Can Artists Protect Freedom of Expression?

Cheryl Boone Isaacs
Cheryl Boone Isaacs

Artists are responsible for protecting freedom of expression, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), told graduates of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) during her commencement address last week at the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem.

“As the world becomes smaller and more globally connected, you as artists have a responsibility to protect freedom of expression and ensure that no one’s voice is silenced by threats, violence or prejudice, and that different opinions can be shared without fear of personal or professional attack,” she said.

[ Cost of the Freedom of Expression: Death ]

Boone Isaacs is serving her second term as president of the 7,000-member Academy, presenter of the Oscars.

“Every year at the Oscars we honor the courage of filmmakers who cross borders and test boundaries, who give voice to challenging ideas and alternative points of view, and who encourage us to see the world and those around us in new ways,” she said.

“As you embark on the next phase of your careers in the arts, I hope you will carry that torch, tell the truth about the world as you perceive it and change the narrative.”

Boone Isaacs told 235 recipients of bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of music, master of fine arts and master of music degrees they should remain faithful to their aspirations: “I want you all to follow your passion. There may be detours … but just keep moving forward. Stay focused on your goals and dreams. Happiness is a goal of life.”

[ Don’t Worry, Be Happy. But How? ]

She noted that “there will be times when your passion has to take a back seat to the need to earn money. A career in the arts does not guarantee financial stability, but if you’re smart about finding ways to monetize the work you love, the rewards will be immense.”

As head of CBI Enterprises, Inc., Boone Isaacs has consulted on marketing efforts on such films as The Call, The Artist, The King’s Speech, Precious: based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, Spider-Man 2 and Tupac: Resurrection.

Previously, she oversaw marketing for New Line Cinema’s box office hits including Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Rush Hour; and for Paramount Pictures she orchestrated publicity campaigns for the Best Picture winners Forrest Gump and Braveheart.

In the picture above: Cheryl Boone Isaacs, center, received an honorary doctorate of the arts from Robert L. “Rob” King III, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Lindsay Bierman, Chancellor of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

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Rakesh Raman