Art Colonies

Dean Fleming’s geodesic art studio at Libre

My particular dream neighborhood would be a rural community of actively producing artists, writers and musicians. I’ve lived in a couple of them. My eccentricities become social assets in these places. Brainstorming with peers inspires me. Gatherings created by artists usually tickle my spirit. As the famous hostess Pearl Mesta once advised, “Never go to a party where you are the most interesting person there.”

Packer Corner Farm neighbor and artist/bookbinder Susan Bonthron shows me her foldout book theatre

I admire in particular one beautiful and intellectually stimulating artist community southern Vermont. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, writers from the Liberation News Service, fleeing persecution by FBI at their office in Washington DC, established four communes in northern Massachusetts and southern Vermont.

Ray Mungo, photo from the late ‘60’s, co-founder of the Liberation News Service and Packer Corners Farm, and author of books about each: Famous Long Ago (currently being made into a feature film), and Total Loss Farm.

I spent the winter of ‘71-’72 at Packer Corner Farm, and joined with the entire four-commune community of writers and artists there to create Home Comfort: The Day Books of Total Loss Farm (New American Library 1973).

Painting (circa 1970) of poet Verandah Porche, a co-founder of the Liberation News Service and of Packer Corners Farm and still a resident.

From the outside,Verandah’s house looks much like the house the commune members bought in the ‘60’s from a farmer’s widow who was about to retire, but she and her husband essentially rebuilt it from the ground up.

In later decades, most of the Packer Corner commune members moved away, but two of the original members built new homes (one on the site of the original house) and remained on the land. The new art community is not communal, but includes nearly every home on their forested country road.

Myron and Lana Golden’s home near Packer Corner Farm

I also spent 1967 to 1968 in a houseboat at Gate 5 Sausalito, another unaffiliated community of intensely creative people. The Gate 5 Industrial Center Building, where I had an art studio in those days, is now exclusively art studios. Here’s my online diary entry from 2000, when I last visited Gate 5.

In October, 2000, I visited Libre, a community established by a group of artists in the Huerfano Valley in Southern Colorado in the ‘60’s, and still thriving.

Dean Fleming’s paintings in his home gallery in the dome above.

Dean Fleming, a painter who shows in New York City galleries, works in a geodesic dome studio across the road from his wife, Sibylla’s, elegant circular house, built around a tree.

Interior of Sibella’s house

Solarium at Dean Fleming’s studio

Jim Fowler, a sculptor, has been creating his house for decades, a room here, a wing there. His wife Sesame works as a massage therapist; the kids have already grown and gone.

Jim Fowler’s fantastic house in progress

Staircase and sculpture in Jim Fowler’s house

Jim’s sculptural house wood heater

A natural mosaic bathroom at the Fowlers’

One of Jim Fowler’s carved marble sculptures