What the Golden Owl Says
A TALE OF WOE, SORROW & RESPONSIBILITY
Written by Paul Perlow, Member & Monitor The Art Students League of New York
The current state of affairs at the Art Students League is unfortunately a microcosm mirroring the worldwide crisis confronting mankind. Fear and anger envelop this great institution founded by visionaries seeking to aid and further artists and humanity.
WE, as caretakers of this 57th Street edifice and tradition are challenged to insure its presence and its future. We have a unique role and responsibility to New York, America and the World. That which was originally founded with love and caring by our brethren has been challenged by the darker aspects permeating a modern society.
We are faced with a crisis of identity, a serious disease. The present environment has descended into a chasm of negativity, extremism and fear. This oppressiveness is not conducive to the democratic artistic process.
Attendance and the quality of the student work has dropped. Members, scholarship recipients, faculty and workers fear retribution.
Many whisper behind closed doors. Those courageous enough to express dissent publicly are denigrated vehemently and accused of heresy.
We are challenged to remind ourselves that we the members are the Art Students League. The individuals we elect to office serve at our behest They are bound to a sacred trust. They must serve with honesty, integrity and dignity manifest by the original charter. They are here to represent us and our needs as artists and compassionate human beings. Their role is to seek and accomplish the greater good.
WHAT IS THE GREATER GOOD? Many have differing visions. I would not attempt to answer this. But the wise Owl of my inner self reminds me that Socratic Dialogue with question and answer is vital to all truth seekers and the pathway to the answer.
In that spirit this Owl would ask quite a few questions regarding an apparent multitude of travesties: Has League President Sal Barbieri manifest crudeness of character with his loud, angry and bombastic outbursts or acted with dignity as required by his station? Does his militaristic mentality conflict with or further our needs or his own? Are there conflicts of interest with his tenure of office? Why has he antagonized and shouted down members at meetings who would seek and state truth?
Anyone with a minimum of involvement has borne witness to his shocking behavior. Why does the Director, Ira Goldberg, align himself with this violence of spirit and laud an 80 million dollar surplus while cutting services and raising tuition? How effective and understanding of our needs can a director be who rarely ventures beyond the doors of his office or mixes with or knows the students he purportedly represents? What type of leadership takes a year to replace terrible lighting fixtures with more inadequate lighting fixtures that virtually every single instructor and serious student detests?
Why has his governance continually violated the constitution and a Court order requiring access to the mailing list? How many thousands of dollars in legal fees have been wasted in court cases as a result? Why have simple maintenance issues like heating and adequate lamps been lacking for years? Why has it been 3 years since lockers were washed?
How could he and the BOC fire Gary Sussman, a respected and beloved instructor
of 20 years without a due and open process? Why didn't he take to task another professor who threatened a students well-being? In lieu of decreasing enrollment, why isn't a more effective advertising campaign for the ASL to attract new students in effect? How many major (not frivolous) lawsuits has his administration been subject to costing us nearly a million dollars, while denying any culpability for the situation that stirred the opposition? Why is the present Board rubber stamping such behavior? Aside from the Extell deal, how much money has Ira, Sal and the BOC raised for the League?
Could anyone with modicum of common sense wonder why caring members would mount a passionate opposition? Why denigrate caring individuals while honoring the Chinese dissident and iconoclast, Ai Wei Wei to the exclusion of a more relevant League artist? Why honor dissent abroad and castigate it here?
Artists by nature are passionate. We explore the shadow side of humanity and transform darkness into the light and beauty. The greatest and most universal art transforms and transcends the banality of day to day existence. Artists safeguard and celebrate the spirit of life. We are the keepers of the gate.
We must never allow our purpose to be sidetracked or treated in a corporate manner that imposes rigid structures by those who have instituted a behind closed doors mentality and make unwise decisions threatening the vitality and the precepts of our constitution. We must never allow those who would institute corporate mannerisms into our hallowed halls that denigrate our hopes, dreams and aspirations as artists and creative spirits.
Wise business decisions must be made to insure the success of the League. However those decisions should never be allowed to damage the Spirit of the League. The spirit of our forefathers built a League that attracted and trained great artists and guaranteed its success for over a century. Kill that spirit and one kills the League and its raison d'etre.
I ASK OF YOU: Has the present administration ushered in an era of goodwill or does its very existence cloud the Light and create conflict within the shining hearts of artists and artists-in-be-coming, we who would further its great tradition?
Think clearly and with conscience. All Art Students League members are being asked to step forward and assume the responsibility for our Fate. We all have one vote to cast. Shall it be for Life, Light and Liberty, for an administrative body whose voice and actions respects and understands the true needs of artists? Who best serves that vision?
Art and Design ¬©2015 by Paul Perlow
Paul Perlow is an award winning graphics designer of international acclaim, a professor of typography and graphics design for the past 31 years at the School of Visual Arts, New York City College of Technology and City College of New York and has received a letter of commendation for his work from the President of the United States in 1992.