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Drop_City

Drop City

Drop City was an artists' community that formed in southern Colorado in 1965.

Abandoned by the early 1970s, it became known as the first rural "hippy commune".

Establishment

In 1965, the four original founders, Gene Bernofsky ("Curly"), JoAnn Bernofsky ("Jo"), Richard Kallweit ("Lard") and Clark Richert ("Clard"), art students and filmmakers from the University of Kansas and University of Colorado, bought a seven acre tract of land about four miles (6 km) North of Trinidad, in south eastern Colorado. Their intention was to create a live-in work of Drop Art, continuing an art concept they had developed earlier at the University of Kansas. Drop Art (sometimes called "droppings") was informed by the "happenings" of Allan Kaprow and the impromptu performances, a few years earlier, of John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Buckminster Fuller, at Black Mountain College.

As Drop City gained notoriety in the 1960s underground, people from around the world came to stay and work on the construction projects. Inspired by the architectural ideas of Buckminster Fuller and Steve Baer, residents constructed domes and zonohedra to house themselves, using geometric panels made from the metal of automobile roofs and other inexpensive materials. In 1967 the group, now consisting of 10 core people, won Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion award for their constructions.

Soon the community grew in reputation and size, accelerated by media attention, including news reports on national television networks. The peak of Drop City's fame was the Joy Festival in June 1967, which attracted hundreds of hippies, some of whom stayed on. With the complex of eight domes and geometric buildings constructed, Curly and Jo, the only official owners of the property, signed it over to a non-profit corporation consisting of the entire core group (then about a dozen). The deed stipulated that the land was "forever free and open to all people". Tensions and personality conflicts were, however, already an inevitable problem within the group, and they soon became unbearable. By the end of 1968 some of the original occupants of the community had moved to Boulder, Colorado to start an artists' cooperative, "Criss-Cross", whose purpose, like Drop City's, was to function in a "synergetic" interaction between peers (no bosses) to create experimental artistic innovation. Among the innovative endeavors to evolve out of Drop-City are:

  • in 1969, the early solar energy company - Zomeworks, in Albuquerque, NM;
  • the artists' group "Criss-Cross", operative in New York and Colorado in the 1970s;
  • the development of the "61-Zone System" by ZomeTool of Boulder, Colorado;
  • and in the early 1980s, an important discovery of a cubic fusion of interpenetrating fractal tetrahedra by Richard Kallweit.

Legacy

By 1970, Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico were littered with intentional communities, some which sprang up on their own, and some which were inspired by Drop City. Libre, north of Gardner, Colorado was founded by several ex-"Droppers", and was among the more well known. Some communities continue to exist in some form today.

At Drop City, debris and building remnants from the original settlement remain at the site today, though it is not inhabited. In parallel with the demise of the Berkeley collective movement after the end of the Vietnam War, the energy ran out at Drop City. By 1977 it was abandoned, and the members of the non-profit who were still in touch decided to sell off the site to the cattle rancher next door. The last of the iconic domes was taken down only in the late 1990s, by a truck repair facility which now occupies a portion of the site.

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