Skunk - Why Chage?

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Markand Thakar

Well folks, our leader, the mayor of New York City, has done it again. Not satisfied with desecrating the natural and time-honored constructed beauty of Central Park, this, by allowing the installation of those innumerable, ugly, orange, pajama-like draperies to be strewn throughout the one truly beautiful and expansive, open-to-the-public space in mid-Manhattan: being there is one of the only luxuries available to everyone, besides a ride on the Staten Island ferry - that is free of all charges.

Now he's approved the setting up of the most unsightly water=spouting rigs in the East River - and they're in close proximity to the glorious Brooklyn Bridge.

Why is this tycoon of the money-making world doing this? He says it brings money into the city. SKUNK has never voted for the mayor - yet, as mayors of New York City go, he's surely not the worst.

La Guardia had said that he was one of the richest men in the world (the other being Gandhi) - Why? - Because they both had everything material that they wanted. The same might be said of Bloomberg - after all he's a multi-billionaire.

But where La Guardia worked to keep the gangsters and politicians in check, while working with Moses to make life in the city better for New Yorkers - and Gandhi worked to free India from the oppression of empire, Bloomberg uses his time to bring money into the city for the benefit of the business community (with possible economic benefits dripping down to hoi polloi).

Making money is Bloomberg forte. But, those abilities appear to exceed that of his awareness of all other matters (especially those non-money-making activities important to and normally engaged in by the average New Yorker - which includes their engagement in both the bar scene and in the making of fine art). His money-making abilities are so exceptional - that he could be considered an idiot savant - at least where the making of money is concerned.

At the last meeting SKUNK's, "Wrong Direction," was passed out to the membership. The stress of that issue was based on the observation that there's more involved in running the League than insuring that it makes money. Not that having an income sufficient to allow for the maintenance of the building and the payment of fair compensation to its instructors, models and staff should be ignored.

However, unlike for-profit, corporate organizations, which must consistently raise the value of their stock and/or pay dividends in order to satisfy their stockholders, the reason for the League's existence and the securing of these monies must be first and foremost to run the school in a manner that will allow it to regain it's status as the premier fine-art art school in America. - And not merely to be the provider of the cheapest. Art classes available: so cheap that its chief draw is it's ability to compete, price-wise, with the art classes available at the local "Y"s and such.

SKUNK thinks it's about time to put to rest the claims that the building must be enlarged - this so that the studios on the ground floor can be returned to their former glory as major galleries.

With the end of WWII, the Art Students League was inundated with veterans who had earned their right to a free art-school education. And, it was at that time - due to the inflow of GI Bill-paid tuition - that the League acquired the de facto possession of the entire building: which included the galleries -- And they, in turn, were turned into studios that enabled the multitude of returning GIs to attend art classes at the League.

It should be noted, that before the League had possession of the gallery space, the Art Students League was the most important fine-art art school in America. And more fine-art artists were associated, in one way or another with the League than any other fine-art art school in America. It was the nation's most important art school - and it did not own the galleries.

During the immediate pre- and post-WWII years, the fee for one month in a morning or afternoon class at the League was fifteen dollars. That's when the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) charged a quarter for admission. Then, as today MoMA has all sorts of additional income from wealthy benefactors, tax-avoiding donors, art dealers and outright commercial interests. This allows for the financial support of a bevy of art- and non-art-oriented employees, who, in turn, are enabled to live a lifestyle that few, if any, current League employees can enjoy.

Today, MoMA charges twenty dollars for admission. That's 80 times the 25 cents admission charged in the past by MoMA. If the League, even assuming that it has the same sort of outside income as MoMA has (which it doesn't, by far), were to attempt to maintain that multiple of eighty -- the tuition would run to some $1200.00 per month, per class - which is about six times the current amount..

As an idealist, SKUNK finds the current administration's attempts to keep