Hippie Modernism Forum: Creative Communes

Communality supported not only counterculture lifestyles, but also new economic and creative ventures. With artists increasingly priced out of Bay Area boomtowns, could the rural commune provide the template for a new geography of creative production? Considering the question are Ramón Sender Barayón, Erin Elder, and Fritz Haeg. Moderated by Greg Castillo.

Ramón Sender Barayón, a Bay Area composer, visual artist, and writer, cofounded the San Francisco Tape Music Center with Morton Subotnik in 1962. With Stewart Brand and Ken Kesey, Sender coproduced the San Francisco Trips Festival in 1966, a musical and visual arts happening that launched the hippie movement. Sender was the first resident at Morning Star Ranch, an open land commune soon adopted by the Diggers, an anarchic San Francisco art tribe. Sender is the author of novels and a visual arts catalog, and is finishing Home Free Home: Open Land, Open Hearts,a coauthored volume on the Diggers’ rural Bay Area communes.

Erin Elder is an independent curator of contemporary art guided by interests in land use, experimental collaboration, and nontraditional modes of expression. Elder’s research on the Drop City commune was presented in the 2012 exhibition catalog West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America. Her personal investigation of counterculture communality is explored in Red Legacy. Elder cooperatively founded and directed PLAND (Practice Liberating Art through Necessary Dislocation), an experimental, off-the-grid, creative residency program in Tres Piedras, New Mexico. Her recent projects include LOT, a project exploring coexistance in a rapidly changing Miami neighborhood, and American Domain, a special exhibition about property within Oakland's new Museum of Capitalism. 

Fritz Haeg is an artist known for itinerant urban projects including Edible Estates, an international series of domestic edible landscapes; Animal Estates, a housing initiative for native urban wildlife; Domestic Integrities, involving massive crocheted rugs of discarded clothing; and the traveling educational environments of Sundown Schoolhouse. With the purchase of the historic 1970s commune Salmon Creek Farm on the Mendocino Coast in 2014, he has begun a new long-term commune/farm/homestead/sanctuary/school/art project engaged with an extended community of migratory comrades.

Greg Castillo is an associate professor of architectural history at UC Berkeley and guest curator of Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia. His publications on cold war design practices include Cold War on the Home Front: The Soft Power of Midcentury Design. His research on Bay Area counterculture design has produced essays in journals, edited collections, and exhibition catalogues. He is currently working with co-editor Lee Stickells on Design Radicals: Building Bay Area Countercultures, a volume of collected essays.