Wednesday, November 21, 2012

drawing from nature

In our first block we worked outside drawing from nature.

Monday, November 12, 2012


On Tuesdays we work all day on puppetry. We are making the masks that will become the puppets for our production of "The Ramapo Salamander" in the spring.


Here are some comments 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
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

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Beginning the 4th year!

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 seven fulltime and ten part time students. Thanks to all of you who through you understanding and support are making this work possible.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

End of the year exhibit

landscape devotion

For the last block of the year we devoted ourselves to an aspect of the world around us. We started with a tree and then each student chose something that they would like to explore - mountains, dandelions, butterfly wings, pathways are some examples.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


In April Dan Pate came to work with us teaching how to work with light weight concrete sculpture.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

image and luster colors

This year we began this block by exploring the image colors. Black, White, Green and Peach Blossom. Used together they create a very particular mood. Then we moved to the luster colors: Red, Blue and Yellow, in various combinations.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

new video

A friend has made a new video about Free Columbia. you can see it here:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Color and Space

We entered into oil painting and color perspective.  It was about becoming more sensitive.  
We started by observing objects and models and rendering what we saw on paper. To do this we used charcoal, then various shades of watercolor paint.  We simplified the broad and differentiated field of vision into simple areas which we created with a few shades of paint and then the white of our paper.  Gradually we increased the subtlety of our shading.  Eventually we looked at our flat paper and saw figures in space, we saw light and dark relationships which had come out of spatial observation.  This is something quite interesting, experiencing space on a two dimensional surface.  Then we took these sketches and transformed dark areas into depth by using colors which distance themselves from us.  We rendered the light areas with colors which approach us. The three dimensional space which had been our point of departure disappeared.  In its wake a new space opened.  The figures came apart.  The more flat we painted the more this new space opened out and in.   Instead of a static and empty physical space, a color space appeared, a depth with an abundance of content, a space filled with life and moods.

             This was our goal, bringing to awareness the threshold between the flat life of color and form, and sculptural experience of three dimensional space.  From one perspective, the more flat colors are, the more they are not.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Free Columbia is open for applications for the 2012/13 year from March 1 to May 1!
application forms are on our website:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Summer Courses 2012

Free Columbia Summer Art Courses

3 courses with renowned and inspiring musician and visual artist - Manfred Bleffert
Color and music through the circle of the year
June 16-22 – Instrument Building - The breathing process of the earth, and of the cosmos, as a musical base for the development of new instruments and musical form. We will make iron and copper gongs and Glockenspiele

June 25-29 – New Music Improvisation - What does music want to become now and in the future? And what is North America’s role in the development of new music? With Manfred’s guidance, we will explore these questions together through ever-varied improvisation and listening exercises. Using both our own instruments and Manfred’s uniquely designed new instruments (chimes, gongs, Glockenspiele, among others), we will bring to consciousness the elements of musical breathing and listening that allow new musical experiences to come to birth. In this co-creative process, each individual contributes to the breathing, listening, and sounding within the group. All experience levels welcome!

July 2-6 – Color and Tone in Relation to Rudolf Steiner’s Soul Calendar Using painting and music we will explore the cycle of the year in creative process. We will work with the relationships of color and tone in the Calendar of the Soul by Rudolf Steiner. We will see what is revealed in gesture and movement when we enter the world of tone, color, sound and form as we follow the course of the year.

Manfred Bleffert has dedicated his life to developing new music. His work includes a unique approach to graphic notation, composition and instrument building. His research is both broad and profound. His compositions are improvisational and unique. He is both a musician and a visual artist and a dynamic and inspiring teacher.

July 14-18
5 days of experimental work with color, light, music and puppetry
with Laura Summer, Nathaniel Williams, Faye Shapiro and Marisa Michelson

July 23-27
Seeing the Word through Painting
a workshop with Laura Summer

Working with poems and stories as well as watercolor, pastel, charcoal, and collage we will explore this subject. Through relaxing our expectations, while playfully manipulating our media, we will experience the realm of creation and develop skills for our further work.

July 23-27
Orientation Toward an Inner Voice
Vocal Experimentation with Composed and Improvised Music with Marisa Michelson and Faye Shapiro
The lands of the soul open up and show themselves to us- we see them with our imagination, we travel them with our voices... With exercises aimed to free the body and awaken the soul we will explore possibilities given to us in the voice. We will improvise together and compose music in real time, we will try to find a relationship to music inside, around and outside of ourselves with the aid of imagining. All that needed is the desire to sing.

All of the work at Free Columbia is based on an understanding of the importance of creating a free cultural space, therefore there are no set tuitions. Rather we offer suggested donation amounts based on what it costs to run courses. If you prefer it is possible to make a monthly pledge to support Free Columbia rather than making a one time donation.
A commodity fee of $180 will be charged to each participant in the instrument building workshop. This fee is related to your being able to take home the instrument you build. This fee is in addition to the suggested donation.
5 day courses suggested donation $250 – 450
instrument building fee = $180
all supplies are included but not housing or food
contact: Laura Summer 518 672 7302