Each fall, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives sponsors a colloquium focusing on a topic in social change. Like SCUA’s collections, these colloquia cover a broad terrain, touching on a variety of issues in social justice, equality, and democracy.
Colloquia are free and open to the public.
November 3, 2014, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Lower Level, W.E.B. Du Bois Library
“A Long and Winding Road: The legacy of the back-to-the-land communes of the 1960s,” will explore the nearly forty year history of some of the region’s best known communes: Montague Farm and Wendell Farms nearby in Massachusetts, and Packer Corners and Tree Frog Farms in neighboring southern Vermont. All were partners in the back-to-the-land movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s; all have survived into the current era. The colloquium’s four speakers, who have each spent much of the intervening years on or near one of the four farms, represent each of these idealistic enterprises, as well as offering their own specific views. What have they learned from their long years in service to their ideals? Was the altruism of the counterculture era borne out in the experiences they faced later? Would they recommend the route of alternative life to the youth and radicals of today?
The sources of inspiration that led to the creation of these communities and the evidence of their later influence are documented by SCUA. The Famous Long Ago archive was formed to collect, preserve, and make available materials relating to the communes at Montague Farm, Packer Corners, Johnson Pasture, Wendell Farm, and Tree Frog Farm. Collections range from from the papers of writers Steve Diamond, Raymond Mungo, and Jonathan Maslow to those of anti-war activists Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner; from the records of the Liberation News Service, the organization that spawned the farms, to the Alternative Energy Coalition, and Musicians United for Safe Energy, later enterprises of the region’s communal farmer-activists. It also includes the photographic collections of farm parent Roy Finestone, photojournalist Lionel Delevingne, and former head of a neighboring Montague ashram, Stephen Josephs.
Daniel Keller, filmmaker, farmer: Wendell Farm, Green Mountain Post Films
Verandah Porche, writer, teacher: Packer Corners Farm, Monteverdi Artists Collaborative
John Scagliotti, filmmaker, LGBT activist: Tree Frog Farm, Kopkind Colony
Susan Mareneck, artist, teacher, social worker: Early resident and longtime neighbor of Montague Farm, Montague Catholic Social Ministries
Timothy Miller, University of Kansas, scholar of intentional communities, author of The Hippies and American Values (1991), The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America (1998), The Sixties Communes: Hippies and Beyond (1999)
Verandah Porche, a forty-year resident of Packer Corners Farm (known to the reading public, through the works of Ray Mungo and others, as Total Loss Farm) works as a poet-in-residence, performer, and writing partner. Based in rural Vermont since 1968, she has published three volumes of poetry – Sudden Eden (Verdant Books), The Body’s Symmetry (Harper and Row) and Glancing Off (See Through Books) – and has pursued an alternative literary career, creating collaborative writing projects in nontraditional settings: literacy and crisis centers, hospitals, factories, nursing homes, senior centers, a 200 year-old Vermont tavern, and an urban working class neighborhood. Broad Brook Anthology, a play for voices, honors the lives of elders in her home town of Guilford, Vermont. Listening Out Loud documents her residency with Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut. Come Over is a CD of songs written with her neighbor Patty Carpenter, performed by the Dysfunctional Family Jazz band. She has read her work on NPR stations, in the Vermont State House, and at the Guggenheim Museum. In 1998 the Vermont Arts Council presented her with its Award of Merit, and Marlboro College, in 2012, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Susan Mareneck arrived in the Pioneer Valley in the mid 1960s, and spent her college years engaged in civil rights and anti-war activities, majoring Art and Political Science. After experiencing Montague Farm for several months in its early days, she settled into an unrenovated 18th century farmhouse in nearby Leverett, a building without heat or running water. Improving it slowly but concertedly over the years, she returned regularly to the house for vacations and summers, and has remained a neighbor of Montague Farm and a member of its extended family ever since. Decamping after several years for a graduate degree in art, and finally a move to New York, she spent 30 years making art and teaching it at the Spence School and the Convent of the Sacred Heart, on New York’s upper east side, before returning to western Massachusetts in 2009 to work full time with families in Turners Falls as Executive Director at Montague Catholic Social Ministries. Living three blocks from Ground Zero, Susan saw her world change forever on 9/11. Her turn from education to social work reflects her long interest in non-profits and the role of faith in social change. Her work in that area has included projects directed toward employment, racism, educational policy, and prisons. She has exhibited, lectured, and published in the visual arts and historic preservation, and remains active in organizing the local history of her town, North Leverett, Mass.
John Scagliotti is an Emmy Award-winning American film director, producer, and radio broadcaster. He has received honors for his work on documentaries about LGBT issues including Before Stonewall and After Stonewall. During the 1970s, Scagliotti was the News and Public Affairs Director of the pioneering radio station WBCN-FM in Boston. For his work in radio, he was awarded two Major Armstrong Awards. In the early 1980s, he attended New York University Film School and went on to create In the Life for PBS, the first gay and lesbian national television series in the United States. The Scagliotti-produced documentary film Before Stonewall (1985) won the Audience Award at L.A. Outfest and two Emmies. Scagliotti directed a companion piece, After Stonewall, which won a Golden Eagle and the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Scagliotti is openly gay. His partner for 24 years was the late, highly regarded journalist Andrew Kopkind. Together they produced the radio show The Lavender Hour. Scagliotti is a longtime resident of the Kopkind Colony, an activist community housed at Tree Frog Farm, a close neighbor to Packer Corners Farm in Guilford, Vermont. The Kopkind Colony holds an educational summer residency program for nonpartisan, independent journalists and community organizers. In addition, the Colony fosters public education through publication of its lectures and the hosting of open forums on contemporary issues held at Tree Frog Farm and in other educational centers around the country.
Daniel Keller, a founder of Wendell Farm, in Wendell Massachusetts, has lived there, keeping it a working organic farm, since its inception in 1969. In collaboration with Charles Light, a former communard of the Johnson Pasture and Montague Farm, Keller’s Green Mountain Post Films, with offices in nearby Turners Falls, has produced and distributed award-winning films for more than twenty-five years. GMP’s first documentary Lovejoy’s Nuclear War, released in 1975, about Montague Farm activist Sam Lovejoy, was one of the first films to question the nuclear energy policy of the United States. Since then GMP Films has continued to produce movies that explore social issues, Its films have been used as educational and organizational tools for activists working on peace, veteran, nuclear, environmental, and other related issues. GMP films include: The Last Resort (1978), and Save the Planet (1979), both on nuclear issues; The Secret Agent (1983), on Agent Orange; and Unknown Secrets (1990), on the reaction of artists and writers to the arrest, trial, and execution of accused spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. For Vietnam Experience Keller and Light teamed up with musician Country Joe McDonald to bring viewers closer to the reality of the Vietnam War. Cannabis Rising is an early investigation into the issues surrounding marijuana today so much in the news.
Timothy Miller is a longtime student of communal living, professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas, and author of The Hippies and American Values (1991), The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America (1998), The Sixties Communes: Hippies and Beyond (1999). His course offerings include a history of intentional communities in America; American religious history; and an overview of new and alternative religious movements in the United States. Miller’s major research focus is the history of intentional communities in America, especially in the twentieth century. For his work in this area, Professor Miller has been recognized by the Communal Studies Association as a distinguished scholar. Additional areas of research interest include American religious history, new and alternative religious movements in the United States, and religion in Kansas. Professor Miller also coordinates the Religion in Kansas Oral History Project. His most recent publications include The Encyclopedic Guide to American Intentional Communities (Richard Couper Press), Spiritual and Visionary Communities: Out to Save the World (Ashgate Publishing), as well as the second edition of The Hippies and American Values (University of Tennessee Press), and the second edition of Following In His Steps: A Biography of Charles M. Sheldon (University of Tennessee Press). Through Miller’s work on American communes, he has long been familiar with the extended farm family at the center of the current symposium. In a recent book review, taking in the larger field in which he is involved, he wrote, “…it can be safely said that Montague Farm has the best published record of any of the communes.”