Painted-postcard persuasion

The State House in Boston is teeming with students today as they try to protect their public colleges from the budget ax. And one group of lobbyists – from the nearby Massachusetts College of Art – made sure the event was preceded by a colorful campaign instead of a plain petition. For the past week, they've been sending legislators postcards, unique images framed by statements urging them to "keep public schools affordable."

Students, parents, alumni, and staff have taken up markers and crayons for the cause, decorating about 3,000 cards. (David Schlafman, class of 2002, painted the exuberant message shown below.)

MassArt is the only public four-year art college in the US. But even some people under the gold dome on Beacon Hill weren't aware of the school's public status before the cards arrived, says student-government president Ryan Hodson.

"It's important that people are able to afford an art school," she says. As a state resident, she pays about $4,000 a year for tuition and fees. She wouldn't be able to foot the bill for a private art school, and worries that MassArt's tuition might spike beyond some students' reach.

The state founded MassArt in 1873 for the same reasons – economic and cultural development – that it set up the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Museum of Fine Arts. The creative stamp that students are now putting on the budget debate is one proof that the vision has borne fruit.

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