This is my story about my experience at the Art Students League. I came to New York to learn English in 2008. I used to live near 55th Street and Ninth Avenue and I used to walk by the League very often.
One day I decided to walk in, and I asked for information. My English was not great, and I misunderstood the person at the reception window and I felt demoralized that I did not have all the papers I needed to study there.
Years later, a friend of mine wanted to study at the League, and I went with him and asked again. Then I understood that I could take any class I wanted for the sole purpose of learning, except that If I was looking for a certificate, I had to go through a process that I was certainly not eligible for. I was content that I could study art one way or another.
Interestingly, my friend did not submit an application, but I paid for some classes and started to explore different ones. After trying drawing and painting, I felt I was so behind the average student that I felt like I needed to catch up, and I needed a kind of class for beginners. I did not know where to go.
Eventually, I decided to take a mixed-media class, since the class was in the evening and it did not have many people in the class at the time. The professor was so amazing; I was really motivated. The professor was so patient and understanding that I started to get instruction one-to-one at every class for a couple of minutes, and I would learn in those minutes just what was necessary. Little by little, I started to understand about composition, materials, anatomy, process, and history. And I started to feel more comfortable.
I spent several years at the League, and I have loved the League ever since. During my time as a student, I wanted to be a member. I felt that I wanted to be a part of such a great institution. With the help of other members, I became a member.
Very soon after that, the controversial sale of the air rights (and all the buildable square footage) became the everyday conversation in the halls and classrooms. I wanted to learn more. I asked at the office for the documents, and I discovered that it was very difficult to have access to the documents. I wondered why. I could not believe that something so important for the membership to know about was so overprotected. Ultimately, the members should know what is/was happening so they can vote knowing the facts.
Eventually, I was given very limited access to the documents. I started to read and take notes. since we were not allowed to Xerox or take pictures, or bring a lawyer to read it so one can understand better. The more I read and learned, the more uncomfortable I started to feel about the transaction. I had a lot of questions, and I publicly voiced my concerns at the members' meetings.
The responses I got from Ira Goldberg and Salvatore Barbieri were unsatisfactory, and I felt threatened. Since I do not feel that the board (then in 2013), nor the board today (2015), under the leadership of President Salvatore Barbieri, represents me as a member, I decided to not take classes at the League until they are gone. I have an eye on them from the distance, because that is my job as a member.