2018 Commencement Speaker Announced

Award-winning actor and director John Carroll Lynch to deliver Watkins Commencement address

Watkins College of Art Commencement Gowns

On Saturday, May 12, 2018, critically acclaimed actor and director John Carroll Lynch will address Watkins College of Art’s class of 2018. The ceremony will take place beneath the tent on Watkins’s campus, beside its new Art Walk.

Known for the versatility of his characters—Twisty the Clown in Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, suspected Zodiac killer Arthur Leigh Allen in David Fincher’s Zodiac, Mac McDonald in John Lee Hancock’s The Founder, and Drew Carey’s brother on The Drew Carey Show—Carroll occupies a rare stratum of artist whose remarkable breadth is matched only by the detail and nuance he lends to his work.

“I have known John Carroll Lynch for more than 30 years and have followed his career with great appreciation,” says Watkins President J. Kline. “His rare and exquisite physical set of tools of the trade, as well as his profound emotional intelligence, set him apart from so many others. The combination of an absolute dedication to craft and an intuitive understanding of the human condition makes him an exceptional role model for the students at Watkins. I am honored and gratified he will be here to share in their accomplishment.”

A native of Colorado, Lynch was a member of the famed Guthrie Theater Acting Company in Minneapolis, MN, before landing his first major film role as Norm opposite Frances McDormand’s Marge in the Academy Award-winning film Fargo. Since then, he has worked steadily in film, television, and theatre, amassing more than 50 film credits alone with such directors as Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island), Mark Ruffalo (Sympathy for Delicious), Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl), Mick Jackson (Volcano), Karyn Kusama (The Invitation), Albert Brooks (Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World), and Seth MacFarlane (Ted 2). Coming this year, he will appear with Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, and Kathy Bates in The Highwaymen; with Paul Giamatti, Katherine Hahn, and Molly Shannon in Private Life; and with Matt Bomer in Anything.

Theatre, film, and television can be agents of change. And are a vital part of our well-being as a species.

Television has been equally rich territory for Lynch, who has appeared on numerous series, including The Walking DeadBillionsTurnThe AmericansHouse of LiesCarnivaleBody of ProofBig Love; and The Brotherhood of Poland, NH; among others. On stage, Lynch has played Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at the Guthrie and was in the original production for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies. Other credits include Under the Blue Sky at the Geffen and Beth Henley’s world premiere of Ridiculous Fraud at New Jersey’s McCarter Theater.

In 2017, he made his directorial debut with Lucky, starring Harry Dean Stanton, in one of his final roles, as well as David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Beth Grant, and Ed Begley, Jr. The film won numerous awards, including The Ecumenical Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival, along with Audience Awards at the Chicago Critics Film Festival; The American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland; The Thessaloniki International Film Festival; and The Haifa International Film Festival. The movie also garnered Best Actor awards and special jury prizes for Stanton at The Thessaloniki International Film Festival, The Gijon International Film Festival, and at the IPA Satellite Awards, where Lynch earned the Satellite Award for Best First Feature. Filipe Freitas of Film Threat praised the film as “a light poem…with mortality at its thematic center…eschewing sentimental baits [and] relying on the integrity of an encouraging story that also feels charming, positive, and hopeful.”

An artist who has pursued his craft with relentless dedication and depth, Lynch provides a powerful example to those just emerging from Watkins’s conservatory. “It has been one of the joys of my life to help tell stories that, I hope, have moved people to reflect on our world and the human condition,” he says. “Theatre, film, and television can be agents of change. And are a vital part of our well-being as a species.”

Lynch will speak to more than 30 emerging artists at the 2018 Commencement; these students will receive degrees in one of Watkins’s seven disciplines: art, film, fine art, graphic design, illustration, interior design, and photography. Those graduating will also include artists who have pursued masters of fine arts degrees in film.

Established in 1885, the mission of Watkins College of Art is to challenge individuals to develop their talent, refine their creative practice, and dedicate their lives to advancing culture through the illuminating power of art. The college boasts a high employment average of students who, upon graduating, work within the creative economy and their chosen profession (87 percent). Indeed, throughout its 133 years, Watkins has been a pioneer in connecting individuals to their highest potential. Begun by Samuel Watkins with the goal of teaching the “business of life,” the college has mobilized to meet the needs of an ever-changing population, particularly those who may have struggled to gain their footholds, such as immigrants in the early 20th century, women as they joined the workforce in the 1930s and 40s, and servicemen upon their return from World War II.

Over the past year, Watkins—which offers a 65,000-square-foot facility; state-of-the-art silo studios, soundstages, and multidisciplinary spaces; as well as modern residential apartments, all within America’s “It” City—launched a multipronged and ambitious effort to advance its reputation as one of the finest arts conservatories in the country.

For more information about Commencement, please contact: communications@watkins.edu.