ASL Life Member Arthur Robbins: "The honorable thing to do"
November 28, 2015
Dear Fellow League Members,
Like many of us I am deeply concerned about the future of the Art Students League. I studied drawing with Patricia Arrott, watercolor with "Greeny," (a.k.a., Irwin Greenberg) and painting with Daniel Dickerson, whose sensitivity to what makes a painting work was remarkable. These were some of the richest experiences in my life. The spirit that animated these instructors, the worshipful embrace of even the humblest effort at shaping a form has nothing in common with the brash atmosphere that prevails at the League these days.
The League has been sold to the highest bidder and is being run by people whose primary interests are money and power. Art, human decency, respect for individual rights come in a distant second.
What was once "Linea" ("nulla dies sine linea") is now "Lines." What was once a forum for sophisticated discussion of the issues involved in creating a work of art has become a marketing tool that more resembles "People Magazine" than anything else. The abandonment of the Latin and the aesthetic mood it invokes is testimony to the cultural and intellectual deficits that characterize the current administration.
Mr. Barbieri exhibits the arrogance and hubris of someone who has been in office too long. The meetings are run like a personal fiefdom. His primary concern is enforcing his views and shutting down any opposition. There is a disturbing lack of candor and accountability.
It is dispiriting to see League instructors unthinkingly line up behind the boss. It is doubtful that they are all enthusiastic supporters. A more likely explanation is concern about being fired. Are there any amongst them who have the courage to speak up? Mr. Barbieri is more feared than respected. Students on scholarship dare not speak out if they wish to hold onto what they have been awarded.
It is a curiosity of the by-laws that everyone is rotated out of office, except the President. How and why did that come about? The hallmark of democracy is rotation in office. Certainly the officer with the most power should have limited tenure. There is nothing democratic about a President serving for ten years and then seeking yet another term.
There is very little to show for the renovation that Mr. Barbieri oversaw in 2003. I have heard nothing but complaints about the shoddy workmanship, poor lighting, faulty ventilation system and the dilapidated, dismal state of the building. I certainly would not want to entrust Mr. Barbieri with more money and more renovations if this is the best that he can do.
The ASL 2025 slate is an exceptional group of people, people of character, courage and integrity. They have an excellent program. They would restore fiscal responsibility by balancing the budget, retaining the air right monies as an endowment and set in place an active fund raising program. There would be a complete review of financial reports, bank records and payments to contractors. They would establish a secure and transparent voting system, build community and see to it that instructors, the backbone of the League, are treated with the respect and consideration they deserve. Isn't this what we all want?
If Mr. Barbieri truly cares about the League, if it his goal to eliminate divisiveness and to build community, then he should step down. It would be the honorable thing to do.
Arthur D. Robbins
The Art Students League of New York
PS: If you've already voted by absentee ballot and would like to change your vote, please attend the League's Annual Election Meeting this Wednesday, December 2nd at 7pm, where you can change your vote in person. The meeting will be held in Studios 15 and 16. Check-in starts at 6:15 pm.