January 5, 2017

Miniature in the Mail #51: "You get what you you pay for"

"You get what you pay for," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Happy new year!

Last week while the kids were off school, we did some tourism. Los Angeles isn't what it was during the Rodney King Riots or the Watts Riots, at least according to the books I've been reading, but it's still a pretty good showcase of flagrant income inequality.

I tend to turn my travels into research trips and so rather than shadow the latest guide, we went to Compton, Crenshaw, Watts, and the campus of the University of Southern California, where we sat on a bench in a courtyard of the art school and nibbled a sandwich under the watch of CCTV cameras.

Tuition at USC, at over $50k, is the highest in the US, more than Harvard or Yale.  Its endowment is $4.6 billion, twice that of the University of Toronto, though for far fewer students, and 886 times that of comparably sized Cal State Fullerton, where my historian flame teaches.  It's peaceful and quiet, the grounds manicured, with buildings that could step out of Renaissance Europe—and it's smack dab in South L.A. where gangs roam, poverty is plenteous, and the mostly black and brown residents are the least likely to gain access to it.

In many ways the university feels like a provocation.  Indeed the Klan, I read, burned crosses on the campus in the 1920s.  Throughout our pleasant jaunt through the grounds, we came across information panels on the school's mascot, a dog named George Tirebiter, and the many, many prestigious benefactors, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.  But there was nothing we could find on the shadier history.

I don't know, presumably lessons are being taught in this institution of higher learning but what they are and for whose sake is, I have to think, not the sensical stuff we learn about in public school. 

For this mini painting and others like it, visit www.ivanostocco.com

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