Wednesday, January 9, 2013

report 2011/12

Report from Free Columbia The 2011-12 year of Free Columbia was very active. Eleven full time students finished the program of painting, drawing and puppetry in June with an exhibit of the year’s work held at a space next to the Family Dollar store in Philmont, NY. This exhibit in the middle of the town was reflective of our year which saw us moving out into the world around us. Beside our 11 full time students, 10 people participated part time, approximately 50 people took summer courses and another 150 attended evening lectures and events. Our summer conference, concerned with artistic experience and the future of art, was held at the Basilica Hudson in Hudson NY and was attended by 45 people from many countries including Finland, Israel, Italy and France. In May we held our first Art Dispersal, inviting people to become stewards of original art, to take it home and live with it for an unspecified time. We dispersed 120 paintings both locally and to people who will take them all over the world. Our puppet show of Rip Van Winkle using 10 foot tall puppets was shown at the public school to over 1200 children as well as outdoor performances in the Philmont Village Green. Like a little boat crafted at home, Free Columbia is beginning its journey into the world. Our vision for a community supported, accessible to all arts initiative really landed in the third year. Our $69,029 in expenses was covered by $69,937 in donations by individuals and organizations who believe in and support what we are doing. All of our activities were accessible regardless of a person’s financial situation. Sometimes the funding ran disconcertingly low but we sent out appeals, traveled to give courses in other areas, organized events and the funding came in each time. This approach is often challenging, sometimes unnerving, but the benefits of offering artistic work without financial restrictions is overwhelmingly inspiring and productive. In September we started our fourth year with six fulltime and ten part time students. Next year, 2013/14, Free Columbia will offer two separate full time programs, a 8 month course of painting and a 4 month apprenticeship in puppetry. if you are interested in participating you may contact us at Thanks to all of you who through you understanding and support are making this work possible. Laura Summer Nathaniel Williams Here are some words from our students: Free Columbia taught me to really step back and listen to what the colors on the page are saying instead of projecting myself onto them. This simple lesson can be applied to every aspect of life. Kim O’Keefe As a class teacher on sabbatical it was so exciting to find a painting course working out of anthroposophy. I thought I had come to learn about that but I discovered that through the artistic exercises and endeavors I was learning to be. Beyond a sensitivity to color, learning to paint is a practice in developing courage. Christine Cassagnau Thank you for having faith. To me this has been an education in what it is to be human. It has given me insight into how to go forward into the world in a true way. Laurel Iselin My year in the Free Columbia Art Course gave me the insight I needed to pursue the journey into “the heart of artistic action” on my own as an individual artist, and the longing to forge artistic community relationships wherever I go. I remain connected to the ideals that gave rise to this inspiring art course, and am committed to supporting future Free Columbia students. Victoria Temple From Art Dispersal Thanks a million. I love looking at the piece every day. A lovely total experience – thank you Beginning – not knowing what was happening, middle – it’s working!!! End – a totally satisfying experience, new, social, surprising…making people so happy. This is amazing! we love being able to own original art. Thank you! The one who gives receives! Awesome IDEA, Awesome Reality. I love this new impulse. It may not be realized in our time but it is important to support it. Revolutionary! thank you for inspiring creativity.

report 2010/11

All improvement in the sphere of politics is to proceed from the ennobling of character- but how is character ever going to be ennobled while under the influence of a barbaric political constitution? Presumably we have to find an instrument that could enable this, an instrument not provided by the state, that could open up living springs which, whatever the political corruption, would remain clear and true. -Friederich Schiller on culture and fine art Report from Free Columbia in 2011-2012 If you travel north by train from NYC along the arm of the sea (the Hudson River), you will come to the town of Hudson in the county of Columbia. One of the many things going on in the area of this whaling town become antique hub is a project dedicated to the practice and study of art and culture called Free Columbia. It has been growing over the last four years. It began as the collaboration of two artists but now includes the contributions of many more. The main activity of this project has been the creation of workshops, conferences, puppet shows, lecture evenings and, most ambitiously, a nine month full time course. This course is currently in its third year and it includes painting, drawing, puppetry, eurythmy, philosophy of aesthetics, Goethean observation and study of anthroposophy. Our faculty includes Laura Summer, Nathaniel Williams, Ella Lapointe, Karen Derremeaux and Henrike Holdrege. In addition we welcome guest lecturers, Sarah Hearn, Craig Holdrege, Seth Jordan, Michael Howard, Ted Pugh, Fern Sloan, Doug Sloan, Patrick Stolfo, and Steve Talbott. With the participation of such able faculty Free Columbia can be seen as an experiential Foundation Year in Anthroposophy as well as an introduction to painting. No matter the project at hand, Free Columbia is always an attempt at approaching art’s spiritual aspects. Working with spiritual science and Steiner’s anthroposophy is a great leaven in this. Free Columbia is a place to cultivate the dialogue on culture with Kandinsky, Rothko, Van Gogh, Beuys, Cezanne, Goethe, Schiller, Merlou Ponty, Gadamer, Klee, Steffen and Deleuze among others. Over the last year the project has grown. The year long course has quadrupled in size. The work is intensifying with the growing number of people investing their participation. Free Columbia has a circle of supporters who value what we are trying to do. They contribute materials and supplies, books and monthly financial pledges. We are trying to create an atmosphere at Free Columbia that supports creativity and autonomy, so we are not interested in external accreditation or funding with strings attached. We are also trying to make it accessible to those who should participate in it due to their interests and abilities regardless of their financial means. There are no fixed tuitions for participation in any courses. The annual expenses are presently a humble $55,000.

report 2009/10

Free Columbia Report 2009-10 The date was September 14th, 2009. Thirty-five people sat in a circle in Bright Wing Studio in Hillsdale New York. Names traveled around the circle, the history of painting in that studio was described, memories and hopes for the future were voiced, the feeling of “dropping in” from a nine-foot skateboard ramp was mentioned. And the Free Columbia Art Course began. The Free Columbia Art Course is a full time, nine month long course based on the fundamentals of the art of painting as they appear and come to life through anthroposophy. This article is an update on how we are doing. From September to November we explored color, its moods, its laws, its relationships and our relationship to it. We created two color wheels and began an introduction to the colors of the sketches that Rudolf Steiner gave as a training path for painters. In October Henrike Holdrege of the Nature Institute led us in four Saturday sessions of experiments from Goethe’s color theory. We observed after images, atmospheric colors, and most amazing of all, colored shadows. In December we entered into oil painting and color perspective. After reviewing how space has been worked with in painting in the past we created sketches of figures from observation using various shading techniques. We moved from a sketch and spatial experience based on line and dark light relationships to creating a painting in which the spatial qualities inherent in color become central. In February, using poems and stories, we explored the imagination. First in watercolor and egg tempera and then in drawing, lions, kings, dragons and witches leapt over our papers. On Saturdays we explored the moods of the seasons. We also have a rich life of study. We are working through the book Theosophy as well as various lectures by Rudolf Steiner on art. Once a month a lively and varied group of people gather in a study called “Art. What?” We have worked with conversations of Joseph Beuys and in March will tackle improvisational music. In October we began The Study of Art and the Evolution of Human Consciousness with Patrick Stolfo. We began by modeling a small human figure with our eyes closed and progressed through observations of cave paintings and the art of ancient Egypt and Greece, then through the renaissance to end our nine sessions in the early twentieth century. In February and March we spent three sessions discussing Social Threefolding and the relationship of culture and economics. Last year we established a lending library of visual artwork. The participant makes a donation, (suggested $100/1 year membership), to Free Columbia and chooses up to 3 pieces of art to take home for up to one year. At intervals we will have Library Events where artwork is both returned and checked out by other borrowers. Currently we have three full time students and twenty part time students. Out of a commitment to Social Threefolding and in an effort to experience a new way of working with money, Free Columbia works on the following economic model: Part time students pay a flat monthly rate of $80 which covers all classes and materials. Full time students do not pay tuition or material costs. In this way they are freed to devote themselves for the year to working in the free spiritual realm. Next year we are committed to eliminating set fees for all students and supporting Free Columbia with gift money. Free Columbia is devoted to the development of creativity as a deed for the world. It is our hope that if what we are doing is valuable we will attract support from the business realm as well as from individuals. All donations are tax deductible and very greatly appreciated. “The atmosphere here is one of free thinking and free learning that I have never really experienced before. It is a mood of inquisitive exploration and observation. To nurture each others beings and to bring something good into the world pervades life together in the studio.” Laurel Iselin, Full Time Student “I feel that no matter what I choose to do next, this year of painting will be valuable to me. I’m grateful to be painting and to be working within a community of artists that are taking the time to learn, trust, and experience paint and color together.” Karin Heide Weinrich, Full Time Student