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Ruins of Drop City, Trinidad, Colorado, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"

A work made of chromogenic print.

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  • A work made of chromogenic print.


August 1995


Joel Sternfeld
American, born 1944

About this artwork


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Joel Sternfeld


Ruins of Drop City, Trinidad, Colorado, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1995


Chromogenic print


No markings recto or verso Three of the original founders of Drop City met as art students in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1961. They referred to their practice of painting rocks and dropping them from a loft window onto the busy street below as “Drop Art.” By 1965 the founders’ desire to live rent free and create art without the distraction of employment led them to a six-acre goat pasture outside Trinidad, Colorado, which they purchased for $450. Naming their community after their gravity-driven art was the easy part; building it was a little harder. But having recently attended a lecture by Buckminster Fuller and now joined by a would-be dome builder from Albuquerque, they began with scrap materials and visionary optimism. Sheet metal was stripped off car roofs (for which they paid a nickel or a dime) and attached to the grid of a dome. These building materials not only provided shelter, but they also emblemized the group’s refusal to participate in consumerist society. Money, clothing and cars were shared, and they lived as quasi-dumpster divers. Initially the community flourished. With a core group of twelve, it functioned as the founders had intended, a hotbed of art-making. But a steady flow of publicity in underground and mainstream media, encouraged by resident Peter Rabbit, led to a torrent of guests. It has been reported that Bob Dylan, Timothy Leary and Jim Morrison visited, but the historian’s chestnut, the primary account, may be less than reliable when it comes to the 1960s. By the time the community decided to abandon its open-door policy, it was too late: the founding members had left, and conditions had taken hold that would bring about a final dissolution in 1973. In 1978 the site was sold; proceeds helped rent space in New York City for exhibitions of the group’s work and to publish it in Crisscross magazine. The domes sat on the land of A. Blasi and Sons Trucking Company until recently, when they succumbed to gravity. From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005


Image: 26.5 × 33.1 cm (10 7/16 × 13 1/16 in.); Paper: 27.9 × 35.5 cm (11 × 14 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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