About Gateway

Gateway was the community newsletter of Pratt Institute published monthly by the Office of Communications, in the Division of Institutional Advancement through spring 2014. For current Pratt-related news, visit the News page on Pratt’s website.


Trustee Kurt Andersen Sends Off Class of 2013

Encouraging students to always try new things and maintain “the amateur spirit,” celebrated journalist and novelist Kurt Andersen addressed graduates at Pratt Institute’s 124th Commencement on May 14. Andersen, a Pratt trustee, is the host of the Peabody Award-winning public radio show Studio 360.

For the fourth time Andersen spoke about the value of "the amateur spirit."in Pratt’s history, the event was held at Radio City Music Hall, with 1,470 students, both graduates and undergraduates, crossing the stage and becoming alumni.

“Tomorrow, you can call yourself a certified professional,” Andersen told the crowd of graduates, but a degree should not “replace the amateur spirit, but empower it.”

Andersen said the meaning of “amateur” had been “debased” over time—it should not be used pejoratively. Instead, it should be related to doing something different and fascinating. 

“The amateur spirit was the original American spirit,” he said, pointing to Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, two founding fathers whose professions—as a lawyer and printer, respectively—never limited the scope of their ambitions nor defined their legacies.

Speaking before Andersen, graduating senior Amanda Wallace, who earned a B.F.A. in Film, also spoke about Pratt students’ creative energy, urging them to trust in their talents and stay in touch with their fellow graduates.

 “Now that we have built this network, we are each other’s resources for the rest of our lives,” she said.

Earlier in the event, the Institute awarded honorary degrees to photographer Lee Friedlander, author Daniel Pink, and New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly. Undergraduate architecture professor Theoharis David received the Distinguished Teacher Award for 2013-2014.

At convocation, the day before commencement, students from across the Institute received accolades for their final projects and work at Pratt.

Claire Kelley and Ethan Bliss received the Hilson Family Award, which was established by the Hilson Family Fund to benefit Graduate Communications Design students. Bill Hilson, an adjunct professor in that department, supports the fund.

Bliss’s final project explored distraction. “I was coming up against it a lot,” he explained, and how it could “provide inspiration.” He produced a series of short video vignettes examining different types of diversions.

In the Undergraduate Architecture Department, one of the top awards was the Lee and Norman Rosenfeld Award; Rosenfeld is a Pratt graduate (B. Arch. ’56). It was presented this year to the two best senior thesis projects: Intermodal Urbanism, which re-imagines New York City's food distribution center in Hunts Point in the Bronx, by Amir A. Karimpour and Melissa Balcazar; and Ciudad Vertical, a verdant and ecologically-friendly building complex composed of three towers in Mexico City, by Martin Alejandro Galindez, Johana Elizabeth Monroy, and Jennifer C. Villamar.

“This means a lot to me,” said Galindez about the honor. All the students have Latin American roots, so working in the region was particularly significant.

“Getting this award, it’s proof that we have something that we can offer to ourselves and everyone else,” he added.

Text: Ruth Samuelson
Photos: Samuel Stuart


Seniors Bedazzle Crowd at 114th Fashion Show

Pratt senior fashion students presented clothes ranging from a casual, melon-colored coat to fantastical, voluminous ball gowns at the Institute’s 114th annual fashion show on April 25.

The sold-out venue, Center 548, included an audience of students, parents, fashion press, and insiders. They were also on hand to see Vogue International Editor at Large Hamish Bowles present the 2013 Pratt Fashion Visionary Award to renowned American fashion designer Thom Browne, whose namesake brand creates impeccably tailored menswear and womenswear. 

Before the show started, Browne accepted the award in one of his trademark gray suits with cropped pants—donned by many other guests lining the runway, including Pratt President Thomas F. Schutte.

"Always stay true to yourself,” Browne told the crowd, “Most people will either like it or they won't. But let this inspire you and believe that you are doing something right because if somebody doesn't like it, I think you are doing something right."

The show provides 17 graduating students with a platform to design, produce, and present cohesive collections that were pre-selected by a panel of industry experts (mostly designers and  fashion magazine editors). Representing a myriad of designs, techniques, and perspectives, collections ranged from five to 11 looks.

New York Magazine's The Cut called out “Emma Hastil, who fearlessly clashed vibrant colors and bold prints; Macy Smith, who sent down whimsical creations made of pastel colors, lime-green fur, and eyeballs; and Madeline Gruen, who closed the night with gorgeous blue and white eveningwear worthy of a young Alexander McQueen." Other media coverage came from the Wall Street Journal, Women’s Wear Daily, New York Times, and other local and national press.

At the conclusion of the show, Gruen was recognized with the Liz Claiborne Award—Concept to Product, which will support her creative, entrepreneurial activities and help cover the costs of developing a collection post-graduation.

Madeline Gruen (B.F.A. Fashion ’13) was the winner of the “Liz Claiborne Award—Concept to Product” and the Pratt Fashion Entrepreneurship Award. Photo: Jesse Lirola

Gruen also received the Pratt Fashion Entrepreneurship Award, a new recognition that will provide her with a studio in Pratt's Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation rent-free for one year with ongoing mentorship at the Incubator. As part of this award, Gruen will be able to attend classes, tuition-free, that are part of Pratt’s recently launched Design Entrepreneurship program.

Funding for the 2013 Pratt Fashion Show was awarded in part through a competitive grant presented to Pratt Institute by the Importer Support Program of the Cotton Board and Cotton Incorporated.

Text: Ruth Samuelson and Amy Aronoff
Photos: Jesse Lirola
Video and Production: Peter Tannenbaum



For senior fine arts painting students, the spring semester began with a fire and ended with an exhibition in a prime location in midtown Manhattan.

The new graduates lost many paintings in the Main Building fire in February. They reacted by creating new pieces in temporary studios in the ARC building and naming their final thesis show Flameproof, a testament to their resilience.

The exhibition, featuring work by 44 students, was held at 375 Park Avenue on May 9 to 14. Eugenie Tsai, from the Brooklyn Museum, curated the show, which included sculptural paintings as well as canvasses.

Student Sally Novak created an installation, a pink painting reflecting off of aluminum litho plates sewn together with a pile of pink confetti below. She’d had the confetti in her work studio and felt like it added a cheery, celebratory quality to her piece.

“This is about renewal and regeneration,” she said, speaking about her artwork with NY1 before the show’s opening night.

Another student, Maria de Los Angeles, said she’d completed 20 paintings in the last two months. She chose to show an abstract painting with rich oranges, yellows, browns, and sky blue brush strokes—“dark,” “stressful” images with uplifting color.

“I like the balance,” she said, also speaking to NY1.

Besides NY1, outlets like the New York Times, ABC 7, and Paper magazine also covered the show, which was organized by famed gallerist Larry Gagosian and underwritten by alumnus and Trustee Emeritus Bruce Newman. The space was donated by the building’s owner, Aby Rosen of real estate company RFR Holding LLC. 

Painting students say the fire and the subsequent loss bonded them together.

“As a class, we were really close before the fire. Since the fire, we’ve been just really helpful to each other,” said student Susan Luss, adding that professors consistently reached out to students and made themselves available.

And of course the students worked through their grief by delving back into their art.

“I felt the need to make work. Anytime I picked up a pencil or a pen or a brush, it felt really good,” said student Diana Ngo.

Text: Ruth Samuelson
Photos: Peter Tannenbaum