Free Columbia is a six month full-time course exploring art, nature study, and social change in relation to the spiritual aspects of the human being and the world. And not only that! We also offer short courses, conferences, and events throughout the year, as well as courses for disabled adults, classes in prison, and an after-school program for kids. For the last 5 years we’ve been ACCESSIBLE TO ALL (funded 100% by gifts with no set tuitions or materials costs) but we’ve always had to fundraise as we went. Now we’re fundraising all of next year in order to become PAY-IT-FORWARD. In this way, new students will experience the course completely as a gift, and then can give and help fundraise for future students… Donate today!
“…art is the ‘only’ possibility for evolution, the only possibility to change the situation in the world. But then you have to enlarge the idea of art to include the whole of creativity.” - Joseph Beuys
What is art? What is freedom? Art was given a new definition at the beginning of last century by Rudolf Steiner who described it as the movement in the soul when one observes a sculpture or painting, or listens to music, etc. How do we move souls to become more alive, more balanced, more productive of a future that values truth, goodness and beauty? At Free Columbia we teach our students to locate soul movement: the quality realm. How does blue make you feel, how is it different from red? We learn to quiet our sympathies and antipathies and to ask what is here, what language does it speak, can I enter into the conversation if I learn the language? This is a way of developing perception of non-material reality and a way of moving artistic work into the future.
To round out this work in the full-time course, students also look into philosophy, delve into the realm of social change, and take up a regular practice of nature study with our friends at the Nature Institute.
To support this work we are taking our financial model to a new level. This campaign will allow us to pay forward one third of next year’s operating expenses (the full program running at only $75,000). With one third already coming in in monthly pledges and one third expected from course and module donations throughout the year, a successful campaign will make it possible for Free Columbia to run its full-time program without any fear of running out of money.
But it will take a leap in order to do this. We are used to being in a state of continuous fundraising and we need to get ahead of the ball. We need to be asking people to look past the present and to be responsible to the future. And so we are asking you. Can you help us to leap?
The question is: Can Art be Free and Supported? Can Art be Supported and Free? Please help us to answer this with a resounding YES.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the full-time program involve?
The program is in session 5 days a week for 6 months of the year (from October to March). During that time students study:
- Color Studies
- Studies in Metamorphosis
- Landscape Observation
- Aesthetics and Art Theory
- Social Theory
- Art Observation and Museum Visits
How does your funding model differ from other comparable programs?
For 5 years Free Columbia has been funded 100% by free contributions, making it financially accessible to all. Comparable educational programs in the US generate, on average, 75% of their annual income through tuition and fees, and this amount has only been on the rise in recent decades. Two unfortunate results have been observed relating to this: 1) a rise in debt, and 2) a growing number of people pursuing work with better compensation instead of work they believe in, which might pay less.
How much of my donation will go towards the actual program vs. fundraising costs?
You may have heard that some fundraising campaigns funnel as much as 70% to professional fundraisers, with only 30% reaching the actual initiative. The Free Columbia fundraising team consists of current students, teachers, and friends, all of whom are volunteering their time. Please review last year's budget to get a sense for how the money we raise will be spent (you can find it under 'Finances' at www.freecolumbia.org
Free Columbia's budget is quite low, how do you survive?
If you review our annual budget, you'll see that Free Columbia's ability to sustain itself is not only due to a generous circle of supporters, but also to dedicated instructors, and the generosity of the owners of our facilities. One goal for the future would be to offer more significant contributions to our instructors. Free Columbia, as a grass-roots initiative, does not exist in a social vacuum. We know that our supporters do not have a tremendous amount of discretionary income. More equitable access to capital in the future will be necessary in order to make initiatives like Free Columbia viable on a larger scale.
Why gifts instead of fees? There are no "free" schools!
In our workshops and courses we always state our expenses. Economics is a reality and no school is "free" in this sense. We suggest a sliding scale for donations that would meet our expenses, but we always start at $0 on that sliding scale so that it's clear that there's no minimum donation amount "required" to participate. Otherwise it's not a donation.
If everyone is equally participating in a program, is it necessary that everyone equally finance it? We don't think so. Individuals around the world clearly don't have equal access to capital. So the real question concerning a potential student is whether they can develop their capacities within the context of a particular program and group of teachers, not whether they can pay an equal share of the costs of the program. Creating independent and accessible places where individuals can unfold their latent capacities is not only a personal matter, it fructifies all of society in the end. The world is richer when people can freely develop and give their gifts.
Is Free Columbia part of a nonprofit 501©3 organization?
Free Columbia is a branch of Hawthorne Valley Association, Inc., a diverse nonprofit 501(c)3 organization committed to social and cultural renewal through the integration of education, agriculture, and the arts. Contributions to Hawthorne Valley Association and its branches are tax deductible to the fullest extent as allowed by law.