The Free Columbia Art Course: An Update by Laura Summer
As I look at the world today I have to ask myself not only what is needed, but what can I do? Who am I? I am a painter. I am a person who has some understanding of the importance of relating not only to the material world around me but of developing an appreciation for the interpenetration of the spiritual world in that material world. As a painter I transform substance, I take a pigment and paper and charcoal and ink and my understanding and my intention, and something is created.
And so the question came to me when I finished my training in painting, how can I teach this approach of coming into relationship with our material/ spiritual world to others? Can I in some way help the world to wake up?
I had been teaching part time for 12 years when I met my colleague Nathaniel Williams and we began to talk about forming an intensive year of art and anthroposophy which we call the Free Columbia Art Course. Free Columbiais a full time, nine month course based on the fundamentals of the art of painting as they come to life through anthroposophy. We began our second year on September 28th with four full time and ten part time students.
This year we are offering four weekday mornings of painting, Tuesday through Friday. On Tuesday afternoons we have formed a troop of marionette players. During the fall and winter we are learning to play the marionettes and in the spring we will put on local performances. A class in light and dark drawing is given on Wednesday afternoons followed by an open studio time. In the fall on Tuesday evenings Nathaniel taught Philosophy of Aesthetics and in December Henrike Holdrege led Goethean explorations in perspective. In the winter and spring Patrick Stolfo will teach Evolution of Consciousness through the History of Art, Gary Lamb will offer lectures and discussions on the Threefold Social Order and Michael Howard will present the Goetheanum impulse through lecture and pictures. On Thursday evenings throughout the year we have a study group on Theosophy by Rudolf Steiner. Five Saturday mornings throughout the year are devoted to working artistically with seasonal themes. Over four Saturdays in the spring Henrike Holdrege will lead Goethean Color Explorations at the Nature Institute.
With the assistance of such able faculty Free Columbia can be seen as an experiential Foundation Year in Anthroposophy as well as an introduction to painting. But in creating a course of painting and anthroposophy we did not want to create a course with the same tuition-based financial model that our culture has come to expect, not something to be bought and sold like a commodity. We wanted to create a model for the establishment of a free cultural space; a space in our society that is supported by freely given money, where inspiration is free to flow. So at Free Columbia there are no set tuitions or materials fees. All students and interested observers are encouraged to donate to support the endeavor. Everyone is free to participate. The capacities that one unfolds in artistic creativity benefit all areas of life, for human nature is not mechanical but artistic.
In our first year between 35 and 40 people took part in the work at Free Columbia. 3 took part fulltime, 10-15 came once or twice a week, many more came for single lectures. Last summer we offered three summer workshops on color, polarity and the landscape of the city. All workshops were offered a suggested donation basis. Last August we participated in creating a conference on postmodern art and anthroposophy, in which about 50 people participated. In March 2010 Laura Summer published a book of painting exercises to accompany The Calendar of the Soul by Rudolf Steiner. There are two more books that are in process. We have an active lending library of visual art work and Sarah Hearn has taken on the job of being our librarian.
At the end of last year, through the generosity of many people, we found that we had covered our expenses. Now the question presents itself to us, can we continue? Is this what the world needs us to do? The answer will be apparent in the interest around us.
My question of what does the world need holds my attention. I am committed to researching it both by looking at the world around me, by investigating the world within and by offering people an artistic path toward experience. If you are interested in this work please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more at www.freecolumbia.org and you can view our ongoing work at http://freecolumbia.blogspot.com/.