Petition to Save the Art School

Save the Art School!

To the Board of Directors of the Educational Alliance,

We are pleased that the Educational Alliance plans to embark on extensive renovations to its flagship building at 197 East Broadway. However we, the undersigned, urge you to ensure that the upcoming renovations to the building include plans to keep the Art School in its current fifth floor home or move it to a comparable space appropriate for preserving ALL of the art school’s offerings as well as honoring its essential and historic spirit.

New Yorkers need the Educational Alliance’s Art School which now provides traditional and affordable art classes in spacious studios with high ceilings and abundant natural light. They need an art school that continues to offer one of the last affordable opportunities in the metropolitan area to study darkroom photography and welding. They need the Educational Alliance to continue its historic mission – to be “an expression of Maimonides’ ultimate level of Tzedakah.”

Respectfully, [Scroll down to see the list of signatories and their affiliations]

You can sign the petition using the online form below.  Please include an email address or phone number or mailing address for verification purposes. We encourage you to also pass on this petition to others.  We have hundreds of signatures already but are still collecting more.  Due to the high volume of signatures/comments and other feedback to this blog, please allow up to 72 hours to see your name posted.  Questions? Suggestions? Want to help? Contact us at oc2sas@juno.com. Or find us on Facebook (search for oc2sas@juno.com).  THANK YOU!

SIGNATORIES [Key to Affiliations]

(Note:  Some of the following signers also chose to include personal comments.  Any name that is underlined links to that signatory’s comments).

Elizabeth Adam (5); Mal Ahern (16); S. Adler (5); Erica Alliston (2); Joe Altman (1); Barbara M. Anderson (16); Laura Anter (5); Miriam Applebaum (1); Carol Anderson (16); Kinsey Anderson (1); Camille Anter (16); Geri Armine-Klein (1); Adam Aronson (2); Eric Araujo (3); Olende Arungu (16); George J. Atta II (5); Natalie Ata (16); Robert Attenweiler (2); Richard Bachmann (4w); Gayle Bacon (4w)l Lee Badger (1); Michael Barfoot (2); David Barkin (5); Mitchell Batavia (2); Jonathan Bauch (4); Violet Baxter (14); Veronia Bell (16)l Julie Berman (1); Helene Berson (1); David Betel (1); Mona Biblow (1); Juliette Bilge (16); Steve Birnak (6); Leo Blackman (5); Claire Blackshire (1y); Glenora Blackshire (7y); Ivy Blackshire (1y); Jill Blagsvedt (5); Ellen Blankstein (1); Jeremy Blankstein (16); Lauren Blankstein (1); Marjorie Blankstein (16); Murray Blankstein (16); Carol Bloom (1); Jeanne Bloom (8); China Blue (16); Beth Bogla (3); Anne Bradford (1); Marc Bratman (1); Brian Brown (5); Mary Laura Brown (2); Phyllis Brown (8); Charmion Browne (16); Lenore Browne (1); Eric Bukatman (5); Rob Callaghan (2); Diana M. Carulli (16); Lynda Caspe (5); Matt Cavanaugh (5); Melanie Chikofsky (4e); Alan Chin (4w, 5); Fay Chin (4w, 12); Diane Collins (16); Sue Chen-Holmes (1); Jeff Chiplis (16);  Claudia Cilker (1); Timothy Clark (1); Andrea Cohen (16);  Cora Cohen (3); Ann Comanar (5); David Cregger (1); Dennis Creegan (2); Lois Cremmins (2);  S. Cropper (4w);  Jennifer Crumpley (11); Michael Cundey (5); Maria Czarnecki (1); W.M. Dabby (16); Donald Daedalus (16);  Martha Danziger (5);  Jesse Deal (2); Diane D’Alessandro (1);  Dominic J. DeJoseph (2); Vanessa Delaossa (1); Suzi Dessel (16); Judith de Zanger (5); Michelle Dezember (5); Victoria DiBiasi (16); Nandi Dill (2); Raphael Dilones (1); Erica Dingman (2); Anatole Dolgoff (6); Nancy Dorn (1); Martha Druska (16); Otis Dupont (2); Aditi Dubey (2); Marcia Z. Dunetz (5); Edward Eichel (16); Marcia Ehrlich (1); Rita Ekhaus (1); Jacquelyn Elder (5); Ciara Elend (1); Leora Elkies (1); Jill Enfield (4e, 5); Dominica Ericksen (1); Daniel Esakoff (5); Melissa Esner (1); Jesse Farrell (4); Susan Fein (2); Robert Feinland (2); Selma Fink (1); Adrienne FitzGerald (1); Paula Fleshman (2); Amy Fong (2); Natalie Foster (1); Judi Frazin (16); Patricia Garcia (16); Emily Garr (16); Megan Garr (5); Tony Garr (1); Kelly Gehrs (5); Jilli Getz (1); Claire Giblin (16); Edith Gignac (5); Marianne Giosa (4w); Talya Gitin (16); Maggie Glass (2) ; ichard Glassman (16); Khristina Godlewski (2); Martin Goldblum (4w); Diane Goldmann (16); Janet Goldner (4w); Silviana Goldsmith (4w); Laraine Goodman (1); Bill Gordh (4); Russell Gordon (1); Samantha Gore (1); Natalie Grabczak (1); Anika Grant (1); Katharine Grantz (1); Jean Grillo (1); Claire Grisham (6); Raphael Grunder (16); Javier Guerrero (2); Gabrielle Gundelfinger (16); Rose Hallen (1); Ellen Hamburg (16); Aveline Hamilton (5); Damon Hamm (1); Evelyn Harris (1); Katherine L. Hasell (2); Rachel Hertz (1); Jill Hochberg (1); Svetlana Hodos (2); Guy Hoffman (5); Don Hogg (1); Rob Hollander (16); Kurt Hoss (1); Brian Huff (2); Mary Hunt (16); Maggie Janes (4w); Ayala Jonas (1); Carrie Jordan (5); Roanna Judelson (16); Ilse Kahane (1); Lora Kahn (5); John Kalman (16); Gitelle Kaplan Oliver Karlin (16); Brian Keady (3); Carol Keyser (5); Mohammad Khan (2); Adam Kent (16); Julia Kent (5); Devin Kenny (14); Victor Kerlow (16); Emily Kerzin (2); Marcia Klein (5); Jennifer Kowitt (16); Katie Kilroy (5); Perry Klepner (16); Margia Kramer (5); Nancy Kramer (1); Lea Kraemer (5); Miles Kucker (1); Olena Kushch (2); Natalie Lanese (4); Norma Lauring (1); Ellen Lauter (1); Adam Lawrence (1);  S. Leelike (1); Vanessa Lemonides (2); Rebecca Lepkoff (4); Marion Lerner-Levine (4 , 9, 10); Jill Lessing (16); Anna Levenstein (5); Doris Ling (1); Elizabeth Lipman (16); Paul Lipson (16); Susan Lowenbraun (5); Barbara Lubiner (1); Timothy Lynch (5); Jimmy Lyons (5); Michael Macioce (3); Deirdre MacKenzie (1); Yasue Maetake (3); Christine Manzella (16); Beverly Marcus (1); Mary Marder (16); Elizabeth Marra (2); Michaelle Marschall (1); Ellen Martin (16); Nereida Martinez (1); Susan Marx (1); Patricia Melvin (16);  Raoul Middleman (4e, 9); Richard R. Miller (16); Felicia Minchin (1); Rucsandra Mitrea (5); Jernee Montoya (1); Robert Morris (1); Tobias Mostel (8); Isaac Mushinsky (1); Larysa Myers (16); Anita Nikita (16); Lynda Nardelli (16); Jeff Nelson (16); Brooke Nesset (16); Maria Nevelson (8); Kay Newman (1); Margot Niederland (16); Dan Nishimoto (5); Elizabeth Nonemaker (16); James Ochs (16); Kevin O’Malley (16); Aylin Lim Omur (5); Genevieve Outlaw (1); Daniel Paccione (5); Richard Pace (16); Stephanie Palmer (1); Steven Paris (2); Arlene Patoe (1); Megan Patrick (16); Trudy Pauken (5); Marlene Payton (5); Elizabeth K. Peck (5); Kathleen Perrine (16); Victoria Pilato (16); Thomas Pitilli (16); Lahary Pittman (4w, 14); L. Pollock Spiegel (5); Jennifer Podorson (2); Jen Poueymirou (3); Annaleena Prykari (16); Kathy Pun (5); Harriet Putterman (1); Taru Rana (5); Ken Ratner (14); Moriah Ray (4w); Annie Reed (4w); Denise Reilly (16); Kirsten Reed (4w); Jessica Reiner (1); Tina Reiter (1); Miriam Rezlea (1); Claudia P. Rincon (1); Rachel Rippy (2); Dana Riseberg (1); Doris Y. Revilla (16); Amy Robinson (5); Elba Rodriguez (1); Jean Roland (1); Bonnie Rosenstock (5); Martha Rosler (5); Bonnie Rothchild (2); Lucille A. Roussin (16); Bernice Rubin (1); Cindy Rucker (5); Camille Rudney (2); Gail Saddy (4w); Sarah Safford (5); Anna Sawaryn (4w); Karen Schmauk (16); Linda Schwartz (2); Rachel Selekman (1); John Schettino (1); Ann Seecof (3); Rudolph Serra (3); Nola Sessions (1); Jacqueline Sferra Rada (1); Michael Sgier (5); Daniella Shachter (1); Nathan Shapiro (1); Charlotte Shaw (16); Jaclyn Sheer (16); Jo-Jo Sherrow (2); Pearl Shifer (1); Janet Sibarium (1); Paula Siegel (5); Isabelle Sigal (5); Arlene Silver (1); John Silver (4w); John L. Silver (16); Joseph Skarzynski (1); Theodora Skipitares (3); M. Sleap (1); Lesley Slepian (2&7y); Barbara Slitkin (2); Kathy Sloane (6); Chase Smith (2); Mark Solomon (5); Harley Spiller (5); Russ Spitovsky (16); Priscilla Stadler (2); Jean Standish (5); Anne Stanner (3); Leona Stassberv Steiner (5); Kitty Joe Ste-Marie (2); Ellen Stern (16); Maya Strauss (1); Tilly Strauss (8); Puja Sunder (1); Ilene Sunshine (4v, 14); Magdalena Sztompka (2); Lora Tenenbaum (8); Nick Thabit (4w); Margherita Tisato (4w); Julie Tolentino (16); Andrea Tsurumi (1); Dylan Tucker (2); Brenda Tully (2); Erica Uhlenbeck (1); Ryan Upp (1); Michele Vallon (5); Sofia Van Leeuwen (1); Edwin Vazquez (5); Yona Verwer (16); Angela C. Vitale (5); John Vogt (16); Sophia K.W. (1y); Grace Walters (16); Marie Warmbold (16); Tom Warren (5); Tamara Wasserman (1); Zell Watson (2); K. Webster (5); Amy Westpfahl (5); Jill Weinstein (1, 13); Lee Whiting (3, 4, 13); Sophia Wiedeman (16); Brian Wintersteen (1); Tammy Wofsey (1); Ray Wolfson (16); Ronnie Wolff (2); Carolyn Woods (4w); Jess Worby (16); Gemma Yamamoto (2); Sally Young (4e); Lisa Zapol (16)

Key to Affiliations 1=Current/Recent Student 1y=Student in Young Artists Program (YAP) 2=Alumna/Alumnus 3=Current/Recent Teacher 4=Former Teacher 4e=Art Teacher/Professor elswhere from EA 4v=Visiting Instructor 4w=Artist in Support 5=Community Supporter 6=EA Donor 7=Parent of Student, Alumna, or Alumnus 7y=Parent of Young Artists Program (YAP) Student, Alumna, or Alumnus 8=Family Member of EA Distinguished Faculty/Student 9=Member of the Alliance of Figurative Artists 10=Member of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors 11=Staff Member 12=Former Staff Member 13=EA Volunteer 14=EA Exhibitor 15=Elected Official 16=Other

Twenty Questions

Here is the text of a flyer that oc2sas members handed out to the 50+ Art School supporters who came to the Sculpture Studio on Thursday, October 28th for the Educational Alliance’s follow-up meeting to the August 31st informational meeting they hosted on the renovations.  The red text is oc2sas’s post-meeting notes.

Welcome! Members of the Organizing Committee to Save the Art School (oc2sas) are very glad you came tonight. We’ve prepared this list of questions to ask EA representatives. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it contains several unanswered questions folks had at the first meeting, as well as questions people have been asking us about since.

We hope you will help us make sure that EA’s representatives are asked every single one of these questions tonight: 

* What are the plans to replace the art library, which was also used for numerous art classes but not counted in your original tally of square footage that was being reduced? 
Robin Bernstein was not very specific in answer to this question and at first said that the library’s collection will be spread out in different places in the renovated building. Later she said it was possible the the library’s holdings could be maintained together in one of the conference rooms.  It does not appear as though there has been much thought to this important collection.  No one actually asked her why the square footage of the current library (over 100 square feet) was not included in the original square footage tally.

* Is the planned new and expanded “art gallery” also going to be the EA lobby, and will it still be accredited? 
There will be two art galleries — one which sounds like it’s going to be part of the lobby, one which will be on the mezzanine level. No one specifically asked her if it would be accredited but folks who are familiar with the process and requirements of accredited art galleries said the plans for them we have heard so far do NOT sound like they are accredited spaces — it sounds like a hallway with art and a lobby with art. EA’s FAQ sheet which was handed out at the meeting simply states, “There will be 2 art galleries in the new building — including one in the main lobby.”

* Your plan eliminates the two most unique spaces of the art school, and the ceiling height is nearly halved.  Why is the gallery expanding? 
This question was not asked at the meeting. Our guess is the gallery is “expanding” only because it’s easy to expand it into the lobby, or to use the large lobby space as a gallery — especially if it does not have to be accredited.

* At the last meeting Lynn and Danny acknowledged and apologized for a failure to plan ANYTHING for the art school during the renovation. Given the tough economic times, we are curious if since then there has been any planning made for displaced art educators and staff? Is EA paying giving them some sort of severance, or offering any kind of professional assistance? 
Last week EA announced that some art classes (14 for the next semester) will be held at other organizational locales. Adult ceramics and painting classes will be held at the Sirovich Center on East 12th Street and adult drawing classes will be held at the 14th Street Y. Many details of these classes have yet to be announced including who the instructors will be. Robin did not discuss any details about the displaced art educators and staff other than to say EA values their contributions and she believes it is not appropriate to discuss their situations publically.

* Can you confirm that the administration has asked the staff to ignore student concerns and remain silent about the renovations? 
Robin denied this.

* Why are you planning services for seniors on the 5th floor when elevators will be inaccessible during fire drills, or a real emergency? Is this why the NYC Department of Buildings disapproved the plans you submitted? 
Though this question was not asked in its entirity during the meeting, after the meeting Robin denied that the building plans were disapproved. Perhaps she knows something we don’t. As of the close of business on Friday the Department of Buildings was still listing the job as disapproved on its website.
http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/JobsQueryByLocationServlet?requestid=1&allbin=1003704&allstrt=EAST+BROADWAY&allnumbhous=197&fillerdata=C

* Why were students misled by blaming the planned expulsion of the welding studio on fire codes? Where did you get this idea, and can you tell us more about your latest reason: “insurance difficulties”? 
Unfortunately this question was not asked during the meeting.

* The Art School’s black and white darkroom photo classes are arguably it’s most popular and unique classes.  Young Artist photo classes are very popular amongst local disadvantaged and minority students, as well as adults and seniors of all kinds. Even though the teen photo classes are offered at various times, students often have to share enlargers. Why would any renovation of theArt School not keep–or even expand–this small, 400 square-foot darkroom?
Several people brought up some variation of this question and Robin reiterated EA’s position that “difficult” decisions had to be made and that the darkrooom — with its “dedicated” (as opposed to “flexible”) purpose — didn’t make the cut. She also, as had Lynn, tried to lay blame for the decision with Art School director Walter O’Neil.

* We have found that the Art School was recently awarded a $400,000 grant by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to expand and improve the Art School. Can you tell us how this planned renovation conforms to the terms of this grant? Is EA risking all of that money by shrinking the art school, both physically and educationally? 
Robin insisted that the renovation project is completely within the parameters of the grant and that the LMDC is aware and supportive of all aspects of the renovation process.

* Mayor Bloomberg regularly bills NYC as a major international art destination, and dozens of art galleries are moving into the Lower East Side. At this time, why is the Educational Alliance downsizing an Art School that has 116 years of credibility that is noted around the world? 
EA’s FAQ handout stated, “We had to make many compromises to fit all of our agency’s programming into the finite space of the building. We made the decision not to reproduce these two studios because they, unlike other studios, cannot be used flexibly to accomodate multiple art disciplines.”

* We were promised the specifics of the three proposed art rooms at the last meeting, but we are still waiting for the most important information. Can you tell us how many square feet each room would be, as well as details on the size and number of the windows? 
EA’s architect, Ray Dovell, answered this question. He said there would be a “ring” of windows in the space which would be four feet high. He said there would be a painting studio of 854 square feet, a drawing studio of 686 square feet, and a ceramics studio of 1241 square feet. He confirmed that the ceiling heights would be 9.5 feet (down from almost 15 in the current spaces). He also shared the new and upsetting information with the meeting attendees that there were no plans to continue the sculpture studio.

* Why were art students and faculty not told about the renovation until late August? And very importantly— why were no art faculty or professional artists in any of the focus groups, or other forms of consultation? 
Robin reiterated Lynn and Danny’s position from the August meeting that EA had not handled this well. But she was insistent that the focus groups and other consultation was valid and that the community was interested in a gym and in additional programming for children and seniors.

* You claim to have included the Director of the Art School in your new plans. Can you tell us specifically how he was consulted and how he contributed?
Robin said that Walter was given the plans for the new space and asked to figure out how best to use it. She implied that he had a great deal of say and input into the process. From what oc2sas has seen, this was not the case.

 * We would like specific details about both “swing spaces” being considered.  Some of them are:

                 – What percentage of the Art Schoolscurrent classes would be offered, and which ones?
                 So far there are 14 classes scheduled for the next semester in adult ceramics, painting, and drawing. Robin did
                 not address any of the specifics below though oc2sas had heard through other sources that there are limited 
                 art studio amentities and no plans for open studio time.

                – Will there be lockers, slop sinks, and other important art studio amenities? 

                – Will there be art classes offered during the daytime as well as evening?

                – Will there be open studio time?  

* Are you at all concerned about permanently besmirching the reputation of the Educational Alliance by continuing to ignore the greater Lower East Side community regarding the renovation?  So what are your plans to include them?
*Nobody asked this, unfortunately, but it’s not hard to guess what the answer would be. Earlier in the week Robin wrote a posting for EA’s blog and in it she referred several times to the “courage” it took to pursue these renovations.

* Members of “oc2sas” would like to address the Board of Trustees at their next meeting. What is the procedure for getting on the agenda? 
*Unfortunately, this question was not asked.

For more information about oc2sas and other activities we are planning, please check out our website at www.oc2sas.wordpress.com  or email us at  oc2sas@juno.com

…and now you can follow us on Twitter & Facebook!

9 Steps Down

“It’s NOT in the basement!” Lynn Appelbaum, the Educational Alliance’s Chief Program Officer, firmly stated to over 60 angry Art School students at the August 31st informational meeting.  Lynn was responding to oc2sas’s assertion that the Educational Alliance planned to move the historic Art School from its current spacious and traditional studios on the fifth floor to a much smaller basement space with low ceilings, small windows, and little natural light.

That the Art School would be on the “first” floor instead of the basement was just one of  several  things Lynn said with seeming certainty at  the meeting. For example, she claimed that (save for the elimination of the darkroom and welding studio)  the new, post-renovation space for the Art School would be every bit as nice and appropriate as the current one.  She claimed that she was sorry she didn’t have with her (or know offhand) any details such as ceiling heights, square footage, or window size that might help students compare the current space to the planned one. She promised to  email specific information with measurements of all these things within two weeks to the Art School student body.

She doesn’t have a very good record so far.  It turns out that while she was saying all this, she was sitting under a piece of painters tape positioned exactly 9.5 feet off the floor. Two weeks and one day after the meeting when (after repeated requests by oc2sas) she finally sent her long awaited email, it included almost none of the promised information except for — what a coincidence! — the fact that the ceilings in the new Art School would be 9.5 feet high.

So, as previously mentioned  (www.oc2sas.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/appels-and-oranges) after a month of little satisfaction from Lynn, oc2sas went ahead and measured the current Art School so we could get a better sense of whether or not Lynn’s claims that the new space would be essentially the same, were accurate.  But what about the planned post-renovation space for the Art School?  What does that look like? Well, the Educational Alliance is saying very little about that.

Here’s what we have been able to find out on our own about the planned space for the Art School: It will be on what is currently known as the “M” floor (“M” stands for Mezzanine) of the Educational Alliance. It’s not in the original building, it’s in the extension built in the 1960s. Unsurprisingly, 1960’s construction was quite different from that of the 1800’s.

How do you get to the M floor? Two ways. You can enter through the EA main entrance at 197 E. Broadway, cut through the Ernest Rubenstin Gallery, hang a right at the vending machines, walk down one flight (9 steps), and hang a left at the end of the stairwell.  Alternatively, you can enter from the Jefferson Street entrance (by the theatre), and then walk down a sloping hallway to get to the main part of the M floor. See the photo on the right? Note how in the bottom of that photo different types of flooring were once laid, presumably to compensate for the rather steep grade change of the floor.  Here’s a video of the slope toward the M floor:  www.flickr.com/photos/oc2sas/6270439337/in/photostream

This all looks and seems like a basement to us. But, WAIT, don’t you remember? According to Lynn and Danny this is NOT the basement.  The Educational Alliance calls the floor the gym is on (another flight down from the M floor) the basement, so that must mean the M floor is something different. Semantics are a wonderful thing!

So if the M floor isn’t the basement, what is it? Is it the first floor like they claim? Not exactly and that’s clear not only from the steps and the slope, but from the windows. Below are three pictures of the M floor windows that were taken outside on Jefferson Street. The left picture highlights the difference between the size of the 5th floor windows and those on the M floor. The middle and right picture show not only how small the windows are but also how the security mesh will further diminish the already low level of natural light. From the picture on the right — which if you examine closely you will see peers inside the building — you can also get a sense of how high up on the wall the windows are (and conversely how the floor of the inside room is below street level). 

But maybe the M floor just LOOKS like a basement from the outside. What about the inside of those rooms on the M floor? Does that perspective help us to understand this as the “first” floor as Lynn claims? Not really.  The pictures from the inside (see below) just confirm what we already know.  There are small windows placed near the ceilings of (most of) the rooms. There are low ceilings — maybe EA is planning to remove the dropped ceilings and the resulting ones will be 9.5 feet high.  That’s not going to change the window placement that much though — they will still be relatively high up from the floor. Between their placement and small size it’s clear why the windows don’t provide much natural light and  why the M floor clearly is almost totally dependent on flourescent lighting.

This all sounds (and looks) more and more like a basement, similar to the ones common in split level houses  or — as far too many New Yorkers are familiar with — the layout of a typical  basement apartment. In fact, technically, the M floor isn’t just the basement, New York City classifies it as part of the CELLAR. Here is a copy of the original Certificate of Occupancy for the building (which has a different address than the main building — it’s actually 179 Henry Street). If there was any doubt that the M floor is NOT the first floor, this should end that.

Interestingly, EA has hung in the lobby large artist renderings of the renovated interior spaces. There’s a picture of the fifth floor “multipurpose” room (oddly with what looks like china and silverware settings on the tables), another of what looks like a cardio room of the health and wellness center, a picture of a children’s classroom, and then some lobby pictures and a picture of the entrance. There’s NO picture of the post-renovation Art School. Why not? If the Art School is as “valued” as Lynn claimed it is in the August 31st meeting, if the new space is going to be as wonderful as EA President and CEO, Robin Bernstein, attests it will be on the EA blog — why not show it off? Our only explanation is that the Educational Alliance is trying its best to hide the real truth — that the Art School is being sacrificed and marginalized to a vastly inferior space all so the fifth floor can be converted to a euphemistically called “multipurpose” room with skyline views for when EA rents it out for weddings and holds Board and other VIP functions there.

It’s unnecessary. It’s shameful. But it’s happening unless we do something that convinces the Board of Trustees otherwise. What have YOU done? Here are three ways you can help oc2sas make a difference:
1. Sign the petition.
2. Call: Robin Bernstein, Educational Alliance President & CEO, 212-780-2300 and Russell Makowsky, President , Board of Trustees, 212-715-0300, x130. Let them know sacrificing the Art School for skyline views is unacceptable and unnecessary — a perfectly fine multipurpose room can be built on the M floor without adversely affecting the Art School.
3. Come to the Educational Alliance this Thursday, October 27th at 6pm to let the Educational Alliance know the current planned renovations are a BAD IDEA.

Appelbaum and Orange Arrows and Coincidences

This picture is from the August 31st meeting hosted by EA consultant Danny Rosenthal and EA Chief Program Officer Lynn Appelbaum. See those big orange arrows we drew in? They are pointing to some painters tape that was on the wall of the painting studio when the meeting was held there. We recently discovered that the tape (which is still there by the way) is 9.5 feet from the floor. Coincidentally(?), 9.5 is the same height of the ceilings for the new art “studios” which will be housed on the “ground” floor of the building after the planned renovations are completed.

You can’t quite see the ceilings of the current painting studio in this picture, they’re too far up. But they are over 14 feet high. How do we know all this? We measured. We got tired of waiting for Lynn and Danny to keep their promise to provide us with the exact information they claimed they didn’t have at the August 31st meeting. Lynn assured students then that the new space dedicated to the art school would be almost as big as the current one. Students responded that referring to the overall space was too vague, without specific details it was like comparing apples to oranges. Lynn reiterated that the new space was almost as large as the current one and apologized for not bringing the specs or exact details with her. She promised that within two weeks she would send an email to students that would describe precisely how the new studios compared to the current ones in terms of square footage, ceiling height, and window size as well as provide information about the “modern fire codes” which she and Danny claimed precluded the possibility of EA continuing welding classes after the renovations. Two weeks and one day later students received an email from Lynn which did not live up to her promises: 

*Instead of providing a studio by studio comparison for square footage, Lynn repeated what she had said at the meeting — that the overall square footage currently dedicated to the Art School and its gallery is 4900 square feet and that the post-renovations square footage dedicated to the Art School and its gallery would be 4000 square feet.

*Instead of telling us what the current studio ceiling heights are, studio by studio, and how each new studio compared (as she had promised to do on August 31st), Lynn merely stated that the new studios would have ceiling heights of 9 1/2 feet. And, yes, we too find it suspicious that on August 31st neither she nor Danny knew that the painters tape on the wall was the height of the new ceilings.

*Instead of telling us how big the current windows in each studio are and how big (or small) the windows in the new studios will be, Lynn only referred to “new windows” in the new studios.

*Instead of providing any details about the fire codes which she had claimed made it impossible for EA to include a welding studio in the new art school space, Lynn simply offered another — equally vague – explanation for the elimination of the welding studio, that “…following consultation with building and insurance experts, we came to the conclusion that housing a welding studio in a community center that serves many different populations poses too great a safety risk.” As for the darkroom, she repeated her rationale from the August meeting — that because the darkroom needs to have a large sink and enlargers it, “unlike the other studios, cannot be used flexibly to accommodate multiple art disciplines” and therefore EA can’t find space for the (currently less than 400 square feet) it takes up.

Despite repeated requests for more information since that meeting and since Lynn’s self-imposed September 14th deadline, more than a month has passed without students getting the promised information. So oc2sas decided to try and find out on our own. Here’s what we came up with so far which is tough to do since, unlike Danny and Lynn, we don’t have any access to the architects’ plans or specs.

 Current Art School Space on 5th Floor of 197 E. Broadway* (Click room names for photos and more info) 

Studios and Other Rooms/Spaces

Dimensions Total Sq. Ft.

Ceiling Height

Painting Studio 35 x 28 980  ~14.75
Sculpture Studio 34 x 25.5 947  ~14
Ceramics Studio 31 x 20.5 635.5  ~14
Welding Studio 21 x 46 966  ~14
Darkroom 15.5 x 19.5 (302.25) + 5 x 12 (60) + 5 x 7 (35) 397.25 ~14
Library ~16.5 x 15 247.5 ~14 
Interior halls/locker areas/”lobby” 43 x 5 (215) + 56 x 6 (336) + 15 x 25 (375) 926 NA
Offices ~9 x 28 252  NA
TOTALS   5351.25  

*All measurements for current studios in feet and rounded/estimated downward if precise numbers not available. Additional square footage of 5th floor (bathrooms, closets, storage areas in some studios, director’s office space, office space east of library, and children’s classroom) not included in totals. First floor gallery spaces not included in totals.

 Placement/Size of Windows for Current Art School Space on 5th Floor of 197 E. Broadway*

Windows

Window Shape/Size # of
Windows

Distance to base of windows

Painting Studio Rectangular (34″w x 54″h) 4.5 34″ from floor
Painting Studio Half Moon (78″w  x 45″h at highest point) 2 37″ from ceiling
Sculpture Studio Rectangle (34″w x 54″h) 10.5 34″ from floor 
Sculpture Studio Half Moon (78″w  x 45″h at highest point)  5 37″ from ceiling 
Ceramics Studio Rectangle (34″w x 54″h) 34″ from floor
Ceramics Studio Half Moon (78″w  x 45″h at highest point)  2 37″ from ceiling 
TOTALS   30  

*No, we didn’t risk breaking our necks to figure this out. We measured the bricks (2.5 inches high) and then counted and multiplied (just like for square footage we measured floor tiles). So this is a guesstimate but we believe it’s a fairly accurate one.

Planned Post-Renovations Art School Space on “Ground” Floor of 197 E. Broadway

Rooms/Spaces

Dimensions Total Sq. Footage Ceiling Height

# Windows, Placement, Dimensions

Art Room #1 Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Awaiting info since Aug. 31* 9′ 5″ Awaiting info since Aug. 31*
Art Room #2 Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Awaiting info since Aug. 31* 9′ 5″ Awaiting info since Aug. 31*
Art Room #3 Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Awaiting info since Aug. 31* 9′ 5″ Awaiting info since Aug. 31*
Darkroom (eliminated) N/A N/A N/A N/A
Welding Studio (eliminated) N/A N/A N/A N/A
Library (unclear if eliminated) Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Offices Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Galleries Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Unknown N/A
TOTALS Awaiting info since Aug. 31* “4000” (as per Lynn Appelbaum on 9/15)   Awaiting info since Aug. 31*

*At the August 31st information meeting, Lynn Appelbaum promised she would email comparative information on square footage, ceiling height, and window size of both the current and future spaces to art students by September 14th. On September 16th she sent an email that specified the overall sizes of the current and “renovated” art school and the ceiling heights in the renovated space. Despite repeated requests she has yet to provide any of the other promised information.

So, clearly we don’t have the necessary tools to complete this chart — however Lynn and Danny and any other member of the EA Administration certainly does. Why won’t they give us this promised information? The only reason we can come up with is showing us the information will only lend credence to our accusations that they have been disingenuous about the planned renovations.  The current and planned spaces for the Art School are not almost the same, they are radically different. EA’s claim that the Art School has to move in order to make room for expanded programs for children and seniors and a new health and wellness center is nonsense.  The renovation plans call to convert most of the fifth floor to a euphemistically called “multipurpose” room. EA has admitted that this space will sometimes be rented out for weddings and other special events and that it will also hold Board of Trustee and other VIP functions. We understand the need to have a nice space for fundraising purposes, but EA can build a perfectly fine space for that on the ground floor without adversely affecting the Art School.

And that’s why oc2sas exists — we are working hard to persuade the Board of Directors that they need to reconsider their renovation plans, not just to preserve the Art School, but also to preserve the integrity and reputation of the larger institution. 

Here are two simple things you can do to help:
1) Sign the petition (see the tab above).
2) Call  EA President & CEO, Robin Bernstein (212-780-2300) and EA Board of Trustees President, Russell Makowsky (212-715-0300, x130).  Tell them that YOU care about the Art School remaining exactly how it is. Tell them they can build a “multipurpose” room on the ground floor without adversely impacting seniors, children, the gym, OR the Art School.

“Never Mind the Remorse, Don’t Commit the Sin”

Below is the text of the cover letter that was mailed last month to all 37 members of the Educational Alliance’s Board of Trustees. Included with the letter was the petition (already signed at that point by over 200 people) as well as a copy of the comments that many petition signers had included when adding their name.  We have not yet heard back from the Board of Trustees. Many more people continue to sign the petition and add their own comments. We plan to bring the Board another copy of the petition and comments (perhaps this time in person) soon.  Please click on the “Sign the Petition!” tab above to add your name. Please email us at oc2sas@juno.com if you would like to find out more about what you can do to help save the Art School.

September 21, 2011

Dear Mr./Ms. _______:

Enclosed you will find a petition signed by hundreds of individuals deeply concerned about the renovation plans for the Educational Alliance and how those plans will detrimentally and permanently affect the Art School as well as the reputation of the Educational Alliance itself.

These petition signatures (and accompanying, often eloquent, comments) were gathered by the Organizing Committee to Save the Art School (“oc2sas”), a group started by current Art School students who were dismayed to learn that the renovation plans for 197 East Broadway included the elimination of the welding studio and black and white photography darkroom as well as a move of the remaining studio classes from the current spacious and light-filled fifth floor space to a smaller space on the ground floor of the building which also has much lower ceilings, much smaller windows, and little natural light.

We hope that as Board Members of the Educational Alliance you have been told of the long and rich history of the Art School, one which is famous for its many distinguished teachers as well as for its reputation of nurturing many young men and women who would become leading artists of the twentieth century. Less well known perhaps, but no less important, is the Educational Alliance’s incalcuable contribution in providing instruction, inspriration, and a beautiful and soothing place, where young (and old) people from all walks of life who would never become famous artists could pursue their creative muse and feed their souls in a wide range of affordable, quality art classes.

The new space planned for the Art School will have art rooms (not art studios, like there are now, and yes — there is a difference). Gone will be one of the very few opportunities in the City to pursue the art of black and white photography. Gone will be one of the even fewer opportunities in the City to pursue the art of welding. Gone will be what is hard to put in words, a special place, steeped in history but grounded in an insistence that old-fashioned art made in old-fashioned studios just for the sake of creating art, is important for the present and the future.

And gone for what? We’re not sure. We’ve heard rumors that the seniors’ programs will be housed on the fifth floor but no good reasons on why they must be there instead of on the first floor of the building. We’ve heard rumors about a large euhpemistically named “multi-purpose room” but from what we can tell the main purpose of that room is to serve as something of a banquet hall with a beauttiful view for VIP functions and rental opportunities. Really? That seems so contrary to EA’s mission and history, to essentially cut the soul out of a hundred plus year old Art School in order to host fancy parties.

We’re writing this all because we firmly believe it’s not too late to change the course EA is headed on, one which we believe will lead ultimately to regret, not only in terms of the loss of the Art School but in terms of the loss or respect that we fear EA will suffer institutionally when it becomes known how skewed its priorities became during renovations. There is a Yiddish saying that seems appropriate here, “Men iz dir moichel di t’shuveh, nor tu nit di avaireh” (Never mind the remorse, don’t commit the sin”).

We hope to have an opportunity to meet with you in person and work together to find a new course for the renovations, one which accomplishes the many wonderful things we know the Board plans for EA’s next century, but one which does so without sacrificing the essence of the Art School.

Thank you very much for your important work for, generosity toward, and dedication to the Educational Alliance. We look forward to speaking with you soon. 

Sincerely,
Organizing Committee to Save the Art School

An Open Letter to Lynn Appelbaum and Danny Rosenthal

Dear Lynn and Danny,

On August 31, 2011 at 6:30pm you hosted an open meeting for the Educational Alliance Art School community about the upcoming renovations to the Art School.

Well over sixty concerned, impassioned (and often angry) art school students showed up to that meeting.

During the often contentious meeting you acknowledged that the way the Educational Alliance had gone about planning for the renovation — outreach to Art School community limited to a few members of a focus group very early on in the process, no direct communication with Art School students until early August  (long after the plans were filed with the Department of Buildings), creating (whether intentionally or not)  a general feeling of secrecy so as to limit criticism, neglecting to seriously plan for any sort of temporary space during the 22 months of renovations — was less than ideal. And you apologized for all that, promising to be more open and inclusive going forward and repeatedly stressing that the Art School is “critical” to the Educational Alliance. “It is core to who we are. It is core to our mission” you said.

You broadly accused oc2sas of spreading misinformation about the post renovation art studios in our August letter  and claimed the new overall spaces would be very close in size to the current ones and that the new spaces would indeed have natural light. Yet you had to offer more apologies as attendees asked you what seemed like basic questions about the renovations – questions you did not have specific answers to. Like:

1. Rather than loosely comparing the overall square footage of the current art school fifth floor space with the proposed space on what you insist is the “ground floor”, we asked you for an apples to apples comparison. How does the square footage of each individual current studio space compare to the square footage of each individual post renovation studio space? What are the ceiling heights of the current studio spaces and what will be the ceiling heights of the new studio spaces? What are size and placements of the windows in each current studio space? What will be the size and placements of the windows in each of the post-renovation studio spaces?

2. What will happen to the Art Library?

3. What exactly will the gallery space look like? Will it be an accredited gallery like it is now?

4. What specifically are the fire code regulations that you claim prevent you from bringing back the welding studio post renovation? How is it possible that other schools have built welding studios to modern fire code safety but it is impossible at the Educational Alliance?

5. What exactly will the fifth floor space be used for? You claimed our assertion that it will be devoted to a “catering hall” is incorrect and abstractly referred to “multi-purpose rooms” as well as some sort of services for the senior citizens but never explained why it was necessary for the seniors to be on the fifth floor and what exactly made it necessary to have the multi-purpose room in the fifth floor.

You promised, with specificity, that you would provide us with answers (via email) to #1-4, within two weeks of that meeting. You also promised to arrange another meeting soon, acknowledging that a meeting during the last week of summer before Labor Day was not conducive for maximum participation by students. Finally, you promised to bring back our concerns to the Board of Directors. We urged you not merely to report on the meeting or, worse, to spin the meeting into anything less than what it was — a fairly angry response to what many of us believe is a betrayal not only to EA art students but to the history and mission of the Art School and Educational Alliance itself — but to advocate to the Board to reconsider the plans for renovation so the future of the Art School is not at risk.

Your self-imposed two week deadline  turned out to be September 14th, the same day as the Art School’s Open House. Members of oc2sas were there, some handing out welcome flyers to prospective and returning students, but we did not receive the promised email from you. Instead the day after the Open House many of us received an email from Lynn which was a rehashing of most of your comments from the August 31st meeting and left out all the answers to basic questions which you had promised to provide. The next meeting is set for October 30th, presumably long after final decisions and approvals both from the Board of Directors and the Department of Buildings have been made and any possible changes to the renovation plans will be very difficult to incorporate at that point.

Danny and Lynn, the response we have received from you so far is unacceptable. You asked the Art School Community — in good faith — to trust that you would be upfront with us going forward, yet we have only received silence and then more evasive answers since then. We await an updated response from you to our questions.

What People Are Saying

The petition has only been posted for a few weeks and we already have hundreds of signers. Some folks have felt compelled to fill out that “comment” section of the form. We’re glad they did!  Below we share a sampling of their concerns about the Educational Alliance’s upcoming renovations  for the Art School. Keep those comments coming! We will include them when we present the petition to the Board of Directors.

Have YOU signed the petition yet? If not, please click on “Sign the Petition!” tab at the top where you can see the complete list of signers, view their many comments, and add your own name and thoughts about the planned renovations for the Educational Alliance’s historic art school.  If you would like to get more involved in the efforts of the Organizing Committee to Save the Art School please email us at oc2sas@juno.com

*A Granddaughter Supports Saving the Art School
My grandfather, Harry Levine, was a student and teacher at the Art School in the early part of the 20th century, until his untimely death in 1943.  I knew he had studied at the Art School, but while doing research on his life at the Center for Jewish History, I discovered, to my delight, that he must have also taught at the Art School. What I found were minutes from a faculty meeting regarding a grievance.  My grandfather was listed with the faculty present, and was quoted in these minutes, as were Louise Nevelson and others.  His work was included in an exhibit at the art school sometime in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s, and I believe his 2 carved busts in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum (currently on display in the Visible Storage of the Luce Center)were gifts of the Alliance. I strongly support renovating the facilities in a way that will maintain the amount of space and the availability of natural light, as well as the opportunities for continuing darkroom and welding experiences.  Thank you for the opportunity to include my voice.

*Another Granddaughter in Support of Saving the Art School
My grandmother, Louise Nevelson, studied at the Educational Alliance and her teacher Chaim Gross shifted her from painting to sculpture. I’m positive the natural light contributed to understanding the principals of art and the shaping from light and shadow. Hard to do in artificial light. Both of these artists are very important figures in America’s Art History.

*Concern for the Art School’s Teachers
It is an outrage to decimate a renowned art school by locating its studios in the basement, doing away with a one of a kind metal welding studio and darkroom photography facilities in addition to reducing the size of this world class department by more than 50% of what it once was.  Why can’t temporary space be found for at least the drawing, painting and other classes that do not require heavy equipment for the 2 years of the renovation so that the whole amazing art staff will not be destroyed and put out of work.

*Expand the Mission of the Art Instead of Cutting it Back
I agree, a renovation is a positive step. But down sizing the school, moving it to the basement, and reducing its scope by cutting steel sculpture (welding) and photography is a way of making it irrelevant. At a time when it is a unique institution, and New York City is a growing city. Why not expand the mission of the art instead of cutting it back?

*Pedogogical Importance of Natural Light
 As a plein air painter of New York City, I have been supporting myself by the sale of my paintings for the past 30 years. I mention this only to point out that painting by daylight is not obsolete but in fact it is still commercially viable. It is
valued by those who appreciate fine art painting. In my studio I use full spectrum lighting in the winter afternoons and at night, but I cannot see the true color of any painting unless I hold it in front of my window in the daylight. The colors look substantially different.

I do not think that anything can take the place of daylight when it comes to perception of color and tone. To learn to paint in artificial light handicaps the students who are truly dedicated and is like teaching musicians to play on instruments which cannot be correctly tuned.

There are many other reasons to allow students the sensation of light and air in the classroom. For example, how air looks in different kinds of daylight is also crucial to the art of painting. Another reason is that the subtleties of daylight, one of the most beautiful aspects of  nature whether the light falls on a still life, human flesh, or a corner of the studio,  provides inspiration to many students with artistic sensibilities. It certainly did to me when I first started painting.

Please also consider the damage that would be done to the quality and standing of the art school if painting students are forced to learn in artificial light which is by any standards inferior.

*Art School is Unique
The photography darkroom and welding studio make the Art School unique among New York art institutions. Fostering the continuation of these resources should be of utmost concern to the EA Board and community.

*Art School Welding Experience Invaluable to Art Career
As a former student and monitor in the welding class, the opportunity to learn, improve and then build metal sculpture over many years was invaluable to my art career. The welding space and Art School as a whole is a unique atelier format where beginning students and accomplished artists come together to practice their art and learn from teachers and from each other in a non-competitive atmosphere. The welding studio in particular is one of the very few in NYC open to all. The Art School is both a neighborhood gem and an artists haven for the entire metropolitan area.

*The Camera is A Wonderful Way to See the World
I believe that the art school should not be diminished and the photography department should not be eliminated. I taught at the photo school at the Educational Alliance in the 1960’s and some of the students did some very important work.  The camera is a wonderful way of seeing the world and please think about this.

*Developing as an Artist at the Educational Alliance
My experience at the Art School of the Educational Alliance was an important part of my development as an artist.  I was fortunate to benefit from contact with such people as Abe Eisenfeld, Chaim Gross, and Harvey Citron and many others.  The opportunity to work in a space with natural light for painting, simultaneously to the activity of those carving in stone and using the welding studio was crucial to that experience.  I am one of the few artists I know that has skills in all of these areas and I can thank the Educational Art School for this. Please continue to offer this experience to other artists.

*An “Edgie” Now Back as a Senior
I was a current student in the ceramics class  ( for Seniors) and found it very helpful. I am 84 yrs old and spent much time as a youth AT ” The Edgies”. That’s where I learned to sew, do leather crafts, jewelry making. That was back in the forties. I’m back in the neighborhood since 1998 and zeroed in back to the EDGIES when I got here. No doubt things must progress but the history of the Art school is so historic and GREAT that it should be Preserved and Continued for more than its historic value.

*Continuing Black and White Photography is in Everyone’s Interests
As a retired Art Teacher and currently a docent at the Mint Museum, I believe arts education is vital to students, their community and the greater visual arts community at large.  Being able to view and show a substantial collection of Ansel Adams work when I give tours, the wonder and awe of Black & White photography by the public will never cease.  It’s beauty and the “magic” that ocurrs when a hand manipulates paper and chemical can never be duplicated.  It is in everyone’s interest to continue teaching skills that create beauty today and for future audiences.

*Natural Light Vital for Middle-Aged and Senior Art Students
The Art School must remain on the 5th floor with large windows, natural light and high ceilings.  The natural light is absolutely necessary, especially for middle aged and senior students, who need the contrast and natural light to see their 3 dimensional work.  When I’ve taken the evening classes, it’s must more difficult to see and eyestraining.  Daytime classes in abundant natural light are an essential part of stone carving and sculpture.

*Natural Light Essential for Stonecarvers, Photography/Welding Makes A Difference in People’s Lives
The six or so years I spent studying stonecarving with Alfredo Cardenas and Francisco Rivera at the Alliance have been invaluable for my practice as an interdisciplinary artist. Natural light is an essential ingredient in the process of stonecarving and all 3-dimensional work. I can speak from experience as I subsequently carved in a studio without natural light. In *that* studio we would wheel our pieces out onto the street in order to truly “see” them! Please do not let this happen to the carvers of the Alliance.  The other wonderful ingredient in the mix is the students, especially in the day classes. Sometimes I learned as much or more from my fellow students – about carving, history, and life – as we shared the dusty, noisy, and miraculous energy of creative production. While I did not personally study welding or photography at the EA, I knew some of the students and faculty and know how essential these two areas are among the school’s offerings. Please do not eliminate these programs – they make a difference in people’s lives.

* The School Has Been a Beacon
 Having taught for a number of years in the wonderful corner studio on the 5th Floor, I appreciate how important such a wonderful space is for the nurturance of art creativity, especially in a society such as ours, so focused on material goods, used for the instruction and practice of young student artists from the community as well as older retirees and working people who were able to attend after the working day in the evening classes. The school has been a beacon, an important cultural force, and not only in the present, but going back to the immigrant era giving to the world some of our most famous artists, such as Chaim Gross and Raphael Soyer. I strongly urge you architect and designers to consider a better solution for the building’s space needs. If you are creative, I’m sure you will be able to do it.

*Endangerment of an Historic and Important Art Program
I came to the Educational Alliance in 2005 when the New School University replaced its historic (built during Bernice Abbott’s reign as instructor) darkroom with a wide hallway.  The betrayal I felt by the mindless demolition of the very reason I enrolled at the New School has not faded in the passing years. I was lucky at that time, however, to be welcomed by The Educational Alliance to finish my current semester at their lovely darkroom.  I had such a great experience that I continued for several semesters at the Educational Alliance, despite continuing my full course-load at the New School. Michael Macioce was one of the finest and most inspiring instructors I have had the honor to learn from. It makes me very sad to contemplate the thought of the endangering of another historic and important art program due to thoughtless plans for renovation.


 

Save the Date — Wednesday, August 31st @ 6:30pm

Apparently, we’ve helped generate enough concern about the future of the art school that the Educational Alliance finally felt compelled to publically acknowledge the renovations. This week at least two announcements were sent to students and other supporters.  A Historic Moment was sent to what seems to be a wide audience of supporters on August 19th, a day after the art school’s administrator had sent an email to students from Lynn Appelbaum, EA’s Chief Program Officer, to announce the renovations and extend an invitation to “a special meeting on Wednesday, August 31 at 6:30 PM to learn more about the renovation.”

Not to sound like a broken record, but again, oc2sas is NOT opposed to the renovations of the Educational Alliance, per se. However we are very concerned that EA’s current plans include moving the art school from its current fifth floor space with high ceilings, big windows, and an abundance of natural light, to a smaller “ground floor” space with much lower  ceilings, small windows, and little natural light. We are also very concerned that in the “new” art school space on the “ground floor” there will no longer be a darkroom or a welding studio.

We realize that EA scheduled this meeting at what may be an inconvenient time for many, but we urge you to make every effort to attend on August 31st.  (FYI, the Art School is requesting that those who plan to attend RSVP to artschool@edalliance.org).

Please RSVP so you can help us let the Educational Alliance leadership know that it needs to make sure that its renovations include provisions to reopen the art school in its longtime fifth floor home, or in an alternative yet comparable space that is appropriate for preserving ALL all the art school’s offering as well as its essential and historic spirit.

Also (and especially if you are NOT able to attend the meeting) please sign our petition to EA’s Board of Directors.  Are you on our email update list? If not, please send an email to us at oc2sas@juno.com.

We hope to see you on the 31st!

Jo Davidson

Jo Davidson (March 30, 1883 – January 2, 1952) — who achieved his fame by sculpting likenesses of the very famous — got his start in life on the Lower East Side where he was born, and got his start in art at the Educational Alliance where (against his parents’ wishes) he studied drawing as a young teen. When he could afford it, the young Davidson paid the Art School tuition of 3 cents a week from his earnings as a messenger and a newsboy.

His parents, Jews who had fled for America to escape the pogroms in Russia, were intent on their son escaping their life of poverty and sent him to New Haven to prepare for medical school. But in New Haven a friend showed some of Davidson’s drawings to the dean of Yale’s art school. The dean was so impressed he let Davidson take classes for free. The story goes that one day Davidson mistakenly wandered into the sculpting studio instead of the drawing studio and immediately knew what direction he wanted to take in life. He dropped out of school and returned to New York to study sculpture.

Relatively soon, he became a very famous and wealthy sculptor whose comings and goings between his home and studio in Greenwich Village and Europe (where he eventually settled in France) were excitedly reported by the New York Times and other leading newspapers and magazines of the day.  He might not have become the doctor his mother wanted him to be, but his first sculpture to gain critical recognition was a bust of her head, which highlighed his talent at detailing facial expression. Thereafter his models/clients included presidents (Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and FDR) plus a veritable “who’s who” of the political, military, cultural, and scientific notables of the day including Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, Mahatmas Gandhi, Hellen Keller, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, and Walt Whitman,  to name just a few. Davidson boasted that he never asked his subjects to pose for them, “My approach to my subjects was very simple. I never had them pose, we just talked about everything in the world.”

Several of Davidson’s sculptures can be seen in and around New York City. In Rockland County, a full body sculpure of Walt Whitman is in Bear Mountain State Park. Davidson’s sculpture of Gertrude Stein is in Bryant Park, near the main branch of the New York Public Library.  And not too far away from where Jo Davidson used to pay three cents a week to study drawing, you can find his sculpture of former New York City mayor, Fiorella LaGuardia, in a playground at Madison and Cherry Streets.

Though Davidson himself left the Lower East Side far behind he always remembered where he had come from. In an interview he once said, “You can’t ask people to ignore their past experience because that is part of their identity.”  Would Jo Davidson want the Art School to ignore its identity as a traditional art school with old-time studios and the opportunity to study old-time disciplines?  What would he think think of the Educational Alliance’s renovation plans?

(For more on EA Art School alumnus, Jo Davidson, see: 
http://www.highlands-gallery.com/jo-davidson and http://www.palisadesparksconservancy.org/news/106/)

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson (September 23, 1899 – April 17, 1988) — perhaps the foremost sculptor of the twentieth century — was both a student and teacher at the Educational Alliance Art School. Born in the Ukraine, as a young child Nevelson immigrated with her family to Maine as they sought to escape the virulent anti-semitism common in czarist Russia. Rockland, Maine might not have been czarist Russia, but as Jews, Nevelson’s family was very much one of outsiders and soon after high school she married and made her escape to New York.

She was an accomplished artist before the Alliance, having studied painting and drawing at the Art Students League as well as with some of the era’s most famous artists in New York and Europe, and then working as an assistant to Diego Rivera. But she began to deeply delve into the discipline she would become most famous for when she came to study sculpture with Chaim Gross at the Art School in 1934.

Nevelson is arguably best known for her wooden sculptures — found objects she fashioned together and then spray painted, often in monochrome black.

There are many places in New York to see examples of Nevelson’s work. The Louise Nevelson Plaza is but one example. Located in the financial district where Maiden Lane and Liberty Street meet near William Street, it was the first public space in the City to be named after an artist.

It’s easy to imagine Nevelson remembering the art school’s large and bright windows on the fifth floor when she said, “When I look at the city from my point of view, I see New York City as a great big sculpture” (in Louise Nevelson, Dawns + Dusks, Conversations with Diana MacKown).

Would Louise Nevelson see a sculpture from the basement of 197 East Broadway?  What would she think of the Educational Alliance’s renovation plans?

(For more on EA Art School alumna and teacher, Louise Nevelson, see: www.louisenevelsonfoundation.org and www.thejewishmuseum.org/exhibitions/nevelson)