California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) President Steven D. Lavine has announced that world-renowned opera, theater and film director Peter Sellars will be the 2012 recipient of CalArts' honorary Doctor of Arts degree. CalArts will celebrate Sellars' originality, creativity and unflagging commitment to the social good at its graduation ceremony today, May 18 beginning at 6 p.m. At the ceremony, the honorary degree recipient will share his reflections on life and art with the CalArts class of 2012.
In a recent lecture at UC Berkeley, he offered these deceptively simple formulas for how to be an artist: "First, imagine the world you'd like to live in. Second, create it. And third, live in it."
Sellars is acclaimed for his innovative treatments of material from Western and non-Western traditions, and for his commitment to exploring the role of the performing arts in contemporary society. By helping to expand the performing arts repertoire, especially for modern opera, he challenged and recast the social and political roles employed in theater, rendering them more deeply relevant to contemporary culture.
In April, Sellars received a special award at the prestigious Opera News Awards ceremony, noting in his acceptance speech that he "took the starch out of the Bugs Bunny version of opera." By merging the nontraditional, multidisciplinary and multicultural arts, Sellars has consistently provoked and entertained audiences with original productions such as composer John Adams' Grammy award-winning Doctor Atomic and imaginative reinterpretations of classic works by such composers as Mozart and Wagner.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sellars graduated from Harvard College, and studied in Japan, China and India before joining the Boston Shakespeare Company as its artistic director. At 26, he led the American National Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and since then, he has worked with theater and opera companies around the world, and guided numerous international arts festivals, including the 2003 Venice Biennale International Festival of Theater and the 2006 New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna that celebrated the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. A professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, and a visiting lecturer at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Sellars' numerous honors include a MacArthur Fellowship and the Erasmus Prize.
CalArts: Newsweek/The Daily Beast recently ranked CalArts America's number one college for students in the arts. With its six related schools: Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater, CalArts is unique in its multidisciplinary approach to arts education. The Institute encourages students to recognize and explore the complexity of the aesthetic, social and political aspects of the arts. It is supported by a distinguished faculty of practicing artists and provides its BFA and MFA students with both the hands-on training and the engagement with the cultural community necessary for artists' growth. CalArts was founded in 1961-and opened in 1969-as the first institution of higher learning in the U.S. to offer degrees in both the visual and performing arts.