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Ars Pro ...

Circling the Square

By Stephen C. Clapp

It takes little pathfinding skill to find the Lawson Academy of Fine Arts. As the advertisements say, its studios are "above Harvard Pro," a scant flight of stairs away from the bottles and crates of Cambridge's thriving liquor outlet. This fact doesn't seem to bother either the artists or Lawson Mooney, their instructor, however, and the trim little rooms on the second floor are spiritually removed from the bustle of Mount Auburn Street.

Mr. Mooney, in chinos and tweed jacket, was sitting in his office at the head of the stairs when I came in. "There isn't much going on right now, since we aren't officially open," he said. "I've been in Cambridge since spring. Before coming here, I spent two years in Egypt and another two in Madagascar. Lawson's my first name, not my last name. I had quite a time deciding what I would name this place. I didn't want to call it the Cambridge Academy of Fine Arts. Everybody around here likes to name their shop 'The Cambridge this' or 'The Cambridge that.' Lawson seemed to work all right, though."

Opening the studio doors, he revealed easels and canvases, wire frames and modelling clay. Each room is painted a different color and white woodwork accents the drawings, oils, and primitive handtools placed about the walls. In one room, a tall model awkwardly finished undressing while one of Lawson's pupils adjusted her easel and brushes.

"I'm hoping to enroll about fifteen people," Lawson said. "I've always wanted to work with a small group painting and sculpting--I'm a sculptor myself. We had about a dozen summer school people during the summer. A few are still here--mostly Radcliffe girls. Yes, there are some Harvard men. Grad students, though. I have a German exchange student, a Japanese and a Chinese boy--more from outside than inside the country, actually.

"Most of these things are mine," he said, pointing to the office decorations. "One of the Madagascar natives gave me that village scene after I gave her a paintbox and some brushes. I had some birds, too, carved in rosewood and mahogany--they burn that stuff for fuel over there, you know. I lost a lot of things coming over, though. You know that ship they sunk in the Suez; it had most of my work on it. But I'll add to what's here and later on I hope to exhibit some student work in this room--maybe sell some of it."

I asked Lawson how "the Pro" felt about his studio. "They don't mind it at all downstairs," he said, grinning. "As a matter of fact, the fellow who runs it was quite tickled. 'It might be good for the business,' he said."

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