S E C T I O N
People and performances in Arts and Entertainment. ■ May 30, 2012
A LE N DA R
Photos by Michelle Le
Above: The SMIP Ranch above Woodside, home of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Left: David Nash sculptures are seen in front of the Diane Middlebrook Studios.
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A gift of time
Artists find inspiration at Djerassi compound near Woodside By Barbara Wood
few miles past the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains above Woodside, within view of the ocean on a clear day, lies a magical place — a place that inspires artists to create even more magic. It is also a place where visitors may come to view the magic. The place is SMIP Ranch, home of, among other things, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Since 1979, when Dr. Carl Djerassi, one of the inventors of the birth control pill, began the program in his daughter’s memory, more than 2,000 artists have spent at least four weeks at the ranch. “It’s a gift of time,” says Margot Knight, who took over as executive director of the artists’
program in November and now lives on the property. Just as scientists need labs and athletes need coaches to do their jobs, “artists need time,” she says. The program receives at least 10 applications for each residency. Many of the artists who participate have left pieces of themselves behind — work inspired by the rolling hills, the endless vistas and the redwood groves of the 580-acre site. Visitors can tour the artworks, and soak in the natural beauty of the site, on tours offered from mid-March through October. Works seen on the tours range from an exuberant quartet of stick musicians cavorting on a hillside (William King’s
Orpheus Coyote and friends, 1999) to a series of graffitiinspired drawings of imaginary creatures tucked into redwood groves and other locations that appear to be their natural habitats (Derek Jackson’s Faeries, 2002). Near the old barn visitors can see artist Alison Moritsugu’s traditional-style landscape painting, with the actual view she painted right behind it.
Most of the artworks are left to weather, and deteriorate, where they were placed. SungJoon Hwang’s 1999 piece, Skin of Dreams, is an egg-like object with something embedded inside. “Nobody knows what’s inside” but the artist, says tour guide and Djerassi program assistant Laura Amador. But it wears away year by year and “one day it will emerge,” she says.
Ms. Knight hopes to offer more tours so more local residents can see the property and art. “I get the sense sometimes that we are known better internationally than we are in our own backyard,” she says. Some visitors, like Randall Schwabacher, a telecommunications consultant for T-Mobile who lives in Woodside, are so See DJERASSI, page 27
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The Woodside School Foundation thanks our generous 2012 Community Partners for supporting public education in the Woodside K-8 district Silver (continued) Platinum Green & Associates Magnussen’s Lexus Insurance Leadership Network, Inc. QWCooper, a boutique law firm Mary & Brent Gullixson, Cardinal Education Chelsea Court Design Erika Demma, Coldwell Banker Karen Gunn, Coldwell Banker Kelly-Moore Paint Company Putnam Automotive W. L. Butler Construction
Alain Pinel Realtors Mary Lynn Moran, MD NanoDimension ProInsurance Roberts Market Scott Kaloust, DDS, MS The Village Doctor Village Square Veterinary Hospital, Portola Valley Woodside Bakery & Café
Ace Relocation Systems, Inc. Alftin Construction Angela Bingham, Osborn & Scarborough, LLC Brookstone Builders Chris McDonnell & Kelly Griggs, Coldwell Banker Ginny & Joe Kavanaugh, Coldwell Banker
Arcanum Architecture, Inc. Buck’s of Woodside Mobius Fit Nessi Electric
Community Partners at Large NetSuite The Village Pub, Bacchus Management
Please join us in supporting these fine businesses —and have a great summer! 26 N The Almanac N TheAlmanacOnline.com N May 30, 2012
A R T S C E N E
Left: Composer John Schott at the piano in the composer’s studio. Below left: Example of an artist (Derek Jackson) incorporating natural features into his art. Below right: A new building, built to honor the program’s co-founder and Carl Djerassi’s wife, Diane Middlebrook, who died in 2007, will house four writers. There are solar panels on top.
On the cover Bruce Beasley’s sculpture, called Aristus and created in 1982, is perched high on a hillside on the drive into the Djerassi SMIP Ranch. Photo by Michelle Le. Photo by Michelle Le
Photo by Barbara Wood
DJERASSI continued from page 25
impressed by their first visit they come back over and over again. Mr. Schwabacher, who is now vice chair of the artists program’s board of trustees, said he was first invited on a tour to a place he’d never heard of by a friend about 10 years ago. “I was shocked,” he says. “I was just so surprised because I’d never heard of it.” The art and the views “just really spoke to
Photo by Michelle Le
me,” he says. “This was a beautiful place in our backyard.” As a child growing up in Atherton and attending MenloAtherton High School, he had loved that area, he said. A few years later, Mr. Schwabacher was persuaded to join the Djerassi program’s board, although he at first begged off because of work commitments. “It was important for me,” said Mr. Schwabacher, whose wife, Kristine Elliott Schwabacher, is a former professional ballerina.
“I’m not an artist, I can’t create any art, but I love to support people who create art.” Almost as important to Mr. Schwabacher is the preservation of the Djerassi property. In 1999, the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) purchased a conservation easement on the property, which forever protects it from development and logging. The proceeds from the easement are in an endowment to maintain the property and buildings. “That’s kind of my emphasis ...
the land and the buildings,” says Mr. Schwabacher. Other board members who live in the Almanac coverage area include David Stanley, Margot Knight and Dale Djerassi of Woodside, and Gary Bridges and Lava Thomas of Menlo Park. Dr. Carl Djerassi is no longer a member of the board of trustees, and in 1999 the program became an independent organization. The group of artists who par-