Robert Engman, who obtained the property for Penn, says the donor's wishes were ignored. For Robert Engman, the Edna and Monroe C. Gutman Center of the Graduate School of Fine Arts represented a "completely unique opportunity" for sculptors like himself and other artists to work peacefully in studios on a 211-acre Bucks County farm. In fact, in the mid-1970s, the Fine Arts professor emeritus convinced Monroe Gutman, a wealthy financier and Harvard University graduate, to donate the land to Penn for that purpose after his alma mater turned down the offer. Now Engman and others are accusing University officials of not being faithful to its original agreement with Gutman in deciding to put the property up for sale last month. The center has been vacant since the mid-1980s, when the arts program, lacking adequate levels of interest, fell victim to GSFA budget cuts. "I have nothing invested in this now, except that promise to Gutman," said Engman, 70, who was co-chairperson of the Fine Arts Department from 1970 to 1983 and designed the peace sign on College Green in 1970. "It makes me furious or concerned that being the person responsible for that gift coming to Penn, that I was not even consulted as to its disposition." Engman stressed that the University has a responsibility to "make a minimum concession to development and a maximum concession to openness." University officials insisted that they had acted properly. "[Engman is] entitled to his opinion," University spokesperson Ken Wildes said. "This has been discussed with the donor's family, and the donor's family is comfortable with what we're doing." Gutman died in 1975 in his 90s, and his wife Edna passed away a few years later. Their daughter, Peggy Nathan, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday. A coalition of conservation groups and neighbors of the farm, given three extra weeks by the University, has been feverishly raising funds over the last month in an effort to buy the Upper Makefield Township property, to keep it out of the hands of a developer who might change the character of the wealthy rural area. After a meeting between coalition members and Penn officials, the University extended the deadline for offers to November 26. Fine Arts Professor Emeritus Neil Welliver, who was Engman's co-chairperson, insisted that "Gutman never intended [the farm] to be anything other than an arts center." "I am pissed with the University of Pennsylvania," said the 67-year-old Welliver, who lives on an 1800-acre farm in Lincolnville, Maine. "I just think they've become unbelievably rapacious." One farm neighbor who is involved with the negotiations to buy the property, however, said Engman's concerns won't affect the situation's outcome. "I think [his points are] wonderful," Christopher Chandor said. "But I'm a lawyer, and I don't think it buys dogshit, except tears." In his discussions with Gutman, Engman originally proposed a center where students studying in their third and final year for a master's degree in painting and sculpture would live and work in renovated buildings on the property. The program later eliminated the third-year requirement. During the program's 10-year existence, an average of about 15 students resided at the farm.Comments powered by Disqus
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