Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966–1971


"I am delighted that Experiments in the Environment will be coming to its home base in San Francisco, the home of radical, humanistic. and participatory innovation. The exhibition excites me as well because it is including a new section describing my collaboration with Larry and our work beyond the Experiments. As Larry inspired me with his sensitivity to the environment which influenced my experiments, I influenced him in my use of movement audience participation as I pioneered new forms in dance. This combined exhibition shows the impact we had on each other throughout our lives and I hope it helps people understand our work better."
—Anna Halprin, 2015
Driftwood City, Sea Ranch, CA
Driftwood City, Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environmental Workshop, July 4, 1966. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania
Driftwood City, Sea Ranch, CA
Driftwood City, Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environmental Workshop, July 4, 1966. Pictured (left to right) Lawrence Halprin, Anna Halprin, and architect Charles Moore. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania
Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966–1971

January 22, 2016 – July 3, 2016

Visit Experiments.californiahistoricalsociety.org for more information.

How do you perceive the environment?

In the summer of 1966, renowned American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (1916–2009) and his wife, dance pioneer Anna Halprin (born 1920), began a series of experimental, cross-disciplinary workshops in northern California that offered a new approach to environmental awareness. Drawn from architecture, ecology, music, cinematography, graphics, choreography, and lighting, Experiments in Environment brought together artists, dancers, architects, and environmental designers in avant-garde environmental arts experiences.

From June 27 to July 22 that summer, they engaged multi-sensory activities in alternating environments according to loosely structured, written guidelines—from movement sessions, to blindfolded awareness walks, to collective building projects, to choreographed journeys in urban plazas, parks, and rail cars. As an article in Progressive Architecture magazine described, "They built their own ‘city' on the shore of the ocean and recreated the impact and atmosphere of a metropolis in a multimedia presentation. Dancers became architects and architects became dancers." The series continued in 1968 and 1971.

Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966–1971 presents to the West Coast public for the first time original photographs, films, drawings, scores, and other archival documentation of the workshops, which were staged in the streets of San Francisco, on the shores and cliffs of Sea Ranch (a coastal community designed by Lawrence), and on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. In an observation reflective of Sixties culture, Anna Halprin said, "I want art and structures which express individual creativity and collective living. I want all the personal responses of my company members to be evident in themselves and also to unite into a communal experience."

Organized by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago

Also on display are Selections from the Collection: Countercultural Art and Lifestyle Movements, an examination of artistically and politically engaged, collaborative lifestyle movements that flourished in the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s, around the time of the Halprin workshops, including posters, flyers, newspapers, and other ephemera drawn exclusively from the collections of the California Historical Society, and a contextual exhibition familiarizing visitors to the broader careers of Lawrence and Anna Halprin—both organized by the California Historical Society.

Ira Nowinski, Philip Roth, Fourth Street, 1973
Ira Nowinski, Philip Roth, Fourth Street, 1973, gelatin silver print, collection of the artist

Janet Delaney, Mercantile Building, Mission and 3rd Streets, 1980
Janet Delaney, Mercantile Building, Mission and 3rd Streets, 1980, printed 2016, pigment print, collection of the artist


Photographing South of Market: Ira Nowinski and Janet Delaney

Ira Nowinski and Janet Delaney photographed San Francisco's South of Market in the 1970s and 1980s during a massive push to transform what was once a working class neighborhood and light industrial zone into the business and entertainment district it is today.

This installation is part of Neighborhood for Art, a self-guided walking tour celebrating the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's (SFMOMA) expansion and opening this May. Listen to Avery Trufelman, a producer with the design podcast "99% Invisible," as she leads an exploration of how SFMOMA fits into the neighborhood. Neighborhood for Art is available only through the SFMOMA app. Download it for free at sfmoma.org/app.


Art of the West Exhibition

The Autry in Griffith Park
4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles
Free to California Historical Society Members

Visit the California Historical Society Gallery at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. The CHS Gallery is part of the permanent exhibition Art of the West , which showcases the dynamic and evolving world of art that springs from the cultural practices of some of the many peoples who have shaped the American West. The CHS Gallery features selections from CHS's fine arts and costumes collections that are permanently housed at the Autry. This collaboration has assured the exhibition and conservation of significant works of art from the CHS Collection by some of America's best known nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists (including Albert Bierstadt, James Walker, and Maynard Dixon) as well as turn-of-the-nineteenth-century costumes. The Art of the West exhibition is the first of its kind to explore how shared values and interests have inspired artists from different cultures and times to create distinctive, powerful works that speak to their experience of the West as both a destination and a home.

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