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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Summer 2015 Conference in Portland, Oregon

 A Public Art Conference
  Sponsored by the North American Visual Arts Section of the School of Spiritual Science     

Portland Waldorf High School
2300 SE Harrison, Milwaukie, Oregon 97222

Today we have passed and are living through the 100-year anniversary of the inauguration of an anthroposophical artistic work, begun by the spiritual initiate Rudolf Steiner in 1907 in Germany and continued through the design and creation of the two Goetheanum buildings in Switzerland. Steiner himself pointed to the need for renewing, if not transforming, an initiative after about 100 years (3 x 33 1/3 year periods relating to a Christic rhythm), lest its vitality and relevance fade away. Many feel that it is time to revisit and hopefully revitalize, expand, deepen, and transform this artistic work so that it can continue its further development into the future. We hope this conference will be one step in that direction. 

Some of our questions: Is there such a thing as “anthroposophical art” or “anthroposophical style”? Is what is most essential about practicing a visual art out of anthroposophical inspiration a particular appearance or a medium used in certain ways? Or is it adherence to certain principles, ideals, and “rules” that is most important? Or is it more a matter of particular methods and manners of creatively working? How can we take into account the further development of both humanity and the visual arts since the time of Rudolf Steiner? How can the work of artists serve present and future human evolution?

It is likely that Rudolf Steiner would have had other things to say and would have demonstrated other approaches to art had he lived long enough for artists to approach him with further questions. Consider the dramatic difference in outer appearance of the two Goetheanum buildings that he designed in Switzerland.

If as artists we aspire to serve our fellow human beings and the larger cause of human evolution, then our study of Rudolf Steiner’s own artwork is only one starting point. If human consciousness is evolving, even within the span of a hundred years, then we need to carefully observe the soul-spiritual forces and trends at work in human and world evolution up to the present.

As we live with these questions, the practice of our art will become less a form of self-expression and more a path of spiritual inquiry and research. We will focus on the present and future of visual arts practice created out of anthroposophical inspiration.

 Conference Schedule

Friday, July 31

5:00 – "First Class Conversation: The mantra of Lesson 17 and the transformation of substance. Introduction by Bert Chase, and reflections on the theme by the members. 
(must bring blue card)

6:00 – Dinner

7:30 pm – Listening Bowls Practice
Led by Carrie Gibbons
Entering into this daily practice, as an aid to our conversations on the theme, we will attempt to create a shared space where together we can practice interest in the other person exploring our theme.

7:50 pm – Art in Service of Human Evolution: The Cultivation of “Artistic Feeling”
Introduction by Michael Howard
By deepening our understanding and experience of Rudolf Steiner’s contribution to the visual arts, we will enhance rather than diminish our creative freedom. We can start by asking how the elements of Steiner’s art serve the spiritual needs of humanity in our time. A certain approach to this question can lead to an experience of new capacities awakening in me vital to my humanity. These new capacities fostered by working anthroposophically with the arts can include perceiving and working with the living etheric forces; developing the free thinking, feeling, and willing of the spiritual self; and developing empathy and love, with a resulting capacity to develop genuine community. Such explorations lead one to feel the inner freedom to create authentic and original works of art that are not derivative of Steiner or others.

During the conference after each approximately 30-minute presentation, we will divide into smaller groups for further discussion and conversation, meeting at the end to share with the whole conference the results of the work of each group. How we do this will depend on the numbers of persons participating.

 8:20 – Small Group Discussions
 9:00 – Sharing by Small Groups with the Plenum

 Saturday, August 1

9:00 am – Listening Bowls Practice
Led by Carrie Gibbons

9:15 am Local Artists: Discussion on Interviews
By Patricia Lynch and Carrie Gibbons
Patricia and Carrie will share impressions from interviews conducted with more than 20 regional
visual artists by using a series of questions to explore individuals' practice and understand
what is living in the minds and hearts of artists in this area.

9:45 – Refreshment Break
10:00 – Small Group Discussions
11:30 – Sharing by Small Groups with the Plenum

12:15 – Lunch Break

2:00 pm –  ­ Artistic Workshops
These afternoon workshops will tackle the conference theme in different, more active ways, as it can arise within a particular visual art medium or way of working.

The Middle Path of the Artist...
Led by Patrick Stolfo
Using the clay medium, we will seek an experiential understanding of symbolic, imitative, and the "synthesis of the ideal and the real" expressions in art. Our explorations should serve to inform the 4:30 Saturday conversation.    

A Short Glimpse into the Movement of Color in the First 3 of Rudolf Steiner’s Training Sketches for Painters
Led by Laura Summer
Asked by painter Henni Geck around 1922 to inaugurate a training for painters similar to that for eurythmists, Rudolf Steiner responded with a sequence of 23 color sketches in pastels as “picture seeds” to be re-experienced and re-created by being worked out freely as watercolor paintings as the first steps of a new training for painters. As we learn to work in painting with color as our starting point, these sketches can be our teachers. We will work with watercolor and maybe some other media.
Experiences with Social Sculpture
Led by David Adams and Carrie Gibbons
Working with this relatively new approach to a “social art,” we will engage in a number of artistic, aesthetic, and social processes, including practices to enhance perception, gather or transform substances, and consider movement and archetypal forces.

4:00 – Refreshment Break

4:30 – The Emergence of the True, Living Motif in the Artistic Process
Introduction by Patrick Stolfo.
A presentation of some basic principles of the anthroposophical artistic impulse as articulated by Rudolf Steiner, leading to a discussion on how we find a genuine spiritual essence in our artwork (beyond physical, etheric, and astral levels) between the husks of mere symbolism and imitation. What is the nature and meaning of “semblance” in our art, the forging of the “appearance” of the soul-spirit in the guise of the physical medium?

5:00– Small Group Discussions
5:45 – Sharing by Small Groups with the Plenum

6:00 – Supper Break

7:30 – The Wider Perspective –­ Reflections on Anthroposophical Art
Led by Bert Chase
Thoughts on how this question is being carried within the Visual Arts Section, the relationship of these questions to the working of the Collegium of the School of Spiritual Science in North America, and the interest within the Anthroposophical Society of how artists can speak to our current situation.

8:00 – Small Group Discussions
8:45 – Sharing by Small Groups with the Plenum

 Sunday, August 2

9:00 am – Listening Bowls Practice
Led by Carrie Gibbons

9:15 – The Transformation of Visual Art out of the New Mysteries of Will
Introduction by David Adams.
The transition from the old Mysteries of Wisdom to the new Mysteries of Will is part of a larger evolutionary passage from the Cosmos of Wisdom to the Cosmos of Love that just begins in our Fifth Epoch. In art from the Mysteries of Will it is free initiative in the form of gesture, process, and movement that matter, in relationship to immersive experiences – not, as in past, traditional art, the pictorial visual appearance that can be observed statically. In the will work both dead human souls and the hierarchies, so techniques for relating more consciously to this invisible “will-community” become part of one’s artistic practice, which also acquires a social component.

9:45 – Refreshment Break

10:00 – Small Group Discussions
11:30 – Sharing by Small Groups with the Plenum

12:15  – Lunch Break

2:00 pm – Artistic Workshops
3:30 pm – Closing Plenum Observations and Conversation & Sharing from Workshops

4:30 pm – Conclusion




CONFERENCE FEE: $25.00 Includes snacks and art supplies for workshops

More information by phone in Portland, OR: Carrie Gibbons at (503) 708-8994
More information via email: Christopher Guilfoil  at

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