On May 18th, visual artist (and Art of Change Fellow) Carrie Mae Weems spoke to the 2016 graduates of New York’s School of Visual Arts (SVA), offering a meditation on life, and what it means to live it as a creative person and working artist in our country that is facing fundamental shifts on social, political, and cultural levels.

By Carey Dunne at Hyperallergic:

Instead of delivering didactic soundbites, Weems posed questions upon which anyone, not just young artists, could do well to reflect. She spoke as if reading a long poem:

How do you measure a life? Do we measure it inch by inch, step by step, crawl by crawl? How you measure your lives is the most important thing not only for you students, but for all of us. I am asking myself this constantly. How do you measure a life? Success, failure –– what is it?… You know, I think of myself as dust in the wind. And I’m gonna be here just for [snaps fingers] a hot second. And when you think about the vastness of the universe in which we dwell, we are dust in the wind. And yet, we are here. To mark this moment … This way you will spend your time, measure your lives, is all up to you.

Weems grounded these sweeping questions in the realities of today’s sociopolitical landscape, pointedly addressing the sexism and racism she’s long explored in her art. “For you artists, young and old, there’s simply a few facts we have to remember,” she said. “They tell me if you’re a woman or a person of color, you have a little bit of extra work to do.”

This story was originally published on May 18th, 2016.