Questions Remain Over Epstein & Art School

The New York Academy of Art has a long association with the dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The abuser was on the board of trustees from 1987 to 1994 and turned up at three events at the academy after he was released from jail in Florida around 2011.

Tainted money and donors with dubious intentions are matters of controversy in the non-profit world. 

Was Epstein trying to whitewash his criminal record & rebrand himself as a patron of the arts? Did he want to engage with more students? Buy more art? 

It is an irrefutable fact Epstein made one substantial donation to the academy in 2014.

According to the academy’s lawyer earlier this month: “The $30,000 (in 2014) was for student scholarships. We decided an equal amount to a charity that assists survivors of sexual abuse.”

A representative for the school said in 2019 it had noted only one donation from Epstein. 

The 2014 donation was noted as a “special stipend”, used for scholarships and split three ways.

But there’s an identical amount from the academy’s 2012 tax records, which is also a “special stipend” & split three ways. 

The academy will not comment on this & offered us off-the-record information, which we chose not to accept because we don’t do deals with publicists. Our first obligation is to our audience.

The insistence on no comment did not allow us to clear up the nature of the 2012 donation.

So we have persisted with information that remains in the public domain. 

We were intrigued because of the similarities between the two donations, which were in years Epstein attended academy events.

Here are the donations:

The academy vigorously denies any wrongdoing and these donations could be coincidental.

Since last year, the art school has been brawling with an academy graduate, Maria Farmer, who is an Epstein survivor.

Ms Farmer believed the academy and her then-Dean Dr Eileen Guggenheim enabled Maxwell and Epstein in their abuse of her and her sister, Annie.

The academy is struggling to find its place in the post #metoo era. 

It was criticised for issuing a “victim blaming” report against Ms Farmer. Four of its directors resigned due to what they believe was the sexist nature of the report, which was issued by lawyers to examine the former student’s allegations.

The report, issued by Guggenheim’s former lawyers, said: “Yet she (Ms Farmer) ignored this and the many other red flags, which would have suggested to a reasonable person that introducing her 15-year-old sister to Epstein might end badly. Unfortunately, it did.”

Ms Guggenheim has a long association with the academy, is chair of the board of trustees and is one of its biggest donors. Her husband Russell Wilkinson also sits on the board.

She told ArtNews earlier this month:

Are we on the set of Mad Men? Is that Don Draper with an old fashioned? Is it Maria’s fault again? 

Last week, we took the position of asking for some extra accountability from the private art academy. It has tax-free status and, therefore, needs to be open and transparent. 

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