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Monday, November 7, 2011

Report From Free Columbia

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. 

We are at the beginning of this year’s journey. If you would like to follow along with us block by block, you may do at

We will accept applications for the 2012-13 year from March 1st to May 1st 2012.

Information about the course and the summer intensives can be found at

Nathaniel Williams and Laura Summer

"I'm glad to participate in such a positive space, amidst responsive people, where good things can touch ground."
Travis Henry, Full Time Student

“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

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