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Traveller, there is no path...

09 June 2009


Carla Delfos, ELIA's Executive Director, received a honorary doctorate from Columbia Colllege Chicago on June 17th. Pictures will follow soon, but here is the text of her speech delivered on that occasion.

"Dear Dr. Carter, members of the Columbia Board of Trustees, faculty and students, ELIA president and vice president, dear all,

I will tell you a short story of a six-year old girl living in a provincial town somewhere in the Netherlands. She played the piano, she was eager to go to school and learn, loved her ballet classes and she lived her little life, until one day, one afternoon, the Artist came to her school. The artist asked her to transform herself into a tree, and the six-year old girl did transform herself into a tree, the artist taught her to hear like a tree, to see like a tree, to feel like a tree. And a whole new dimension of hearing, seeing and feeling was revealed to her. That afternoon had a crucial influence on my life. Without that artist, I would probably not have been standing here today, here in Chicago, in front of all of you. Chicago, the city of 'yes we can'…..

I would like to thank Columbia College Chicago for this incredible honour and the recognition it shows for ELIA in general and the work that I have done in particular. I am convinced that this honour will encourage the inspiring cooperation between ELIA and Columbia College even more. We, the higher arts education institutions and universities from Europe and from the United States, through ELIA and Columbia College, have an important message to convey to the world. Together we need to emphasise the importance to invest in the arts and arts education; we need to explain to policy makers that the arts and arts education highly contribute to creativity, to economics and to the quality of life; As well as in the United States as in the European Union are the arts and arts education still marginalised and often seen as a luxury and not as a necessity in our societies.

The European Union spends 80% of its budget on agriculture and 0.03% on culture. In other words, the European Union spends the same amount on culture as it does on cleaning its offices in Brussels. There is much to be done.

We do not want to be like Jean Monet, one of the founders of the European Union, who said at the end of his life: if I could start again, I would start with Culture.

Let's learn from the past and focus on the future. Here, today, a new generation is leaving the university, a new phase of your life will start. I am very curious where you all will be in 10 years time, in 30 years time, and I hope to live to witness to see the world that you will start creating tomorrow.

You are the architect of your life, the future is in your hands.

I have a request to you to keep a few guidelines in mind during the journey of your professional life, guidelines that have been important to me:

  • to try to always cross borders, physical and mental borders;

  • to always be curious for the unknown and for the other;

  • to always question the things that are happening around you;

  • and last but not least to always listen to your heart and trust your intuition.

To finalise, I would like to quote the Spanish poet Antonio Machado

Traveller, there is no path, the path forms itself through walking."

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