SOUTHERN COLORADO — Dope, sex, rock and roll – most modern sociologists agree that these were elements of the counterculture movement sweeping the nation during the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, this simplified definition does not begin to accurately describe the rural commune established near the town of Trinidad, Colorado in May 1965. The artists who built Drop City were more concerned with ethical innovation, commitment to artistic endeavors, and living on less in order to save the earth for future generations. Drop City’s striking geodesic domes covered with automobile tops set a new standard for design and environmentally sustainable living. These architectural wonders were featured in dozens of magazine articles across the country and earned the Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion Award in 1967. The metamorphosis of Drop City into a thriving community is a truly interesting story. Gene Bernofsky, JoAnn Bernofsky, Richard Kallweit, and Clark Richert were students at the University of Kansas in 1962 when they defined their art as “droppings.” They would tie a rope to an interesting object, drop the object down to street
level, sit up in a second story apartment noting the reactions of passersby, and see art in a whole new perspective. Their time-lapse collages were particularly notable. In the spring of 1965, they purchased six acres of goat pasture about eight miles north of Trinidad at the cost of $450. Their first structure, built with bottle caps, roofing nails, chicken wire, scrap lumber, and a couple bags of cement, cost the group less than $50. After painting the outside with a silver asphalt roofing compound, their house on a hillside looked like a “scoop of ice cream atop a stumpy square cone.” At least that is how one of the droppers described his new home. By the summer of 1967, the counterculture commune near Trinidad boasted a core group of ten artists, all working together to create a live-in work of Drop Art. For three years the “droppers” thrived in their daily minimalism, collectively scrounging for building materials, sharing food, clothes, shelter, and the land itself. Then the Joy Festival and accelerating media attention changed all that. The Joy Festival attracted hundreds of hippies, some of whom stayed on to dwell within the commune’s geodesic domes. By 1968 Drop City had grown into a prominent landmark in the “hip communal scene,” overrun with freeloaders, drug abusers, and teenage runaways. According to JoAnn Bernofsky, “I could no longer stay in a place where it was everything I wanted to escape from.” All the original residents had abandoned Drop City by 1973 but not before this place had inspired the founding of countless other communes throughout the United States, including several in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Many of those “intentional communities” still continue in some form today. Throughout 2015, Las Animas, Huerfano, and Pueblo counties will be celebrating “Drop City 50 – Communes in Southern Colorado.” The Pueblo Archaeological and Historical Society (PAHS) sponsored the “Drop City 50 Poster Contest “in February and the winner will be announced March 6 from 5-7 at the Rawlings Library on E. Abriendo in Pueblo. They plan a book discussion of T. C. Boyle’s novel Drop City April 23, and they have booked the famous counterculture historian Timothy Miller to speak May 21 at the Rawlings Library. In collaboration with PAHS, the La Veta Public Library and Francisco Crossing also plan to host several commemorative events in May. Walsenburg’s Museum of Friends is organizing an exhibit that will open in July, and Gardner is preparing for its annual Hippie Days in mid-summer. Watch the World Journal for more details as the year progresses.