By Elle McLogan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Ai Weiwei, Jackson Pollock, and Georgia O’Keeffe are among the distinguished alumni of the Art Students League of New York.

“Art Students League is the most important art academy in the world for the last 150 years, roughly,” said executive director Michael Rips.

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The Midtown Manhattan building, in continual use by the League since 1892, is home to studios and galleries for art forms like drawing and welding. Each of its five stories is devoted to a different medium, with classes typically costing between $120 and $280 per month.

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“It was one of the first art academies in the world to open its doors to women and to people of color,” Rips said.

The League continues to prioritize inclusivity.

“We have no applications, so everyone is welcome here. You don’t need to be a student. You don’t need to be under 20 years old. We have people of all ages, all backgrounds,” said director of external affairs Genevieve Martin. “[Say,] you’re an attorney. You gave up that incredible ability you had as an artist when you were young. You come back. You refine it. You nurture it. You still get to be an artist.”

The league supports freedom of expression through an open syllabus.

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“We offer a protégé-like relationship, mentor-like relationship, in the teaching of sculpture, painting, printmaking, lithography, etching, etc.,” Rips said. “And there’s no set curriculum, so what you learn and how quickly you learn it is dictated by your relationship with the particular artist under whom you are studying.”

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“We’re very lateral,” Martin said. “We offer these different classes, and they’re all kind of on the same level, and you cross-pollinate as you see fit.”

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Our final selection for this year's #5WomenArtists is artist Nina Heath (@nihnah). Nina studied here at the Art Students League with Vavagiakis, Ginsburg, Thompson, Porcu, Camhy and was awarded a Merit Scholarship in 2016. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Since then, Nina has become the head New York sculptor for Dwarven Forge⁣ (@dwarvenforgeofficial)! SWIPE RIGHT to see Nina posing alongside one of her finished creations.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ "I am utilizing my creative talents every day at this job by fully executing designs all the way from an idea, to a drawing, to a sculpture, to a finished product that we sell. Since we are a small company I have a great deal of creative freedom and ability to execute my own designs.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ The League prepared me for this job by giving me the training I needed. I was a work study student there for years, and then was lucky enough to win a scholarship. This allowed me to take the years I needed to focus on getting to a professional level and get a dream job in an industry I have always wanted to work in."⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ We're proud of Nina's story and the opportunities that have opened up because of her talent and training.⁣ Congrats, Nina!⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ #ArtMakers #CreateArt #57thStreet #ArtSchool #BalanceforBetter⁣⠀

A post shared by The Art Students League of NY (@aslnyc) on

The League is proud to promote a progressive philosophy in a historic setting.

“It’s this sort of radical and brilliant seeming inconsistency between 19th-century pedagogy and the rather revolutionary work that is created here,” Rips said. “It’s a remarkable place known to too few people,” Rips said.

The Art Students League of New York
215 W 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 257-8492

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Elle McLogan