Dear Neighbors

katheryn bajo December 28, 2011

Recently, I had the opportunity to live in close parameters to Cooper Union. In exception to first year, not too many students have this opportunity - which is unfortunate and a direct reflection of the cultural and economic corruption in the city right now.

Living close to Cooper was one of the most edifying experiences I have had while at school. The parameters of the intitution bled into the rest of the city. THIS is why our education is, and should remain, free as water and air. Our education is not “systemetized” or regulated by any economic constraints. In contrast, we graduate free thinkers and builders. Our education derives from an individual experience, from our own rhetoric as students, our own language, and our own questions. We have the ability to utilize tools and instruments that we have been equipped with to speak to the rest of the world.

Walking around the historic streets of Lower Manhattan, talking to the neighbors, volunteering, and participating in neighborhood events, not only opened up amazing opportunities, but has been a keystone in my education here at Cooper. The fact-of-the-matter is is that the city is pushing out everyone who cannot afford to live in New York City. This is unfortunate because communities are deteriorating; my neighbors are being kicked out of their apartment of thirty-plus years, and small businesses are decemating. The people who have invested themselves in this amazing city for the past years are slowly being kicked out. Where is the muse? Where are all of the artists going?

It is not by coincidence that Cooper Union is stationed right inbetween Greenwich Village and the East Village - both, historical places of protest and social reform, places of art, writing, and intervention. For example, Tompkins Square Park housed many protests including The Communist Rally of 1877, twenty-two years after the establishment of the Foundation Building. Also, La Plaza Cultural Community Park, located on 9th and C is another historical Anarchist assembly space and theater. Greenwich Village and the East Village housed and birthed thousands of free-thinkers and artists, infusing this part of Manhattan with culture, social reform, and a voice.

As you might have read walking along the black and white floors in the Great Hall hall, Peter Cooper built The Cooper Union Foundation Building in an intersticial space between the lower class communities and upper class communities in 1859, at a phenomenal time in our nation’s history. The Foundation Building itself is a very specific space derived for community intervention. The neighborhoods that grew around our school over time is great proof that Peter Cooper’s vision was vast and timeless.

Peter Cooper emphasized the education of art as an insturment to liberate the underclass - to give them a voice. Not only this, but to then provide a sacred space for this type of art to be executed.

In conclusion, I would like to propose an individual observation and question, that I need help answering neighbors (

On behalf of the student community, I am proposing more transparency of where our ideas are being utilized and how to financially benefit from that process instead of relying on the students to pay tuition.

Firstly, as the city comes to this sacred space during thesis presentations, senior shows, and the End of the Year Show - in other words, as the institution literally turns inside-out and transforms programatically into a museum — a place for edification, of national identity — how is our art being utilized by corporations, by mass media, by this “bigger force” that capitalzies on our ideas? This is a critical question because no longer do we live in a city where individuals invest themselves in their community, but rather, where corporations invest money for research to generate money for themselves and to control the mass.

How does Cooper benefit (financially) from this? I am not proposing that the End of the Year Show should not be open to the public, especially because other institutions like the MET do not promote higher education and healthy national identity (due to the display of fake artifacts), but rather, I am proposing that there be some sort of transparency between the benefitors of our art and questioning where their financical contributions are.

Non=neighbors, or those who flood into the East Village for drinks in the night, or even those who are utilizing our ideas: our art is an observation of a natural phenomena located in our neighborhood and school - most marketers, urban planners, and other imitators can only sell the aesthetics. The process of creating the art peice is essential to the art, and because of this, I find great peace and liberty.

We are an amazing community of talented individuals who grew up in an environment of social reform -

The End of the Year show should not be marketed to big corporations, but rather, should be a space to display of our voices, our questions, and our observations. By doing this, we liberate all those who walk in and out of the school — our neighbors, our families, and our friends. We have been blessed by asking Big Questions; moreover, we have been equipped with tools to share these Big Questions.

Preserve this sacred space.
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