Millett Center for The Arts
Women started to arrive at The Farm in the summer of 1978 when the word went out that artist and writer and feminist icon, Kate Millett was building an art colony for women. The word was, Kate and her friend, Sophie Keir were looking for volunteers to help renovate 19th century farm buildings and restore the long-fallow fields of the old Cramer farm in LaGrange NY.
Kate and Sophie and then Lee Parker were three and one day there was a Volkswagen bus full of women from San Francisco and it was a colony. That year and in the years to follow, women came from everywhere: from across North America, South America, from Europe and from Turkey and Iran. Fields were tended and Christmas trees were planted and sheared in every language. Linda Clarke came up from Florida and stayed on for several years as our cook and “"Mother”". Women would just show up. Some stayed a while, some could only stay a day or two, but the colony began to take shape as the idea of community took hold and the list comprised of that tenacious and generous group known as The Friends of The Farm grew longer and longer. In 1978, we held our first end of summer Obon feast and 100 Friends of The Farm sat down to dinner that night.
By the mid-1980s a tall crop of conifers could be harvested and the colony finally received an income that could help subsidize the artists who came every summer to do their own creative work and work the fields so others could come after them.
We made paradise; a self sufficient glorious colony of women who worked hard at what we love to do: create art and create community. Swimming together under the summer sun in a pond encircled by willows and purple loosestrife; dining together under the stars and by the light of kerosene lanterns, we exchanged ideas and cultures and songs and poems and each day, struggled with the challenges of learning new tasks: how to fix a tractor, how to build a scaffold to tie the big blue barn together with turnbuckles and plates; how to lay a floor and plumb a sink. And we learned from one another, how to live a life of joy; how to create beauty and leave it for others to enjoy.
Kate taught silkscreen technique and master classes in writing and how to slice an oak beam with a few delicate strokes of a Japanese saw. Sophie taught us the magic of photography and the darkroom; and how to build everything from a tractor barn to a table. Every woman who came left a part of something repaired or built and beautiful.
Books and poems have been written here, films have been made, music composed, canvases inspired and colorful silkscreens, pulled. We’'ve been studied, photographed, filmed, written about in articles and dissertations. And during a week when the lanterns burned late into the night, Simone De Beauvoir and Sylvie LeBon came to visit and pronounced us unique.
In 2004 we sold the land with the Christmas trees; we can now turn our attention to making art full time. Thanks to our angel, the wonderful Joan Nixon, who put together a consortium to buy the land, we have a pocket to help subsidize the women who will join us.
2012 marked a turning point: we are becoming a Not for Profit 501c3 which means we will be here forever. The Farm is a dream Kate continues to share with women who want to live together and create for as long as they can stay. It is a place where we work hard at what we do. The Farm is a gift from Kate and all the women who built it for you.
©kate millett 2012