Free Thinking: Is the Mountain School of Arts in Los Angeles the ideal art school? (Frieze, 2010)

“Founded in Los Angeles in 2005 by two artists, Piero Golia and Eric Wesley, the school congregates from January until the end of April for two nights a week in the upstairs room of The Mountain, a flamboyantly unattractive bar once described by a guy who sucked his teeth when women walked by and stared at his drink when they didn’t as ‘like jellyfish-insides’. It sits in a staged Chinatown that is amusement-park-ish without any qualifiable amusements, and is to the traditional educational institution perhaps what General Tso’s chicken is to the Hunan gourmet.

“An index of its components–its location, its frantic laconicness, its amorphous curriculum, its absence of tuition and teaching salaries, lack of academic accreditation and agenda–might convince you it’s either a hoax or out to hammer the question: ‘How do you form a school that provokes the idea of a school?’ But msa^ isn’t parodic; it’s just free. And, being free, the big joke is that you get what you pay for. (The minor joke is that you pay for what you get.) Which, reworded by an art magazine, might come out more Socratically as: what is the ‘value’ of a free education? Who really benefits? Who pays? And how do we account for the old adage ‘nothing comes for free’ and an avalanche of other questions too corpulent for us to honestly deal with appropriately here?”

Image: The Mountain School of Arts at Art Basel Miami Beach, 2006, photo by Alberta Mayo