The awards

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2021 Honorary Degree Candidates

A black background and the text Doctor of Fine Arts Agnes Gund

Agnes Gund is president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art and chair of its International Council. She is also chair emerita of MoMA PS1. Gund joined the MoMA Board in 1976 and served as president from 1991 until 2002. She is also founder and chair emerita of Studio in a School, a nonprofit organization she established in 1977 in response to budget cuts that virtually eliminated arts classes from New York City public schools.

A philanthropist and collector of modern and contemporary art, Gund serves on the boards of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, and the Morgan Library and Museum. She is cofounder and chair emerita of the Center for Curatorial Leadership; trustee emerita of the Barnes Foundation and the National YoungArts Foundation; and an honorary trustee of Independent Curators International and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland.

A civic leader and staunch supporter of education, environmental concerns and social justice, Gund has served on the boards of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, the Andy Warhol Foundation, Chess in the Schools, the Frick Collection, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the New York City Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, among other organizations. In June 2017, she launched the Art for Justice Fund in partnership with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to support criminal justice reform in the U.S.

Gund earned a BA in History from Connecticut College and an MA in Art History from Harvard University. She holds honorary doctorates from Bowdoin College (2012), the CUNY Graduate Center (2007), and Brown University (1996), and was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts (2016). She received the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton (1997), the J. Paul Getty Medal (2018), the inaugural Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award (2020) and the French Legion of Honour (2021).

A black background and the text Doctor of Fine Arts Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems will also address graduating students. Widely renowned as one of the most influential living artists in the U.S., Weems examines how our society structures power through deeply embedded stories, images and ideas. Among many other honors, Weems is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (also known as the “genius” grant) and was the first Black woman to have a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. In addition, Weems has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Tate Modern, the Walker Art Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art and many other institutions. She is also the recipient of the BET Honors Visual Artist Award, the Prix de Rome, the Frida Kahlo Award for Innovative Creativity, the International Center for Photography Spotlight Award, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, the Lucie Award for Fine Art Photography and the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. Weems has received honorary degrees from Bowdoin College, California College of the Arts, Colgate University, the School of Visual Arts and Syracuse University. In 2012, Weems was presented with one of the first U.S. Department of State’s Medals of Arts, in recognition for her commitment to the State Department’s Art in Embassies program.

In August 2020, UArts installed a public art project of Weems’ on its campus. Resist Covid Take 6! which aimed to create an artist-driven public awareness campaign to educate and enlighten Black, Latinx and Native American communities about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. In fall 2020, UArts also hosted an exclusive conversation with Carrie for its community in support of her project. 

2021 Silver Star Awardees

Silver Star awardee Osceola Davis

Osceola Davis-Smith BM, BMEd '70 (Voice) is a world-renowned coloratura opera star. She earned Bachelor of Music and Bachelor in Music Education degrees from University of the Arts and a diploma in Opera from the Curtis Institute of Music, also in Philadelphia. Her Master of Arts in Teaching - Music degree was later secured at Lehman College, City University of New York, Bronx.

Encouraged by Sylvia Olden Lee, the renowned Met coach and her Curtis Institute mentor, Davis-Smith traveled to Europe for auditions. Immediately, she was offered the lead role of Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich, Germany. In her debut performance, she received a five-minute ovation after her second aria. Davis-Smith’s successful European career merited her a contract at the Metropolitan Opera, where she debuted as Queen of the Night in Marc Chagall’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, thus breaking a racial barrier in that role, with that company, in that house.

Davis-Smith’s performances include Blondchen in Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio; Olympia in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann; Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto; Zerbinetta in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos; and many other roles. She has performed in England, Italy, France, Russia and Finland, as well as the U.S. Davis-Smith has performed for presidents and ambassadors. She’s made sacred recordings, given TV appearances and was soloist for the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Davis-Smith is an assistant professor of voice at Lehman College.

Siler Star awardee Alex Da Corte

Alex Da Corte BFA ‘04 (Printmaking/Fine Arts) is an internationally renowned conceptual artist. After attending University of the Arts, Da Corte earned his MFA from Yale School of Art in 2010.

He has held myriad solo exhibitions around the world, including As Long as the Sun Lasts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2021; Rubber Pencil Devil, Prada Rong Zhai, Shanghai, 2020; THE SUPƎRMAN, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany, 2018; and Harvest Moon, New Museum, New York, 2017, among many other solo and group exhibitions. Da Corte’s work is included in the collections of Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy; MAC Musée d'art contemporain Lyon, France; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. Additionally, Da Corte’s Rubber Pencil Devil and The Decorated Shed, were included in the Venice Biennale, 2019, Italy.

In 2020, Da Corte reinvented conceptual artist Allan Kaprow’s Chicken at University of the Arts as a part of UArts’ Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-Garde exhibition, curated by Sid Sachs, chief curator and director of exhibitions at University of the Arts, with Jennie Hirsh, assistant curator, professor of modern and contemporary art at Maryland Institute College of Art. Da Corte’s Chicken took place in Gershman Hall, the same space in which Kaprow’s original performance was held.