Mel Chin, Award-Winning Conceptual Artist, to Address School of the Arts Graduates at Columbia University

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Carol Becker, Dean of Faculty at Columbia University School of the Arts, has announced that Mel Chin, the award-winning conceptual artist, will be the speaker at the Celebration of Graduates, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. The ceremony, to be held in Miller Theatre at 2 pm on the Morningside Campus, will salute the School’s MFA graduates in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, Sound Arts, and Writing, and MA graduates in Film Studies.

Mr. Chin, originally from Houston, Texas, is known for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that conjoin cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas.  

In 1989, Chin first came to promience with Revival Field, a project that was a pioneer in the field of “green remediation” – the use of plants to remove toxic, heavy metals from the soil. From 1995 to 1998 Chin formed a collective that produced In the Name of the Place, a conceptual public art project conducted on the popular prime-time TV series, Melrose Place. 

In KNOWMADChin worked with software engineers to create a video game based on rug patterns of nomadic people facing cultural disappearance, and his hand-drawn, 24-minute film, 9-11/9-11, won the prestigious Pedro Sienna Award—the “Oscar” of Chile—for best animation in 2007. Chin's current project, Fundred Dollar Bill/Operation Paydirt, focuses on national awareness and the prevention of childhood lead-poisoning through art-making. 

Chin is also known for his iconic sculptures and installations, works that often address the importance of memory and collective identity, and for inserting art into unlikely places, including destroyed home and toxic landfills. His most recent work has focused on exploring how, using advanced augmented reality (AR) technology, art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility. 

"Mel Chin is a conceptual artist whose work consistently crosses form and disciplines to address serious social issues," said Dean Becker, "such as climate change, green remediation, migration, and so forth. He calls such practices, 'sculpting and bridging the natural and social ecology.' His is a great example of how an artist's work can uniquely benefit the world."


Due to space restrictions, admission to the ceremony is restricted to the graduates and their families. The entire ceremony will be streamed live, and an archive of that stream will be made available on the School of the Arts website.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.