I got to Cooper Union after 2.5 years at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. Bezalel is a fantastic school. Its promise is to make you a real pro in the discipline of your choosing. It is hard to get it. It is prestigious and snooty. And it grooms the leaders of the design fields in Israel.
Cooper Union’s promise is quite different. Its promise has to do more with a way of thinking, a way of seeing the world. A way of imagining what’s possible. For me, Cooper is about challenging the presumptions you had (about art and design and/or life at large). It is an idealistic, naive (in the most beautiful sense), exceptional place where the best kids (and really, the best kids) get a rare chance to really kick ass without thinking about student loans or the job they will secure after. For me Cooper is like a lab where rules can bend the other way.
There are no real devisions between disciplines as Cooper doesn’t try to mold their students to fit into a niche in the real world of post-graduation.
In its core, it is radical, idealistic, naive, and subversive in many fundamental ways. And sure, as a student (and alumnus) it is many times annoying and confusing.
And the reason why Cooper is Cooper, is because it really does stem from a radical, idealistic, naive, subversive and rare concept: that education should be free as air and water. That was Peter Cooper’s (the school’s founder) vision. And from this vision the nature and spirit of the school is drawn. Out of that dream.
To this day all the students at Cooper gets full scholarship. That what gets this dream going.
There are now talks about starting to charge tuition at Cooper. Apparently it doesn’t do very well financially and this is the proposed solution. That might be true, I don’t know the numbers and I don’t think I’m the best person to consult on these matters. But one thing is clear to me and that is that charging tuition at Cooper Union means that Cooper will not be Cooper anymore. It will become an art school. Another art school. Maybe a good one, I don’t know. But we might just give it another name all together.