Maine College of Art & Design Announces 2023 Commencement Speaker Janet Echelman

Honorary Degrees to be conferred to Echelman, David Feldman, and Cathy Claman

Maine College of Art & Design (MECA&D) today announced renowned sculptor and visual artist Janet Echelman will deliver the Commencement address at the College’s 112th graduation ceremony. During the ceremony, which begins at 10:00am on Friday, May 12, 2023, at Portland’s State Theatre, MECA&D will bestow honorary degrees on Echelman, her husband and collaborator David Feldman, and President of the Stephen and Palmina Pace Foundation Cathy Claman.

Janet Echelman is an artist who creates experiential sculpture at the scale of buildings that transform with wind and light. Her art shifts from being an object you look at to something you can get lost in.

Echelman’s work defies categorization as it intersects across disciplinary boundaries, from Fine Art, Architecture, and Urban Design, to Material Science, Computer Science, and Structural and Aeronautical Engineering. Using unlikely materials from fishnet to atomized water particles, Echelman combines ancient craft with original computational design software to create artworks that have become focal points for urban life on five continents.

“I am very pleased to welcome Janet Echlelman to Portland to address the Class of 2023,” said Dr. Laura Freid, President of Maine College of Art & Design. “I know that our graduating students will be inspired by how Janet’s journey as an artist was influenced by the world around her and led her to create art that inhabits the intersections between technology, sculpture, engineering, and design to impart beauty and wonder into urban landscapes.”

A massive red wave-like structure made of fibers against several tall buildings, above a park.

Recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Harvard Loeb Fellowship, Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellowship, and Fulbright Lectureship, Echelman was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for "changing the very essence of urban spaces." Her TED Talk "Taking Imagination Seriously" has been translated into 35 languages with more than two million views. Echelman recently received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts, honoring “the greatest innovators in America today.”

Echelman’s permanent commissions have transformed urban environments worldwide and include Bending Arc at the newly renovated Pier in St. Petersburg, FL (2020), mist sculpture Pulse (2018) in front of Philadelphia City Hall, Dream Catcher (2017) on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, CA, Impatient Optimist (2015) at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Every Beating Second (2011) at San Francisco International Airport, Her Secret Is Patience (2009) in downtown Phoenix, and She Changes (2005) in Porto, Portugal.

In addition to bestowing an honorary degree to Echelman during the Commencement ceremony, MECA&D will also confer Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees to Echelman’s husband and collaborator David Feldman and Cathy Claman, President of the Stephen and Palmina Pace Foundation.

David Feldman

Currently a Distinguished Visiting Technologist at MIT, David Feldman has served as Chief Technologist at Studio Echelman for more than 25 years, working with his wife, artist Janet Echelman, on the design, engineering, and software development of computational tools for her studio.

Prior to his work at Studio Echelman and Feldman Advisors, David previously wrote code for Apple, where his voice audio was used for the famous "quack" sound on all early Mac computers around the world. He later graduated from Harvard Business School with distinction, then cofounded a computer graphic software startup that was sold to a Nasdaq-listed company. He dedicated the next decades to helping many others bring their ideas to the public marketplace. Together Janet and David build living, breathing sculpture environments that respond to the forces of nature and become inviting focal points for civic life.

Cathy Claman

Cathy Claman is President of the Stephen and Palmina Pace Foundation in New York City. During her tenure, Cathy has organized exhibitions of Stephen Pace’s work and overseen acquisitions of his art by numerous institutions, including the Denver Art Museum, Brown University, McMullen Museum at Boston College, and Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. Under her leadership, the Foundation has funded annual programs to support mid-career artists, including an artist-as-entrepreneur seminar at the Katzen Arts Center at American University and an artist’s residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

In 2007, on behalf of the Paces, she facilitated the gift of their Stonington home and studio to Maine College of Art & Design for use as a residency and gallery and to ensure its continued use as an artistic haven. Since 2010, more than 100 alumni artists, as well as faculty and staff, have used the Pace House for residencies and faculty have brought hundreds of students to the Pace House to participate in intensive coursework and special projects.

Prior to her work at the Foundation, Cathy held positions at the College Board and in publishing. She earned her BA from Bowdoin College and MPA from New York University.

Media Contact

Alex Koch, Public Relations Specialist