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Otis College Announces Artist Lauren Halsey as 2021 Commencement Speaker

Lauren Halsey and work
The multidisciplinary artist has been active in helping her South L.A. community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Otis College of Art and Design is excited to announce that Los Angeles-born and based artist and activist, Lauren Halsey, will be receiving an honorary degree and delivering the 2021 commencement address this May. While Halsey’s work has been shown and installed at such venues as the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, it has been her more recent community work in South L.A. that has been keeping her busy. 

As the founder of Summaeverythang Community Center, Halsey spearheaded an effort last March, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide fresh, organic fruit and produce to underserved communities in the city. Of the project, Halsey said: “I was looking forward to opening Summaeverythang—located next door to my studio—in late summer/fall, but Corona stopped that. So, I started thinking of ways to engage the ideologies and thesis of the community center with the community, outside of the physical space.”

In a story last July about this work, the Los Angeles Times described Halsey as a “chronicler of South L.A. life whose ambitious, large-scale projects document and remix the city’s ephemeral streetscapes and commercial artifacts.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to welcome such an admired and active artist to address our graduates and the larger Otis Community during such a pivotal time in the country, and after such a challenging year. I am confident Lauren  will speak to the moment, and encourage and inspire our graduates to impact and shape the world as she has,” said Charles Hirschhorn, President of Otis College of Art and Design.  

Plans currently are underway at Otis College for the 2021 commencement ceremony, which will take place virtually on Saturday, May 15. Last year’s commencement address was delivered virtually by artist Enrique Martinez Celaya. Previous commencement addresses have been made by such art and design luminaries as Mark Bradford, Alison Saar, Eli Broad, Elizabeth Streb, and Thom Mayne. 

The following is from Halsey’s bio by the David Kordansky Gallery, which represents her:

“Lauren Halsey (b. 1987, Los Angeles) is rethinking the possibilities for art, architecture, and community engagement. She produces both standalone artworks and site-specific projects, particularly in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. Combining found, fabricated, and handmade objects, Halsey’s work maintains a sense of civic urgency and free-flowing imagination, reflecting the lives of the people and places around her and addressing the crucial issues confronting people of color, queer populations, and the working class. Critiques of gentrification and disenfranchisement are accompanied by real-world proposals as well as a celebration of on-the-ground aesthetics. Inspired by Afrofuturism and funk, as well as the signs and symbols that populate her local environments, Halsey creates a visionary form of culture that is at once radical and collaborative.

Lauren Halsey has presented solo exhibitions at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2020); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2019); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018). She participated in Made In L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018), where she was awarded the Mohn Award for artistic excellence. Her work is included in the collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Halsey was the recipient of the 2019 Painter and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York. In 2020, Lauren Halsey founded Summaeverythang Community Center and is currently in the process of developing a major public monument for construction in South Central Los Angeles, where she and her family have lived and worked for generations.”

Main image, from left: photo by Czariah Smith; detail of that fuss wuz us, 2018 (white cement, carpet, foam, wood, and mixed media, 110 by 49 by 49 inches), from David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.