For Danny

Letter to a Young Artist : on the occasion of his last day in the Studio for Interrelated Media Department at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Pozen Center for Interrelated Media
December 15, 2016
Boston, MA

Dear Danny,

This has been one of the most challenging semesters in my teaching memory.   With more than the usual dose of dishonesty, corruption, war, racism, misogyny, and intolerance, it has left some of us shattered, exhausted and demoralized.  Our community has also struggled internally – with high expectations, misunderstandings and disappointments; with not enough fast enough, and with too much too soon.

Then, one of our own, a young, optimistic, free spirit, dies in a fire fueled by the furnishings of nonconformity and risk-taking, while he was doing his job – making the sounds of imagination, expansion and mindfulness. 

And now, here we are with you, in this most forward-thinking, hopeful moment. Shaking your hand and gently nudging you out the door of art school as you finish your academic to do list in this experiment we call home. You have continued to grow, to make art, to push, pull and focus yourself forward. 

You are the reason we are here – your single voice, your signature. You are a unique moment that braids together all that came before you, all that you are, and all that you will do. You are magic. You are light. You are everything that matters. 

I wish for you all the complexities of a journey into the depths of struggle that only artists can plumb, alongside the heights of understanding and clarity that comes with your vision, bravery, and irreverence. Your smile and nervous energy will propel you. Your sense of humor and contemporary click will get you noticed. Your willingness to work hard and connect will sustain you. You are an antidote. 

Though loss is fundamental in the circle of life, in this moment, your presence fills the universe.  You are an artist. And through you we all survive.

With admiration,


Some historical precedents:

  • Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, 1929
  • Letters to a Young Artist, by Peter Nesbett (Editor), Sarah Andress (Editor), Shelly Bancroft (Editor), 2006
  • Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts-For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind Paperback, by Anna Deavere Smith, 2006