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A group of serious admirers of the master's art and high humanistic ideas was formed around Nicholas Roerich. An idea to establish a museum named after him became more clear and persistent. Roerich's belief in a bright future, in increase of knowledge and communion with beauty inspired his friends and many of those who were looking for contact with him.
The first institution, launched by Roerich in 1921, was Master Institute of United Arts. In his lectures the artist was telling about the School of the Society for the Encouragement of Art in St. Petersburg of which he had been the Director. In that School various artistic subjects were taught. The curriculum included painting, graphic arts, archaeology and other subjects. The school was attended by over two thousand students from various society circles: from workers to representatives of aristocracy. That was the pattern that Roerich strived to use for his Master Institute of United Arts in New York, where he also invited gifted teachers. First lessons were devoted to music, painting, sculpture, architecture, ballet and theatre. And though the Institute was quite modest in size at first, the curriculum was enlarged by adding lectures, concerts and exhibitions of the students. Defining the purpose of the Institute, Roerich wrote: "The art will unite the mankind. The art is whole and indivisible".
"The idea was so original and significant that at first only we – the Russian group, accepted it enthusiastically", wrote S. Fosdick, but she continued: "several cultural Americans, after getting to know N. Roerich closer, also became engaged with the idea of all arts under one roof".
Children studying in the studio of Institute of United Arts in New York.
Courtesy of N. Roerich Museum, New York.
Around 100 prominent representatives of American science and culture responded to the Roerich's call and expressed their willingness to educate students according with the proposed curriculum. There were teachers of music, painting, drama, ballet. Among them were musicians: Deems Taylor, Felix Salmond and Ernest Bloch, choreographers Michael Mordkin and Michael Fokin. In the Institute taught Rockwell Kent, Claude Bragdon, George Bellows, Norman Bel Geddes, Howard Giles and others.
Gradually the Institute that really embraced all arts became generally acknowledged. During several years of its existence thousands of students attended its classes, new young teachers, musicians, actors, artists came to teach. Huge and intensive work was in process under direct supervision of Nicholas Roerich. He gave talks to students and to teachers, read lectures, organized new classes, for example classes of music and sculpture for the blind.