Maine College Art & Design Announces 2022 Commencement Speaker Mohamad Hafez

Honorary Degrees to be conferred to Dr. Edward M. Friedman ’08 and Carole J. Friedman

PORTLAND, MEApril 19, 2022Maine College of Art & Design (MECA&D) today announced renowned artist and architect Mohamad Hafez—best known for using of everyday materials to create work that evokes conversations about displacement, identity, and survival—will deliver the Commencement address at the College’s 111th graduation ceremony. During the ceremony, which begins at 10am on Friday, May 27, 2022, at Portland’s State Theatre, MECA&D will bestow honorary degrees on Hafez, current MECA&D Trustee Dr. Edward M. Friedman ’08, and Carole J. Friedman.


Mohamad Hafez, 2018. Photo: David Ritter

Hafez is a Syrian-American artist and architect who expresses the juxtaposition of East and West within him. Much of Hafez’s work physically embodies a feeling shared with Syrians around the world; one of immobility and being silenced. Hafez creates photorealistic three-dimensional scenes that represent the urban fabric of the Middle East and serve as his backdrops for political and social expression. The graphic nature of Hafez’s work seeks to depict the atrocities ignored by the global community to address the urgent need of keeping a dialogue alive. 

“We are honored to have Mohamad Hafez with us to celebrate the Class of 2022,” said Dr. Laura Freid, president of Maine College of Art & Design. “At a time when issues of displacement and survival are so critically at play in world events, Mohamad’s active engagement and creative response to the refugee crisis will be an enlightening reminder of the important role this new generation of artists and designers will play in creating a better world.”

Hafez currently serves as a 2018 Yale University Silliman College Fellow, Interpreter in Residence at U-Chicago Oriental Institute, and artist-in-residence at the Keller Center of Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago. His work has been featured in several highly acclaimed exhibitions and profiled on National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Yorker. Hafez is also the recipient of a 2018 Connecticut Arts Hero Award for his extensive and continuous body of work on issues such as the Syrian civil war, the worldwide refugee crisis, and an overall desire to counter hate speech. In 2019, he was selected as one of the 40 under 40 artists in the Middle East by London’s Apollo Magazine. In 2022, Hafez was the subject of a short documentary "A Broken House" that was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination.

In addition to bestowing a honorary degree to Hafez during the Commencement ceremony, MECA&D will also confer Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees to Dr. Edward M. Friedman ‘08 and his wife Carole J. Friedman. 

Dr. Edward M. Friedman ‘08 and Carole J. Friedman arrived in Maine in 1974, and they have supported arts in the Portland community since then. After a successful career as a vascular-thoracic surgeon, Dr. Friedman found new life at MECA&D as a part-time, non-traditional BFA student in September of 2000. He graduated with honors in 2008 with a degree in Sculpture, and has since then participated actively as an alumnus. In 2015, Dr. Friedman was elected to the Board of Trustees and generously served on a number of committees, including the Academic and Student Life, Advancement, Enrollment, Facilities, and Finance Committees, and the Investment Subcommittee.  

“For nearly 25 years, the Friedmans have generously supported the work, faculty, and students at Maine College of Art & Design,” said Dr. Freid. “From awarding BFA Merit Competition winners to helping us bring sculpture-focused Visiting Artists, the College would not be what it is today without the passion, dedication, and commitment Ed and Carole bring to our creative community.” 

Throughout their many years of collaboration with the college, Ed and Carole have been tireless advocates for creating opportunities for students to advance in their creative and professional practices. Their transformative impact is most evident in MECA&D’s Artists at Work Program, where their support has helped build a culture of professionalism and creative entrepreneurship while providing MECA&D students with a mindset of inquiry and the diversity of skills and knowledge that empower graduates to meet future market needs and to achieve meaningful professional careers. Ed and Carole have also been instrumental in advancing the mission of the College’s Sculpture program through faculty support and by bringing visiting artists to the College to speak on areas related to sculpture.

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Maine College of Art & Design (MECA&D, pronounced "Maine College of Art and Design”) has been activating students of all pursuits to make art, make an impact, and inspire change since its founding as Portland School of Art in 1882. Located in Portland's thriving Arts District, students have access to state-of-the-art facilities, 24-hour-a-day studios, a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and a community-based Artists at Work program—making MECA&D the right-sized school in the right-sized city for every student who wants to make their mark and be seen. MECA&D offers BFA Majors and Minors, Graduate Programs, Continuing Studies, Pre-College, and includes the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and the Institute for Contemporary Art. Follow us at @mecaart.



Jacqui Walpole
Director of External Relations