EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The University of Oregon has ended free art sessions for community artists to sketch nude models, saying it could not afford the increasing cost of keeping the popular classes secure.
During the past two and a half weeks, the art school saw a marked increase in phone calls and emails inquiring about the sessions, Rocco Luiere, the school's associate dean for finance, told The Associated Press.
Some of the callers were asking "off-color" questions, some dealing with the appearance of the models, he said.
"That's not somebody who's looking to come in for art," Luiere said. "As we start to get calls on that, we have to take a step back and say we're running this program, we have an ethical responsibility to make sure we're doing this in a safe environment. And we did not feel we could provide that at this point.'"
The calls started after someone posted fliers seeking models, he said.
Classes with nude models are part of the curriculum in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts. But those classes aren't open to the general public.
On Saturdays, 30 to 35 people from a group known as the Saturday Figure Drawing Group regularly show up to draw a nude model, said artist Will Mitchell, the group's volunteer coordinator.
The group has been meeting since the mid-1990s, participants told the Eugene Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1yr0kLL ) in a story Wednesday.
"Figure drawing is a very mild activity," Mitchell said. "Kind of slow and quiet."
The university gave the Register-Guard a letter sent to the Saturday participants from Brook Muller, acting dean of the school.
"As these sessions have increased in prominence, they have had the unfortunate consequence of drawing unwanted attention to the fact that nude models can be found on the UO campus in an unstructured and unmonitored environment," Muller wrote.
She said a limited budget has prevented the university from putting more resources into security that would allow the sessions to continue.
However, Muller said drawing nudes has value and purpose in the creation of art and the development of artistic ability, and she pointed out nonprofit art centers where community members could do such work.
The models get $15 an hour and earn five hours of pay for each three-hour session because it's on weekends, Mitchell said. Some models who work in the classrooms also work at the Saturday sessions.
Lindsey Belleau, 27, told the Register-Guard that modeling at the Saturday sessions had helped her grow.
"I'd have to say that group helped me become a person who realizes how safe I am," she said. "It really inspires a person like me, who can't draw. It's a group of people who get together doing what they love. And they're so respectful of each other."
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com