You are here

Otis College Fine Arts Senior Jessie Gaudet Announced as 2024 Valedictorian

Otis College Fine Arts Senior Jessie Gaudet Announced as 2024 Valedictorian
Gaudet will deliver remarks alongside this year’s honorary degree recipients Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Janet Marie Smith.

Otis College’s O-Launch 2024 weekend culminates in the commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 12, during which BFA and MFA candidates will receive their diplomas and hear remarks from this year’s honorary doctorate recipients and the class valedictorian. This year, visual artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby; architect and urban planner Janet Marie Smith, Executive Vice President of Planning and Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers; and Fine Arts major Jessie Gaudet will share their experiences as creatives with an audience of graduates and their families, friends, and faculty. 

The valedictory award is bestowed annually on the member of the senior class whose work represents the pinnacle of academic excellence. Gaudet was chosen for their continuously stellar academic performance throughout their Otis College career and the exceptional quality of their studio work. 

Raised on the westside of Los Angeles, Gaudet’s life was deeply intertwined with the outdoors and the ocean, fostering interests in activities like surfing and marine biology. This connection to nature profoundly influences their work, which explores the intricate relationships between and within our bodies through sculpture, video, photo, and performance. During their time at Otis College, Gaudet delved deeper into understanding the psychological and spiritual connections we have with our physical selves, employing curiosity, play, and a fascination with the unusual. 

“For most of my life I never identified as an artist, but as an athlete or as someone who enjoys the outdoors. I thought because I didn’t like to draw that I wasn’t an artist. It wasn’t until late high school that I took a ceramics class and realized ‘Ooooh, I love building things and thinking three dimensionally,’” says Gaudet. “From then on I started leaning into sculpture and video. I’ve always loved making videos but I didn’t even know that was art until I was in college.” 

Gaudet majored in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Sculpture/New Genres in order to explore the freedom of expression that comes from working in different materials. “I can combine all of my interests and expressions in one place and I love not having a limitation in that expression,” says Gaudet, who cites Otis instructors Jacci Den Hartog, Asher Hartman, Cara Levine, Marlena Donohue, and Marisol Porras with supporting them and “answering all of the random questions I have had, art-related or not. But each professor that I’ve had at Otis has offered valuable nuggets of wisdom.” 

To their classmates and incoming Foundation students, sophomores, and juniors, Gaudet offers this advice: “Make shitty art. Try things that might not work. School is a time to explore, to mess up, to find yourself and what you align with. Give that process space to breathe.” 

In addition to the valedictory award, Otis College also recently announced the 2024 Academic Excellence Award recipients, who will be recognized during the commencement ceremony and will wear a special purple cord with their graduation robes. This award is the highest honor given to graduating students in a major by program leaders and faculty. Criteria include a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher (for undergraduates), quality of work, personal character, and contributions to Otis College and the larger community.

The 2024 Academic Excellence Award recipients are:

  • Aimee Toyama, BFA in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Graphic Design
  • Vibhu Venkatesh, BFA in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Illustration
  • Morrison Salmon, BFA in Digital Media with an emphasis in Animation
  • Saul Ceniceros, BFA in Digital Media with an emphasis in Game and Entertainment Design 
  • Troi Boyer, BFA in Digital Media with an emphasis in Motion Design
  • Christian Rose, BFA in Environmental Design
  • Zhiyou Pan, BFA in Fashion Design
  • Sua Kim, BFA in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Painting
  • Mayolo Figueroa, BFA in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Photography
  • Jessie Gaudet, BFA in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Sculpture/New Genres
  • Emily Kong, BFA in Product Design 
  • Kenzie Waskiewicz, BFA in Toy Design
  • Joaquin Stacey-Calle, MFA in Fine Arts
  • Manali Anare, MFA in Graphic Design

During O-Launch weekend, graduating students from Otis’s nine BFA programs—Animation, Environmental Design, Fashion Design, Fine Arts, Game and Entertainment Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Product Design, and Toy Design—are on hand to discuss their work, which is displayed in galleries, showrooms, interactive displays, and digital presentations. There also is a fashion show featuring the work of junior and senior Fashion Design students for mentor projects with Mike Amiri, Revolve, J. Crew, and Katherine Ross/LACMA, among others. In addition, MFA Fine Arts and MFA Graphic Design students host open studios, offering an intimate view of their workspaces and creative output. 

Visit the O-Launch event page for more information and a full schedule.

Main image: Photograph by Jack X Proctor/Otis College of Art and Design.