Virtually defying the titles of his prior albums, Kanye West was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Art Institute of Chicago this Monday. One of the top Art schools in America, SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) told Complex that the honorary doctorate is given to “influential individuals” who earned “this distinguished award through their work, which is always imaginative and aesthetically rich, and sometimes also provocative and controversial, shifting the cultural landscape in significant ways.”
West dropped out of Chicago state university, where his late mother Dr. Donda West was chair of the English department, at age 20 to pursue music. Though he never completed his English degree, the experience clearly left a mark on the artist. His first 3 albums, The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation expressed feelings of self-doubt, accepting oneself as an outcast, and generally questioned the American education system.
Donning the traditional cap and gown, a surprisingly nervous Kanye accepted his honour and gave a heartfelt speech about his career and the future ahead of the graduates, telling them “…when I went on that mission to create in other spaces, apparel, film, performance, it would have been easier if I could have said that I had a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago.”
The tickets for his talk, which was hastily advertised to SAIC students only a week in advance, sold within 13 minutes of the announcement according to the Chicago Tribune. However, not everyone was happy with the school’s decision. 1,500 students signed a petition stating ‘Mr. West did not embody the values of the institution’, with many agreeing that there were more deserving hip-hop artists. Former SAIC student Corrina Kirsch – now an arts journalist – stated “As an alum of SAIC, I am offended that the school’s exorbitant tuition and fees will help fund this nonsense.”
Regardless of whether or not you like the Chicago artist or think he deserved this prestigious honour, one is inclined to agree that he contributed heavily to the likes of modern hip-hop, fashion, and music as a whole. West finished off his speech with an awkwardly profound sentiment, something that has become somewhat iconic of Kanye’s content.
“We’re all part of one giant movie, one giant painting. And every day you step out, you’re a piece of that painting… I hate giving these like meaningful statements and everybody’s like ‘Oh, that really changed everything for me and (expletive).’ I’d rather be like Michelangelo and not finish the statement, but let you, you know, (like) the end of ‘The Sopranos’ – let you decide what happens next.”
Some other past winners of this honorary doctorate include artist Jeff Kloons, gallery owner Rhona Hoffman, Janet Bryne Neiman, and German artist Albert Oehlen.