Aesthetic Realism in the Press

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Reprinted from:
Volume C  No. 10  
October,  2000
The Musicians' Voice 

Proud To Be An 802 Member 

To the editor: 

It made me proud to be a member of Local 802 to read in the July/August issue of Allegro about our union’s support of the SAG/AFTRA strike and the strike by workers at the Museum of Modern Art. I respect the many musicians who honored the MoMA workers’ picket line, though it meant turning down paying work. They are, as bassist George Rush said, "looking at the bigger picture." That big picture is nothing less than justice for working men and women. They should get the respectful salaries, health care and job security all people deserve. 

"True artists don’t cross picket lines!" wrote David Bogner, in relation to the MoMA strike, and I agree. I learned from Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by Eli Siegel, America’s foremost poet and critic, that art is the greatest justice. "The purpose of art," Eli Siegel has explained, "is to give an object everything that is coming to it." In the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism Ellen Reiss wrote: "Every good painting, poem, musical work came because an artist felt something deserved a fulness of justice." Therefore, she explained, "[every] good work of art … opposes the way of seeing of a boss who is trying to pay a worker as little as possible." 

As a pianist, I have seen this is true. A musician is trying to be fair to the notes he is playing, to the intentions of the composer, to his instrument, and to the audience. The true artist doesn’t see these objects and people as existing to work for him, to make him comfortable and important, while giving as little as he can. Yet that is the way MoMA management and ad agency executives – and employers all over the country – see the men and women they employ. 

Miss Reiss continued: "Justice, Mr. Siegel has said passionately and shown logically, is inseparable: if you don’t give a damn for justice to people, you cannot be for the justice to objects and reality which art represents. So the idea of crossing a picket line to enter a museum is ludicrous, and … an insult to art[.]" The men and women on strike, and all the people who are honoring their picket lines are standing for justice and art, and I respect them very much. 

I am glad to be learning from Aesthetic Realism what the art purpose is and how to have it in my whole life, enabling me to be a prouder, happier and more integrated person with every year. The justice America needs will begin when people everywhere – including our elected officials – are asking and answering this question asked by Eli Siegel: "What does a person deserve by being alive?" The study of art and ethics takes place at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City, in classes, public seminars, dramatic and musical presentations and individual consultations. For more information, call (212) 777-4490, or visit the website at

--Alan Shapiro 

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