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Honorary Graduate's Speech: Dr Helaine Blumenfeld, Doctor of Letters (DLitt)

Sculptress Dr Helaine Blumenfeld's honorary degree was awarded in recognition of her contribution to the visual arts. Dr Blumenfeld has exhibited widely in the United Kingdom, Italy and the USA, as well as having major public sculptures installed in the USA and France. In 1990 she donated her sculpture, 'Souls', to the University of Leicester and has contributed to an exhibition at the Richard Attenborough Centre at the University of Leicester. She received her honorary degree on Friday, July 12 during the afternoon degree ceremony. After the degree ceremony oration, she gave the following response.

I gave up philosophy because I thought that words indicate to express almost anything - and here I am, standing before you and having to look to words to say something that will have meaning.

I think that the way Julian [Dr Julian Boon, Public Orator] began what he said about me is the lesson that I would like to give to everyone - that you, you must, you must form your own ideas of what you believe is right, what you believe is right for you and what you hope. You can change in the world and, if you do, and, if you put your energy your enthusiasm, your intelligence and the kind of discipline that got you up on this stage today, if you put that behind it, you will be able to effect changes. If you follow the crowd, if you simply accept what is being done, you will see the destruction of many things you really believe in.

I have been fighting - and still am - to bring back the idea of beauty, the idea that art can continue, above all, the idea that art can move us, can change us, can help us, can give us another vision, and this is why I have been giving time to the public projects - time to bring art to the public so they can see it, trying to encourage artists who really are the only avant-garde we’re ever going to know about. 

The rest of it is going to be a footnote to history - the piles of rubbish, the sand, the criminals and formaldehyde - they will not survive. They will be marginalised, as the effort today and so many artists are marginalised, because of the attention given to the bizarre, the shocking. But I think the lesson is well learnt in any enterprise or any endeavour or any path that your taking - that you’ve got to really be concerned of all around you and if you don’t put your attention to it, that world would not exist.  

Thank you.   

July 2002

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Last updated: 24 July 2002 17:00
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