Collegium Spiritus

“A mystical move within is a powerful move without.”
Nicholas Berdyaev

Artists, Writers Work Together
Community for Creative Studies

The roots of Collegium Spiritus and The Creative Process
lie in the Community for Creative Studies.

3.8.77 - Fred Culver wanted so much to establish a community of artists and other creative persons that, with the philosophical and financial support of two dozen friends, he bought several buildings on a city block to house such a center.

“When we went to close the deal the title company was aghast: Deeds of trust (by participation contributors) as small as $1,000 on the buildings.” said Culver, a Jungian philosopher and gestalt therapist. “I think it indicates there was and is real grassroots support for the dream.”

The was last June. Today the Community for Creative Studies, which occupies buildings from 4524 to 4558 Main, houses artists’ studios and a gallery for local art, theater and mime and facilities for writer’s workshops, T'ai Chi instruction and gestalt group.

The dream is for a ”community of genius,” Culver explained. ”By genius we do not mean something unattainable. We mean merely the courage to live out of one’s own inner life, the courage of the individual to live originally.”

Yasha Sklansky, Russian-born photographer and cinematographer, and Frank Szasz, portrait artist, already were renting space in the buildings when Culver and his associates arrived. Szasz is glad to see the center developing because, he said, it gives the are artist a place to show their work and meet for mutual stimulation and encouragement.

At Community for Creative Studies, Ms. Lydia MacDonald runs an art showroom, Creative Process, which displays the work of 35 area artists. Four other artists – Richard Matthew, Robert Fagan, Suzanne Richards and Joe Arnone – participate in community artistic ventures or share studio space in the buildings. The Mary Byrne Conry Studio and Gallery (where the Kansas City Art Coalition meets and keeps slides of artists’ works) and Harry Fredman Studios also are in the buildings.

Frank Szasz 1977The community tries to help talented people become self-employed, said John Wood, codirector of the center with Culver. Participants share promotional efforts or their classes and showings; they also enrich each others art forms by triggering ideas and creative energy in one another, Wood said.

“We’re an association of working professionals sharing our skills... You don’t know how really discouraging it can be to work in a vacuum. I was a journalist in San Francisco for 15 years (working for the Associated Press, Time magazine and McGraw-Hill) after leaving the Kansas City Star. Four years ago I set up my own free-lance studio. For the last two years I have been working on a book and I felt I would like a different environment to work in. I went to New York to find an intellectual community to share stimulation. But New York was in the midst of its own depression. So intellectually it was a very down community and hazards on the street were terrible.”

The few successful intellectuals he met were living in high-rise, armory-type apartment buildings on $40,000 a year. Wood knew that Culver, his former Westport High School classmate, was forming a cultural center so he returned here to help with it.

He and Culver think the Westport area is teeming with action in the arts and education. They point out that their center is near the Kansas City Art Institute, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Conservatory of Music, several churches that promote cultural events and lectures, the New School of Human Education and the Learning Exchange and Renascence Library. They try to keep in contact with creative individuals in these institutions.

Theater Workshop has moved from its River Quay location to space in the Community for Creative Studies. A permanent performance area will be ready in June, Jim Caines, technical director, said.

“We're close to all our audience here,” Liz Gordon, chairman of Theater Workshop's board, said. Diana Mange, producing director, added, “We're right between the Plaza and Westport and you can’t beat that... And older people who’d like to come to a matinee but don’t want to travel all over town can come here.”

Steve Harris, director of Mimewock (a mime troupe and school), likes the interchange of dramatic talents with Theater Workshop that is possible because of the proximity.

A psychologist, Dr. Fred de Wit, also has a private professional practice in the buildings. Another resource person and participant in the community is Ms. Karen Mitchell, who lectures in political science and women in politics at several colleges and is on the staff of Ottawa University.

Culver is a former Presbyterian minister who now considers himself an existential theologian. He conducts an on-going gestalt group and hopes to begin one just for artists. He hopes to attract to the community on Main additional artists, writers, musicians, photographers and others self-employed in creative mediums.

Based on KCStar article from Tuesday, March 8, 1977

To learn about new material added to the site or information about workshops please Fred Culver or call 816/756-0099.

Collegium Spiritus | The Creative Process | Center for Global Community


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