In a letter, the founder of Atelier do Centro says the allegations of violence are absurd

Founder of Atelier do Centro, the plastic artist Rubens Espírito Santo says that the accusations against the art school are “absurd, unfounded and constitute a real public lynching of its image”.

In a letter released this Thursday (5), he disputes information from the O Ateliê podcast, created and presented by Chico Felitti. The theme of the podcast was the subject of a report published in Ilustríssima this week.

Rubens is accused by more than 20 former students of promoting financial exploitation and physical, sexual and psychological violence at his art school.

The artist’s accusations in the letter had already been taken up in the podcast and in the service: he does not deny the reported episodes of abuse, but claims that everything that happened in his school had the consent of the students.

In the letter, he apologizes for “possible excesses” in a relationship “marked largely by affection, complicity, mutual learning and long periods of living together”.

“In Atelier do Centro we adopt, in fact, a very rigorous method. We work with small groups of artists, architects, filmmakers and other professionals from creative areas who are interested in radical experiences in the field of the arts,” he says in the letter.

“In this working context”, he adds, “it is natural and intentional that frictions and situations of confrontation arise, as provocative elements. The intense and radical coexistence that we propose can lead to excesses, I recognize it, that relations with former students may have been committed”.

However, he specifies that “no one was forced to do anything, no one was subjected to activities with which they did not agree”.

Rubens also denies that his school is a cult, as claimed by one of the interviewees, and that he exploited his students financially.

Finally, he says that school activities will be suspended until all allegations are cleared up.


The truth about Atelier do Centro

“Hello, my name is Rubens Espírito Santo. I am a plastic artist and founder of Escola Atelier do Centro, an art school that has existed for over 20 years in São Paulo. I decided to write this open letter to the public in response to a series of accusations, which are brought against me and against the school in the podcast O Ateliê, by Chico Felitti.

The journalist falsely accused the Atelier do Centro of being an obscure cult, dedicated to dominating its students and profiting from them financially, in the style of cults such as that of the healer João de Deus and that of religious leader Jim Jones.

These accusations are absurd, unfounded and constitute a veritable lynching of public image.

The material he produced carries reports of former students accusing me of physical and psychological assault, which I will discuss throughout this text. To these students I sincerely apologize for any excesses, even if permitted, that occurred in our relationship, which was largely characterized by affection, complicity, mutual learning and long periods of living together.

First of all I would like to talk about the school. Atelier do Centro is not a cult, as Chico Felitti would have you believe. The Atelier do Centro is a school that offers free courses in art, philosophy, refresher programs, training and ongoing research.

Our headquarters are located at Rua Epitácio Pessoa, 91, in the center of São Paulo, near Copan. The school has clear signage on the facade, is open to the public and participants pay a fee to participate in our activities. Everyone can enter and leave the school freely and without restrictions at any time. We don’t work in the shadows, as the podcast suggests.

In Atelier do Centro, in fact, we have adopted a very rigorous method. We work with small groups of artists, architects, filmmakers and other creative professionals interested in radical experiences in the arts.

This model of experimentation ends up forming cohesive work and coexistence groups, guided by intense relationships, the creation of emotional ties, team spirit, the willingness to confront each other on personal issues and to provoke provocative clashes, even hard ones, which have the purpose of stimulating creativity and push the limits.

We are not inventing the wheel and we are not using worship practices. This work model, with a strong emotional involvement, is present in orchestras, theater groups and many organizations in the world of culture.

In this working context, it is natural and deliberate that conflicts and situations of confrontation arise, as provocative elements. The intense and radical coexistence that we propose can lead to excesses, which I recognize may have been committed in relations with former students, to whom I apologize once again if they felt negatively affected. I respect everyone’s criticism and pain.

However, the proposal of coexistence, guided by this environment of confrontation, was always consensual and was linked to a common purpose agreed upon by the participants. No one was forced to do anything. No one was forced to do anything. No one was subjected to any activity they disagreed with.

Former student Mirela Cabral, at the origin of the allegations, for example, started attending school at the age of 24. She already had a degree in cinema, worked in the production of commercials, she was a woman fully aware and free to make choices. She stayed with us for three years. Like her, everyone who attended the school was free to make choices. I’ve never forced anyone to do anything.

And it is important to underline that I have always recommended to all participants in our programs to undergo therapy, with independent professionals, to improve the process of self-knowledge, which is not mentioned by Felitti, nor by the complainants.

I would also like to clarify the financial issue. First of all, I would like to inform everyone that I have no assets other than my library of 7,000 art books, which will be sold to meet the charges now being brought against me. I don’t have a car, I don’t have an apartment, I pay the rent, like many others. I have no reservations. I make a living working at school and selling the drawings and sculptures I produce.

My works are present in some private collections in the country. It is also important to point out that I have never forced any student to buy my work. Those interested in acquiring did so freely. Some have participated in a fund for the purchase of works, more or less in the form of a club of collectors, very common in cultural institutions. Always with spontaneous adhesion.

There are students who have been in the Atelier for many years and have never participated in any fund. Faced with this whole situation, I would like to inform everyone that we are suspending the activities of the Atelier do Centro until all the allegations are properly clarified.

I would also like to mention that rash public lynchings do not lead to good jobs. The accusation of having formed a cult in the heart of the city of São Paulo can generate clicks. It could be a good story to tell in the media. But it doesn’t reflect reality and runs into fake news, full of distorted and out of context facts, which I can’t help but dispute.

Thank you so much for everyone’s attention.”

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