Commencement Honorees 2014


Rika BurnhamHonorary Doctor of Fine Arts:  Rika Burnham

Rika Burnham is Head of Education at The Frick Collection.  Previously, she was a museum educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she worked from 1985 to 2008.  Burnham was recognized by the National Art Education Association for sustained achievement in teaching in 2001, appointed a Getty Museum Scholar in 2002, and received the James D. Burke Prize for achievement in the arts in 2003, the first museum educator to receive this award.  She received the Charles Robertson Memorial Award from the School Art League in 2005 and in 2006 was an Attingham Trust Scholar in the Royal Collection Studies Programme in London.  

Rika has been a guest lecturer and conducted workshops at art museums across the United States since 1989.  She has been a visiting museum educator of the Summer Institute of Contemporary Art and project director of the Teaching Institute for Museum Educators, both at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and an adjunct professor of Art and Art Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.  Her publications include several essays on museum education, as well as a catalogue essay in Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still Lifes and Interiors(2009), edited by Dita Amory.  Her first book, Teaching in the Art Museum: Interpretation as Experience, co-authored with Elliott Kai-Kee, was published in spring 2011.  

In the fall of 2012, Rika Burnham lead a series of "experiences" in the galleries at MassArt and was also a guest panelist.  Many students and faculty reported that these visits and her lectures were "inspiring", "life-changing" and "transformative". 

Melvin EdwardsHonorary Doctor of Fine Arts:  Melvin Edwards

Melvin Edwards is one of America's foremost contemporary sculptors.  He is known for creating sculpture that fuses the political with the abstract as it addresses his African American heritage.  He has had solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the L.A. County Museum, the New Jersey State Museum, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.  A 30-year retrospective of his sculpture was held in 1993 at the Neuberger Museum of Art in New York.  Several of his works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York's Museum of Modem Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the L. A. County Museum.  Mr. Edwards sculpture has been highlighted internationally in major exhibitions from Paris to Japan.

In addition, the importance of his work has been recognized by his receipt of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship to Zimbabwe, and through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.  His research into Third World visual culture has taken him to Morocco, Brazil, China, Cuba, and Nigeria.  Inspiration for Edwards comes from his ancestral home, Africa, where he currently spends several months each year working as a sculptor in Senegal.

Besides achieving a prestigious career as a sculptor, Melvin Edwards has realized a distinguished 40-year teaching career.  In 1964, he began teaching at San Benadino Valley College.  He went on to teach at the Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of Arts), the Orange County Community College in New York, the University of Connecticut and at Rutgers University.

Photo: Robert Hale

Myran Parker-BrassExcellence in Art Education Award: Myran Parker-Brass

Myran Parker-Brass, a native of Chicago, Illinois, is a professional musician, music educator, and arts administrator who began her career as an advocate for quality arts education over thirty-five years ago as a music teacher in the Chicago Public Schools and member of the faculty at Northeastern Illinois University's Chicago Teachers Center.

With a family move to Boston in 1989, Myran joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra as Director of Education. During her tenure Myran worked to uphold the BSO's mission-driven efforts to provide arts education opportunities to Massachusetts schools and families.  In 2005 Myran joined the faculty of Longy School of Music building and implementing their graduate program which trains Longy conservatory students to be "teaching artists", using their talent/skills in schools, community settings and being public advocates for music and music education, Myran served as the first Chair of the  Experiential Education Program and remains a member of the faculty.

In 2011, Myran joined the Boston Public Schools (BPS) as Executive Director for the Arts providing strategic vision and planning and building capacity to expand arts education within BPS with a focus on access, equity and quality arts education for all students.  The move to BPS was a natural transition having worked for over 20 years building and supporting arts education in the Boston Public Schools.

Myran is a nationally and internationally recognized consultant in music/arts education and since 2006 has provided training for teachers and arts administrators in Puerto Rico and Germany.

Myran currently serves on the Arts Education Advisory Council for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education working with Commissioner Chester on developing and implementing arts/arts education policy for the State.  Myran also served on the Arts Education Policy Task Force for Boston Public Schools, which created the current policy for the district as well as the Strategic Planning, and Arts Education Advisory Committee for the Cambridge Public Schools.  Myran serves on the Board of Overseers for the Museum of Fine Arts, Board of Directors for the Boston Children's Chorus, Board of Directors for Roxbury Community College Foundation, and Board of Directors for Project STEP (String Training Program for Minority Students).

In addition to her work in education, Myran continues work as a professional musician; she has appeared as soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra which the Boston Globe praised as .... "just plain wonderful" and most recently with the Landmarks Orchestra for the opening of their 2013 Summer Concert Series.  She has appeared in concert settings throughout the United States and Europe and has spent many hours in the studio recording "jingles".  Her jazz performances earned her the "Outstanding Jazz Vocalist" award at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival.

Myran is co-founder of the New England Spiritual Ensemble (NESE), dedicated to the preservation and performance of the Negro Spirituals. The ensemble, in addition to concert performances, also has a rigorous education and training program that includes conferences and professional development opportunities for teachers, in-school residency programs and a training chorus for high school students.  The NESE will be celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2014 and with a series of concerts, release of a new CD.

Myran, husband Kenneth, daughter Kristen and "Newfie" Nala live in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts where gardening cooking and reading are Myran's favorite past times.