The Art Students League of NYC is a place that serious art students go, and have gone; many well known artists started there. I was fortunate to study there. No one left my home town for NY; I don't know why. It was only a 45 minute bus ride away.
I remember when we crossed the line in the tunnel between NJ and NY. My heart would race. I was free. I left the demands and duties and obligations to experience a freedom that was unavailable anywhere else. It was a sin to study art on Saturday. It was against the orthodox Sabboth rules of what was allowable and what was not. And New York itself was almost a forbidden world, yet, at the age of 15 I was allowed to explore this world.
Mr. Fini was the master teacher in our nude study class. Nudity was another of those forbidden subjects. Our models were of all shapes and sizes. It wasn't just the art that I learned there. During break, we would all assemble with the other classes, sitting on these wooden benches and around long wooden tables. Mr. Fini sat at the head.
I remember looking at Mr. Fini. He was 81. His eyes sparkled. He would talk about world events, art. He was doing his best work. I determined I would be like him. Whatever he was doing made him one of the most alive people in my world. I wanted to be alive like him. My parents were half his age and not nearly as alive. Mr. Fini's existence changed my world more than anything he taught, more than anyone else. I am forever grateful.