2022 Commencement Bachelor of Fine Arts Valedictorian: Bryanna (Brie) Schmida, School of Illustration

Bachelor of Fine Arts Valedictorian Brie Schmida. Photo by Bob Toy/Art U News.

Brie Schmida is a concept artist and illustrator graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration. She is currently working as a concept artist at Marvel Studios Animation. She is represented as an illustrator by Shannon Associates. 

Schmida has a passion for atmospheric lighting, strong storytelling, and a touch of whimsey. 

While attending Academy of Art University, Schmida fought a degenerative neurological condition that affected her spine and brain. She found her work to be a solace in this time and was able to keep a solid GPA despite her continued degeneration. 

Now in recovery, Schmida creates with renewed fervor and has many plans to continue honing her craft in the years to come


Schmida delivered the following speech to this year’s class of graduating students.

Bachelor of Fine Arts Valedictorian Brie Schmida. Photo by Bob Toy.

Welcome families, friends, Academy faculty, and staff. I would like to extend a hearty congratulations to all my fellow graduates! I especially want to acknowledge Eda Kaban for her excellent instruction and generosity with her time. 

Graduates, your hard work and dedication during a rather surprising turn of global events are to be commended. 

I stand before you today to inspire you, to amuse you, and to somehow incorporate a quote by Jack Sparrow.

But first, a piece of my story.

If I hadn’t fallen off a horse 11 years ago, I may have never become an artist. You’re probably asking yourself, how do these seemingly unrelated events coincide?

Unfortunately for me, I sustained damage to the lining of my spine when I fell off that horse. This caused a rare neurological condition that I had to fight with all that was in me over eight long years, several failed spinal procedures, and one major surgery.

So, when I say I am very humbled to be standing here today, I mean it literally because standing was something that I was hardly able to do a few years ago.

As Captain Jack Sparrow so memorably stated; “Complications arose, ensued, and were overcome.”

Although there’s still a ways to go, I am firmly and finally on the road to recovery. I am left with some migraines, a grateful heart, and the strange ability to detect weather changes. I like to refer to myself as the human barometer.

I am also left with an earnest desire to create. When I was first injured, I began to draw–probably out of sheer boredom more than anything. It’s what kept me going even on days when I would draw while lying in bed.

I have two thoughts for my fellow graduates: First, find the good in the hard times.

We’ve all had to do this the last two years, haven’t we? If we find the good in the times that are hard, we shift our mindset to the positive. I wouldn’t say I’m glad that I fell off that horse, but I am glad that I became an artist.

Complications will arise, they will ensue, and they will be overcome, and… as in my case, they

may lead to something you don’t expect.

Second, do not forget the role an artist plays in the world. I believe the playwright Mehmet Murat Ildan said it best: “Behind every beautiful thing built by man, there is a beautiful idea, and behind every beautiful idea, there is a beautiful inspiration, and behind every beautiful inspiration, there is a magical glance of the artistic mind to the world!”

Look around you. Everything you see has been designed by an artist. The chair your dad sits in every evening. (You know the one!) The color palettes in your favorite films. The books you read to your children at night.

And so, to my fellow graduates, don’t underestimate your importance as an artist in this world. You are the key to unlocking ideas, bringing stories to life, and making a thought tangible.

Remember that the art you make is the key ingredient in every invention. The world truly can’t do without you! So go out there and create!

God bless you all.

Thank you.

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