An Open Letter to Lynn Appelbaum and Danny Rosenthal
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.