5. The Arts Students League Originally Shared the 57th Street Building With Two Other Arts Organizations
The American Fine Arts Society was incorporated in 1889, an initiative of Howard Russell Butler, a Princeton and Columbia Law School graduate. Butler had a vision to construct a building that would combine New York City’s new art societies and offer space for publicly accessible exhibition galleries. Butler raised funds for the building by creating a stock corporation, and in the process met Andrew Carnegie who hired him, while allowing him to spend part of each work day to paint.
The Arts Students League is one of three constituent organizations that founded the American Fine Arts Society, which also included The Architectural League of New York and the Society of American Artists. The 57th Street building soon became the locus point for art in New York City, and the Landmarks Designation Report contends that “practically all major fine arts exhibitions were held in the American Fine Arts Society’s galleries until 1941.” The three organizations would share the 57th Street building until 1941 when the Society of American Artists merged with the National Academy of Design and moved to its own building.