“Renovate, Don’t Devastate”
On the evening of October 27th, despite some of the ugliest weather since the hurricane (and before the Halloween weekend eve’s snow), close to 50 concerned Art School students, teachers, and friends came out in a chilly rainstorm to the second “informational” meeting that EA hosted on the upcoming renovations, renovations that will move the Art School from its longtime home in traditional art studios on the fifth floor of EA’s flagship building to a smaller basement space in the 1960’s extension building with low ceilings, smaller windows, and little natural light. Popular classes in black and white darkroom photography and welding will be eliminated and the fifth floor space will be converted into what EA calls a large “multipurpose” room with a sliding wall. EA insists it needs the “multipurpose” room in that exact space for Community Board and other meetings, public lectures, occasional performances by the teen afterschool drama group, staff training, serving seniors lunch, as well as renting opportunities for weddings and hosting Board and other VIP special events.
Art School supporters first gathered downstairs for a wet and short rally “Renovate, Don’t Devastate!” then marched upstairs to hear EA President and CEO Robin Bernstein give a very extensive lecture on the history of the Educational Alliance, reiterate much of what was said at the August 31st meeting about the planning process for the renovations, and then open the floor for questions. Ray Dovell from EA’s architectural firm was also present at the meeting as was Lynn Appelbaum, the Chief Program Office for the Educational Alliance. Much of the meeting had a contentious tone to it from both sides. Students, teachers, and other supporters spoke passionately about their concerns that the renovations would destroy most of what makes the Art School so unique and asked Robin to rethink the proposed plan. Tempers flared when Robin Bernstein implied that meeting participants did not care about programs for young children (“the babies” she called them) and also when she claimed that the she and other members of management were working hard to “save” the Art School. A new and disturbing piece of information came out when Ray Dovell explained that in addition to not having a darkroom or a welding studio in the new space, the Art School would also no longer have a sculpture studio. The Organizing Committee to Save the Art School (oc2sas) had prepared and distributed to attendees a list of pertinent questions for the meeting. This list of questions (and some of the answers we received) can be viewed at
Toward the end of the meeting the discussion veered toward money. Robin explained that the new health and wellness center was, in part, an attempt by EA to secure a new stream of funding for the organization. Several meeting participants asked why thought hadn’t been given to enhancing the Art School in a way that it too would be able to increase its revenue stream (it’s profitable now, but apparently not enough to be a source for funding other EA programs). Robin suggested that such an idea — and others she liked that had been discussed at the meeting — could be better discussed in a small group format and chose three people in the room who had spoken to serve on an informal committee and meet with her later. There was some objection to her method of selection and oc2sas volunteered to be the liaison for creating a small group to discuss ideas about the Art School with Robin. Robin and Lynn agreed to that so here is the opportunity. Would YOU like to serve on this group that will meet with EA President and CEO Robin Bernstein? Oc2sas is reaching out to the three people picked by Robin to make sure they indeed want to serve and then will choose others to fill whatever spaces remain. Please note that the group will be SMALL so depending on how many people express interest oc2sas will do its best to assure the group is representational of a diverse constituency of Art School participants and supporters. If you are interested in volunteering please email a short note about yourself and why you want to volunteer to this address. Make sure to include your name, a phone number and email, and your affiliation with the Art School and/or the Educational Alliance. We would like to see this group up and running quickly so the deadline for application is by noon on Thursday, November 3rd.
Though we intend to recruit interested volunteers to enter into these discussions in good faith, oc2sas also continues to pursue other avenues as well to persuade the Educational Alliance’s Powers-That-Be to renovate their renovation plans. For those of you new to this email list you can read background information about our efforts at our blog:
You can see what is at stake in two recent postings on our blog:
You can sign our petition at www.oc2sas.wordpress.com/sign-the-petition.
And you can “follow” us on both Facebook and Twitter. (Search for: oc2sas).
Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information or would like to volunteer your time and efforts to this important cause.