Friday, December 18, 2009

Free Columbia 2009 Report

Free Columbia Report December 2009

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, year 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. On Saturdays we worked with a Michaelmas theme, exploring the mood of the season. 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.

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?” Right now we are working with conversations of Joseph Beuys. 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.

Our main weekday classes will turn in December to Color and Space, an introduction to oil painting and color perspective led by Nathaniel Williams.  After reviewing how space has been worked with in painting in the past we will create sketches of figures from observation using various shading techniques.  We will move 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.  Fulltime students will be introduced to traditional preparation of canvases and working with oil paints through this project as well.

Last year we established a lending library of visual artwork. The participant makes a donation, ($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 four full time students and twenty-eight 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 are provided with a full scholarship and therefore 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. 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 realm of commodity production as well as from individuals. All donations are tax deductible and very greatly appreciated.

If you would like to find out more about us you can visit our website at or visit us in person at Bright Wing Studio. If you would like to apply as a full time student for the 2010-11 year you can contact us at

Laura Summer and Nathaniel Williams

Quotes from students:

“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

“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





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