We've hit our goal! Thanks so much! Please help us raise additional funds while this campaign continues until Dec. 25. We're working on a shoestring, so everything helps!
DROP CITY is a feature-length documentary by Joan Grossman and Tom McCourt that tells a story of whimsical innovation and the drive to create a new civilization on the scrapheap of a wasteful society. Often cited as the first rural commune of the 1960s, Drop City was an experimental community on the plains of Southern Colorado that blended practices of art, architecture, and resourceful living in ways that came to define a global counterculture. Visually arresting, idiosyncratic and utopian, Drop City's significance has deepened as a new generation embraces a do-it-yourself spirit for confronting an uncertain future.
This video clip features three of the early residents of Drop City: JoAnn Bernofsky, Gene Bernofsky and Clark Richert. Music: "Garden Dreams" by Adam Rudolph (www.metarecords.com); "Leaves" and "Pewter Sky" by Julia Crowe (www.juliacrowe.com).
New video clips will be posted in the *Updates* section here. And we hope you'll visit our website: www.dropcitydoc.com
But please keep reading!
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
We started this film as a labor of love and soon discovered the project was large and complex. In 2009 we received a prestigious grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts (www.grahamfoundation.org). This grant allowed us to film in Colorado, Montana, California, New Mexico and New York. Now we need your support to finish the film.
We have an important upcoming deadline! In fall of 2011, the MCA Denver (Museum of Contemporary Art - www.mcadenver.org) will open an ambitious and bold exhibit: "The Countercultural Experiment: Consciousness and Encounters at the Edge of Art." This large-scale show will prominently feature Drop City in a vital context – on the cutting edge of contemporary art. Joan Grossman has been invited to create a video installation on Drop City with Clark Richert, one of the community's founders and now a distinguished artist. The MCA Denver is poised to premiere the film in conjunction with the exhibition and we don't want to miss this wonderful opportunity!
We are doing everything possible to finish the film in the next year. It is a huge job with considerable expenses, including the licensing and transfer of archival film footage, the licensing and composition of music, creating graphics, sound mixing, and final correction and mastering of video. The edit alone will take a good six to eight months.
If we can raise our goal of $20,000 or more, we will be in a good position to finish the film in time for the MCA Denver show.
PROJECT HISTORY - IT HASN'T BEEN EASY
Tom McCourt first got interested in domes – and learned about Drop City – as a teenager in Oklahoma when he read the Last Whole Earth Catalog in 1971. In the early 1980s he was living in Lawrence, Kansas, and met Gene and JoAnn Bernofsky, who were also residents at the time. Tom decided to write a book about Drop City. He did extensive research and compiled a substantial archive on the community, including dozens of press clippings, publications, documents, and photographs. But the wounds were still raw; Drop City had ended under contentious circumstances, and many participants were hesitant to talk about the community.
About three years ago, academic researchers began contacting Gene Bernofsky about Drop City, and Gene sent Tom photos that he had stashed away and forgotten. The visual power of these images amazed Tom. He approached Joan Grossman, a filmmaker and friend, and suggested they work together to make a documentary. Joan was intrigued, but wary. What if the people who were part of Drop City were now just a bunch of aging burnouts? But after meeting former Droppers, Joan was hooked. The people who were part of Drop City are activists, artists, filmmakers, writers and inventors. They were all profoundly shaped by their experiences at Drop City, and it was clear that this was a film about an impassioned group of people rather than just nostalgia about the sixties.
After working assiduously on research and preliminary filming, the project suffered a setback.
In early 2008, Tom's wife Julie was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Julie passed away this past May after two years of unimaginable difficulty. She kept her dignity and a sense of humor through it all. Needless to say, it was a struggle to keep the project going. But despite everything, and not least of all because Julie would have wanted to see the film finished, DROP CITY is now back on track.
Nearly all of the filming has been completed with principal characters, including JoAnn and Gene Bernofsky, Clark Richert, Richard Kallweit, Carol DiJulio, Charlie DiJulio, John Curl, Peter Douthit, Jalal Quinn and others. We have tracked down more than a thousand photographs and over an hour of original film from Drop City (including home movies and reports from CBS and the BBC). Now comes the hardest part . . . editing. Meanwhile, the cost for film and music rights has skyrocketed in recent years and there is essential archival material that we need! Your donations will ensure that we can present as complete a picture of Drop City as possible and tell a fantastic story (we've foregone salaries on this project – as many documentary filmmakers know all too well).
WHAT IS A DROPPING?
In 1961, Gene Bernofsky, JoAnn Bernofsky and Clark Richert were students at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where they developed a concept they called “Drop Art” (a term they coined well before the era-branding slogan, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”). Influenced by Allen Kaprow’s "happenings" and new theories and performances by John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, and Robert Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College, they were determined to break art out of the confines of museums and galleries.
The first “droppings” were small artworks that were lowered from the rooftop of a loft space in Lawrence, Kansas, and dropped onto the street. The Droppers were fascinated by art as a spontaneous part of everyday life. They were also disillusioned by a society that they saw as increasingly materialistic and war-mongering, In May, 1965, they bought a small piece of land near Trinidad, Colorado and called their settlement Drop City. They were soon joined by Richard Kallweit, another young artist. Within a year, a core group of approximately 12 adults and children inhabited the community.
The Droppers’ vision of life-as-art was evidenced in their iconographic dwellings, which were based on Fuller’s vision for geodesic domes and the crystalline designs of Steve Baer, a pioneer in fractal geometric design and solar energy, who used Drop City as a lab for experimental building. The Droppers were opposed to work-for-pay and built Drop City for nearly nothing from salvaged materials, including culled lumber and chopped-out car tops. In 1966 Fuller honored Drop City with his Dymaxion Award for “poetically economic structural accomplishments.”
Drop City's exuberant and imaginative buildings attracted international attention. Their artwork was exhibited widely, and a Drop City installation was featured in Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg’s landmark exhibition, Engineering, Art & Technology (E.A.T.) at the Brooklyn Museum in 1968. But the flood of attention led to overcrowding. By late 1969 all of the long-time residents had departed and the community was abandoned to transients. By 1973, Drop City had become the world’s first geodesic ghost town.
Now, decades later, art historians, cultural critics and scholars cite Drop City as one of the first communities grounded in art practice. At the same time, its early experiments with solar technology and recycled and found materials have taken on new relevance for a green economy.
The project already has received considerable press in newspapers, magazines and blogs. We also were interviewed by author Alastair Gordon on Art Radio International, when a preview of the film was showcased at Art Basel Miami Beach. You can hear the interview on our website: www.dropcitydoc.com. Here are some links to DROP CITY's coverage:
Western Art and Architecture magazine:
We are offering incentives and giveaways for donations at any level you can afford, and everyone who contributes will become a part of the film's growing community. Please contact others who may want to help – forward this link or post it on your Facebook page. That's the power of Kickstarter -- spreading the word!
If you can contribute at a higher level, you'll get a screen credit! Contributing at the Associate Producer or Executive Producer levels will make a huge difference to us, and hopefully have an important impact on you as a significant donor to the arts. We hope you'll help us bring this project to the finish line!
All pledges go through Amazon, and no one is charged unless we successfully meet our goal. (Kickstarter is an all or nothing proposition). Please contact us if you have any questions about contributing to the project.
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