Letters to the Editor

Week of April 25, 2001

Butterflies Are Free

The flutter over a proposed museum: Thank you for Matt Smith's delicious deconstruction of certain social butterflies' misguided goal of destroying the Embarcadero's last patch of open space, including some 100 mature trees, to build a silly butterfly museum ("Do-Gooders, NIMBYs, and Other Insects," April 11). Let's hope the S.F. Board of Supervisors has the good sense to transfer Ferry Park to the Recreation and Park Department, thereby ensuring the park's preservation.

Then we could create a truly educational open-air "museum" by declaring the site to be both a dog park and a native-plant preserve (like Fort Funston). Kids could learn how the world really works, by watching two of the city's most tenacious constituencies fight over the turf in perpetuity.

Whoever wins -- I'm for dogs (but only nice ones) and randomly introduced weeds (sorry, I mean biodiversity) -- I bet live, free-ranging butterflies would continue to show up. And that, not another glass-walled building with a $9 admission charge, is what a dense city's downtown really needs.
Michael Katz

A Musical Note

In 50 years, you'll makeRolling Stone: I just read the article on 86 (the band) ("Harmonic Convergence," Music, April 11) and I wanted to say thanks. To you, it may be just another article, but to us it means a lot. After 10 years of slogging through the clubs and recording studios of the Bay Area, it's nice to get a little recognition from the press.
Joel Murach
Mission District

Arts and Letters

Painting a different picture of the Academy of Art College: As president of the Academy of Art College, I write to correct the numerous misrepresentations contained in the article Matt Smith wrote for SF Weekly's April 4 issue ("The Art of the Deal"). The Academy of Art College is an 80-year-old institution that confers the degrees of the associate of arts, bachelor of fine arts, and master of fine arts in 10 majors. We enroll over 6,200 students.

Contrary to Mr. Smith's claim that the academy is taking advantage of "those who dream of someday becoming artists," the academy has provided an opportunity for thousands of its graduates to achieve their goal. Eighty-two percent of our students obtain employment on completion of the program. They are employed by the most successful firms, including Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, Lucas Film, DreamWorks, Landor & Associates, Gensler & Associates, Skidmore, Owings & Merril, Disney, MSNBC, Microsoft, Oracle, and Hallmark. These companies employ our graduates because they enter the work force fully trained, with professional portfolios, and are among the very best in their field. They are taught to make a career out of what they've always loved. We do not take advantage of artists' dreams; we help them come true.

Both undergraduate and graduate students in all our disciplines have earned the highest accolades and awards in international and national competitions. Graphic design students have won over 21 coveted international Clio Awards and have had their work honored by prestigious design journals and publications such as Critique, Communication Arts, and Graphis. Just recently, five advertising students earned a spot in the Art Directors 80th Annual Book, their TV commercial "Good Morning to You Too" being chosen from over 16,000 entries. At last year's Academy of Art College Fashion Show, Oscar de la Renta not only made a personal appearance but chose three academy students for internships. Ford Motors has asked the academy to redesign the Ford Focus and has donated a car to us for this purpose, resulting in the academy's interdepartmental Ford Focus Project. The academy's academic credentials equal its artistic success. The academy meets the same requirements by which regionally accredited institutions are judged. As a professional school rather than a liberal arts college, the academy has focused on a curriculum that addresses its students' needs rather than the general requirements for regional accreditation. To satisfy both, students would have to stay in school longer to produce the quality of portfolio the job market expects and to receive the same level of professional training they currently receive. This delay in entering the job market would mean a substantially greater educational cost to families. Instead, liberal arts are incorporated into the academy's advanced art and design programs, but in a way that benefits the students who aspire to become working artists and designers. Prospective students are not only well-informed of the academy's philosophy and programs but choose to come here because of the school's emphasis on professional education.

Mr. Smith's criticism of the academy's many facilities demonstrates his lack of familiarity with real estate, educational institutions, or both. The academy's buildings, clearly marked throughout the city with Academy of Art College signs, are used as dormitories, educational facilities, studios, administrative office space, and countless other ways by the school. If its owners sought to generate income, they could rent those facilities to businesses that would pay higher rent than can be realized using the buildings for educational purposes. Like any other great academic institution, having extensive facilities is an absolute necessity and is a reflection of the school's quality of education. The academy's 20 buildings contain technologically advanced classrooms, labs and studios with the latest software and equipment available, and an art library. These state-of-the-art facilities assure that the students stay current with the market and industrial standards. The academy is proud that its facilities are second to none and that it has the space for its unparalleled resources. Students are grateful that the academy does not confront the housing and space limitation crises that other colleges face.

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