Otis College of Art and Design awarded Honorary Degrees to Rick Lowe, MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and visionary social-practice artist, and Otis alumnus Masami Teraoka (’64, MFA FINE ARTS ’68), internationally recognized artist and human rights advocate, at the 2016 Commencement ceremony on May 15, 2016.
Honorary Degree recipients are selected for their substantial contribution to their field and for embodying the College’s values and mission. Both Teraoka and Lowe exemplify the transformational and critical role the arts play in our society and offer lifework to which the students graduating this May can aspire.
Rick Lowe’s pioneering socially-engaged art grew out of his focus on the urgent social, economic, and cultural needs he saw around him in Houston, where he had originally trained as a painter. In the early 1990s, with a group of fellow artists, he combined art, empowerment and community organizing to buy and restore 22 derelict houses in a predominantly African-American section of Houston. Entitled Project Row Houses, the visionary architectural preservation project serves both as a community center and public arts venue. It exemplifies “social sculpture”—art whose spectators become participants in it—and earned Lowe a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2014. Lowe’s work has been exhibited at prestigious venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, and the Venice Architecture Biennale. His further community-based projects include the Arts Plan for the Seattle Public Library, the Watts House Project in Los Angeles, and a post-Katrina rebuilding effort in New Orleans.
Masami Teraoka’s work integrates fantasy, humor, history and wry observations on present-day life. Born near Hiroshima, Japan, Teraoka moved to the U.S. in 1961 to pursue art studies. He became successful in the 1970s with modern versions of Ukiyo-e prints imbued with personal commentary, taking on issues such as the clash of Eastern and Western cultures. More recent work addresses social and political controversies through large-scale narrative paintings that combine elements of the Japanese woodblock print with inspiration from Renaissance church art. Teraoka earned a BFA at Otis College of Art and Design in 1964, and an MFA in 1968. He has had over 70 solo exhibitions around the world including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. His work is in over 50 public collections worldwide.