Updated: Mar 30
The Museum of Friends, located in Walsenburg Colorado, is about thirty miles from former site of Drop City, listed on the National Register of important Historic Places, the first counterculture artist community in the U.S., founded in 1965. Out of this community grew six other artist communities in Huerfano County: Libre, Triple A (Anonymous Artists of America), Red Rockers, Ortabi Farm, Archulettaville, and Upper Meadow. In 1964, a few drop-artists, grad students at the University of Kansas, decided they would "drop" a city, and purchased a 7-acre goat farm in El Moro, CO, hence "Drop City", the nation’s first counter- culture artist community.
Droppers Clark Richert and Richard Kalweit traveled to Denver to hear and meet with Buckminster Fuller. He inspired them with plans of geodesic structures. That first winter, Clark was joined by Steve Baer, and together they built the first of many geodesic structures that became known as Drop City. Two years later, Drop City was awarded Buckminster Fuller’s first ever Dymaxion Award for innovative and economic housing construction. Drop City became a destination for the dropout generation, most of whom wanted no part of the raging Vietnam War. Several cooperative communities grew out of Drop City, thirteen in northern New Mexico and six in southern Colorado. Professor Timothy Miller of the University of Kansas is an invaluable source of information on the communes of the area.
Within three years, the visionary founders of Drop City had all departed, and by the early 1970’s they started Criss- Cross, a Colorado artist cooperative focused on issues of "pattern and structure". The five founders were Gene Bernofsky, JoAnn Bernofsky, Richard Kallweit, Charles DiJulio and Clark Richert, artists and filmmakers from Drop City. Its purpose, like Drop City's, was to function as a "synergetic interaction" between peers to create experimental artistic innovation.
Between 1974 and 1980, the number of participants grew to include filmmaker Fred Worden, painter/printmaker Marilyn Nelson, and New York artists Gloria Klein, George Woodman, Mary Ann Unger, Arnold Wechsler, Dee Shaprio, Elizabeth Hansen and others. Also between 1974 and 1980, Criss-Cross published the nationally distributed avant- garde art periodical Criss-Cross Art Communications, and curated national and international art exhibitions focused on "pattern and structure". The most recent exhibition was Systemic Painting, Artists of the Criss-Cross Cooperative, on display from September through October 2018 at the David Richard Gallery in New York City.
Brendt Berger of the Museum of Friends recalls, "I visited my first artist community in 1966, Rancho Linda Vista, located in Oracle AZ. It was comprised mostly of artists/faculty from the University of Arizona in Tucson. By 1967 it had become a more permanent fixture with regular artist residents. I'd heard about Libre in southern Colorado, founded in part by Dean Fleming and Tony Megar, friends who had started the artist co-op Park Place Gallery in downtown New York City. On my return to NYC, I made my first visit to Libre. As I remember, Highway 69 was unpaved. It was an effort to reach the community, especially since it was located at edge of the national forest, about 8,000 feet elevation, at the end of an unpaved county road. Over the years I visited Libre often, staying summers and making art, until moving to the Huerfano in 1991. I moved back to Brooklyn in 2003, where Maria and I were married. In 2005, we purchased the Roof and Dick building in Walsenburg and created the Museum of Friends to share our personal artwork collections, given to us in friendship over the years, to showcase local artwork, and to celebrate the first art museum of the counterculture."
Throughout the museum you will find works by many of the artists in this exhibit over 1600 works of art. In the adjacent west gallery is a collection of artists who are connected to the counterculture by their relationship with MoF’s co-founders. We call this gallery the Reach. New friendships formed with artists such as: Reba Savageau, Dawn Howkinson Siebel, Mary Frances Judge, Larry Racioppo, Andy Libertone, Richard Mock, Paul Valadez, Ray Espinoza, Liz Whitney Quisgard, Merle Leech, Katie Hawkinson, Joe Slusky, Juane Quick-to-See Smith, Joan Hanley, Dick Farley, Kathleen Umemoto, Miryana Todorova, Annamarie Trombetta, Harry Tsuchidana, Jan Wurm, Gerald Jackson, Florence Neal, Scott Pfaffman all happened under the roof of the first counterculture museum of art - The Museum of Friends in Walsenburg, Colorado.
The First Museum of Counterculture Art in the United States
The Museum of Friends