Multidisciplinary artist, performer, and poet JJJJJerome Ellis. Ellis will deliver the Commencement Address on July 21, 2024 on the campus of Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO.

JJJJJerome Ellis identifies as a disabled Grenadian-Jamaican-American animal, artist, and person who stutters. Through music, performance, writing, video, and photography, the artist asks what stuttering can teach us about justice.

Ellis’s wide-ranging creative practices transcend genre and disciplinary boundaries. His debut album, The Clearing, began as an essay, expanding to a sound and text experiment that has been called “an astonishing, must-listen project,” by The Guardian. Allowing the act of the stutter to be understood as part of the work itself creates what Pitchfork Magazine called “both a theoretical investigation and a piece of resistance art in itself, pushing back against societal expectations of performative fluency.”

The poems in Aster of Ceremonies continue and extend work begun in The Clearing and elsewhere, reconceptualizing our relationship to the stuttering voice and exploring the intricacies of representing speech rhythms through text.

On the selection of Ellis for this year’s Honorary Degree, Mary-Kim Arnold, Dean of the Faculty & Academic Affairs notes, “JJJJJerome Ellis’s work reminds us that who we are and how we create are deeply entwined; that living and working with intention and care are creative practices in themselves; and that bringing the fullness of the self to our work is vital, necessary, and sustaining.”

Ellis’s solo and collaborative work has been presented at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York; REDCAT Los Angeles, CA; ISSUE Project Room, Brooklyn, NY; the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, Pittsburgh, PA; Arraymusic, Toronto, Canada; and MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA.

Current work entitled Offerings, a series of performances using sound and text, was commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of Whitney Biennial 2024: Even Better Than the Real Thing. 

Ellis is the recipient of numerous national and international fellowships and awards, including the Fulbright Award, the United States Artists Fellowship; and a Creative Capital Award. He holds a BA from Columbia University and has lectured on sound design at Yale University. Born in 1989 in Groton, Connecticut, the artist lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with his wife, poet-ecologist Luísa Black Ellis.

We look forward to welcoming JJJJJerome Ellis to our Summer Residency and to host his Commencement Address during the VCFA Commencement Ceremony on July 21, 2024.

Honorary degrees at VCFA are awarded to recognize those who have made profound and enduring contributions to the arts, scholarship, and culture, and whose work, character, and contributions to the arts reflect our values as an institution.

For more information on JJJJJerome Ellis’ life and work, visit

To read about past Honorary Degree Award Recipients or to nominate a future awardee, visit Honorary Degrees at VCFA. To learn more about VCFA’s summer 2024 residency, visit our residency schedule.