their major. The whole point of integrated design is that we define our own paths. We are encouraged to be reflective of our process and outside processes, our work and our classmates, and ourselves and our community.
Because of that reflection, I’ve watched us grow and open up in amazing ways. We have figured out how to pursue new areas of study and mediums without giving up our old passions. Instead of abandoning the path we are journeying on we are able to adapt our path to include new interests. Bringing everything together.
In that reflection I went from wanting to be a costume designer, to falling in love with natural dyeing, textiles, traditional crafts, local fibers, printmaking, science, food studies. I decided to pursue a second degree in Environmental studies because interdisciplinary classes sparked a new passion in science and the environment.
Although this specific journey is unique to me, we have all made similar self- discoveries. None of this is done alone. Although we are encouraged to make personal reflections we have an amazing community of mentors and friends to help us figure everything out. By making me feel safe enough to tell some of my most vulnerable stories and to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone. They have provided foundations so that I can bring together two seemingly unconnected fields such as textiles and food and not sound like a crazy person. I would like to take a second to thank a few of my teachers, Laura Sansone, Pascale Gatzen, Shana Agid, and Aaron Fry, who have influenced my growth by showing me parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed to this point.
So it has been almost 5 years since I came to parsons for excepted students day and a lot has changed since then. I started the program wanting to be a costume designer and now I focus in textiles, food, sustainability and printmaking. I have 12 more grey hairs and I have never been so happy or confused about my future.
In this ceremony we celebrate our accomplishments over the past four years. But I also want to celebrate our futures. You may not know what you are doing like me, or we may know exactly what you are doing after we graduate. However we are all starting a new chapter in our lives.
In integrated design we are taught to tell stories, we are taught to redesign systems, we are taught to be curious and ask questions, we are taught to connect with our communities, we are taught to look at the human side of everything. Now I know that these are just collegiate ways of explaining why everything was beautiful, magical, and wondrous to me as a child. We saw these things before we knew what they were. I want to thank all of my classmates, my teachers, and those who designed this program for helping me see the world this way again.
Integrated design has taught me that I will always be growing into the person I want to be. I will always become excited by new things, and that everything is connected not by a method, medium, or topic, but by the core essence of who I am and what I am passionate about. Even though we may not know what we are doing, or may only have temporary plans for the future, its ok, because we have this wonderful group of students and teachers to support and encourage us and to remind us why the world is beautiful and how we can make it even more so.
Thank you so much, we made it!