On Campus
Jul 10, 2024, 06:27AM

Vanishing Art Schools

Paint it Black: The devastating effects of disappearing institutions while finding out there’s no shortage of hot air.

Cardinal  1 .jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Art: Michael Gentile

Capturing an emotional state, a moment like this could pass for the beginning of a movie or a painting. Early Sunday morning’s “restless feeling by my side” in New York City is calm. A police car siren breaks the silence. Given the chance, now’s the perfect time to observe the inexplicable; like those mysterious orange and white-striped smokestacks that stand in the middle of the street. From a sidewalk perspective: a spiraling mass of hot air forms a cloud that dissipates into the vast awakening sky. Add to the ambiance, play Brian Eno’s ethereal “On Some Faraway Beach.”

The setting is also reminiscent of the Ashcan School artists’ work. Marked by change, an early-American 20th-century populist movement embraced painting, printmaking and illustration. Everett Shinn, Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, and George Luks were among the group known as The Eight. Their work articulated the development of a metropolis providing social insights that went beyond canvas and paper.

During 1910 for instance, Petitpas was a restaurant and boarding house located in the Tenderloin district. In a French enclave on W. 29th St., Sloan’s painting “Yeats at Petitpas” takes a peek at a lively bohemian dinner party once held there. Currently, street fair art booths, phone kiosks, and The New Yorker covers are a few of the only locations left where you’re able to see original artwork depicting City life. I took to the streets to conduct my own creative assessment, scrutinizing Gotham in its rawest form (with the above sketch) to expand my research.

The subject was an apartment building close to the Brooklyn Bridge. Encountering a cardinal in a tree was a chance to observe how nature continues to coexist with humans. I liked the idea of how expectations transcend as the process reveals itself. Furthermore, you’ll be let down if you’re imagining any of today’s modern artists trudging through the streets of Manhattan with a wet painting and easel in tow. Not seeing it.

What I have seen is the view from Edward Hopper’s 3 Washington Square top floor studio. Looking down at the park below, the experience was uncanny. Hopper studied under Robert Henri at the New York School of Art. This tiny garret was where 6’5” Hopper lived, worked, and died. I’m guessing he probably spent time looking out that window.

No significant paintings exist of the largest commercial steam system in the world. Serving as a critical energy source under the control of Con Edison, New York’s 105-mile-long network of 450-degree Fahrenheit pipelines are buried underneath city streets.

As skyscrapers grow and steam clouds subside, an arts crisis evolves: how do we continue to push creative boundaries to foster innovative and unconventional work? Understanding how to use traditional art techniques is one way to help solve this dilemma. Carve a niche, learn from other artists. Embrace the lifestyle. Although the approach sounds like old-fashioned thinking, it does work.

You can’t be swayed by the fact that some want to make money. Today, the fast approach is the preferred method employed by impatient venture capitalists who hammer billions into tech start-up companies. Their solution is simple: have AI produce quick, polished content. The instant aspect often lacks depth and nuance. Researcher and futurist Ray Kurzweil claims that while AI can make art, it can’t create works on par with those of the Old Masters. The limitation here—it’s a machine, not a paintbrush.

Paint it black. Is the sun setting on our art schools signal a significant cultural change? This trend raises questions. By the end of the year, 18 institutions will cease to exist, according to Artnet’s list. Tuition, living expenses, and supply costs have increased, while the students have disappeared. The University of the Arts in Philadelphia recently closed after 150 years, giving staff and students just a seven-day notice. Baltimore’s MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) 198-year-old legacy, my alma mater, faces cost-cutting, post-pandemic challenges, along with dwindling enrollment. Despite these facts, schools continue to play an important role by helping aspiring artists hone their skills.

It’s amazing seeing how far we’ve come. However, the key is to ensure future generations have access to an art education. Today’s technological society developed from an industrial past. Historical timelines serve as guidelines, constantly reminding us of progress. Hey now, the “Global Village” concept once described by theorist Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s— we’re living in it. That’s all right. In any event, hot air is never in short supply in New York City.


Register or Login to leave a comment