centre, radiating influences that are felt not only in the big city, but throughout
the land,—influences that incite to do the best, to live up to the light given,
to follow loftier ideals, and to strive mightily for accomplishment.
And the “291” spirit came at first from one man. He conceived the idea,
and made the “little galleries” a reality, because he wanted to help others.
The influence of the place is his, the encouragement and the help received
by those who visit there are an influence emanating from his own generous
personality. He helps by his own beautiful work, by gentle criticism and
sympathetic smile, and by kindly silence. What shall we say of him but
that he has done far more than he ever can realize to ease the burdens of
daily care, to bring joy to many a heart, and unconsciously to win for himself
the blessings that surely fall to those who nobly forget themselves in their
endeavor to serve others.
Charles E. S. Rasay
A LETTER FROM PRISON
[Mr. Wolff was imprisoned thirty days for a political “crime.” This letter was written without any
idea of publication. Upon the request of the Editor, Mr. Wolff granted permission to incorporate the
letter in this book.]
My dear Stieglitz:
Sleepless on my prison cot in the stillness of night I was thinking of
you, of “our little gallery; of the spirit of ‘291’.” This place reminds me
awfully of the other place—it is so different!!! Here on the Isle of Sighs
and Curses but no songs, alas! everything is depression, suppression, and
repression; at “291” everything is expression, impression, and more expres-
sion. Here in prison everything is institutional, uniform, routinal, dogmatic,
academic, counted, fastened, barred and hopeless; there at “291” every-
thing is free, informal, enthusiasm, struggle, attainment, realization, expan-
sion, elation, joy, life. I have always felt it, but I feel it now more than ever
that next to my own little studio, “291” is for me the freest and purest
breathing place for what is commonly called the soul. There one is free to
delight in the freedom of expression in others, thus making it one’s own free-
dom and one’s own expression.
I do earnestly hope that all the rotten, filthy, corrupting prisons will be
wiped away and the system that necessitates prisons will vanish from the
face of the earth while the spirit of “291” will grow and multiply, for it is
the spirit of freedom, of self-expression, of art, of life in the highest and deepest.
October 1, 1914.
Blackwells Island, N. Y.