Armed with his exotic new persona, Man Ray broke from the cocoon of his early life. One day at Stieglitz's he heard about an ongoing series of art classes and lectures sponsored by the Ferrer Modern School, which had just moved to a brownstone building at 63 East 107th Street from downtown headquarters, first at St. Mark's Place, then on East Twelfth Street. Thursday and Friday evening art classes ("with living model") were twenty cents per session. And on Wednesday nights, the popular critic John Weichsel spoke on cultural and aesthetic topics. .
The Ferrer School had been founded by Emma Goldman, in commemoration of Francisco Ferrer y Guardia, the libertarian Spanish educator shot in Barcelona on October 13, 1909. Goldman traveled tirelessly across the country, addressing audiences of anarchists, freethinkers, and progressives in the aftermath of Ferrer's death, raising funds to start an association in his honor and spirit, predicated upon her shared belief that "dogmatism is the worst enemy of education." .
"What is the Modern School?" asked sculptor and poet Adolf Wolff in the pages of the school's magazine. "It is a sort of alchemist's laboratory where the philosopher's stone of education is being evolved. It is the great pedagogic experimental station of the new society. It invites investigation and criticism. " Open every day for the instruction of children, and evenings and weekends as well for adult classes, the Ferrer School "seethed with animation and debate of vital issues . . . and no cause was too poor nor too radical or delicate to be denied a hearing," as scholar Paul Avrich has noted. The art class was one of many activities. There were new plays constantly being staged, concerts and dance classes, poetry workshops "and the day school was under the direction of the great philosopher and teacher Will Durant. .
Man Ray began making the trek uptown to the Ferrer School in the early fall of 1912, attracted by its reputation for expansive, unrestricting, and liberating instruction.