Thursday, June 3, 2010

National Arts Club

For the third time this year, I spent an evening at the National Arts Club, a charming 19th century brownstone that sits across the street from one of the few private parks in New York City - Gramercy Park. The National Arts Club, which is now exclusive and private, claims its mission is to "stimulate, foster, and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts." No doubt true, especially in the past, but today it seems to me to be a place mainly designed to cater to the rich, the privileged, and the well connected. You must be nominated by a member to join, go through a rather elaborate selection process, and pay an exorbitant fee just to be able to eat at their fancy club. Incidentally, The National Arts Club was formerly the residence of Samuel J. Tilden, the reforming New Yorker, who lost his bid for the presidency in 1876 to placate the South and thereby end Reconstruction.

There is something peaceful and secluded about the area where the National Arts Club is situated. It is a real throwback to a more sedate and simple time. And even though many of the residences have been thoroughly renovated, it feels old and venerable. A good New York place to visit briefly, but hardly worth an extended stay.