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.

* 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  or email us at

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Posted on October 27, 2011, in News, Questions and Answers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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