Skip to Content
Today Open today 10–11 members | 11–5 public

Heathcote Community, Freeland, Maryland, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"

A work made of chromogenic print.

Image actions

  • A work made of chromogenic print.


May 2005


Joel Sternfeld
American, born 1944

About this artwork


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Joel Sternfeld


Heathcote Community, Freeland, Maryland, 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 2005


Chromogenic print


No markings recto or verso When Ralph Borsodi founded the School of Living in the 1930s, the terms “permaculture” or “sustainability” did not exist. Borsodi was simply a philosophical man whose life led him to believe that a return to the land was the cure for all that ailed civilization. His background might have predisposed him to think this way: his father had written the introduction to Bolton Hall’s A Little Land and a Living, a book which led to the founding of Little Lander colonies in California. But the real impetus occurred in the early 1920s when the house in which he and his wife were living was sold and they found themselves without a home. They moved to the country and began homesteading. As he acquired the skills necessary to live in the country with self-reliance, Borsodi began to work on his ideas, producing treatises such as This Ugly Civilization and Flight from the City. His writings influenced many, including Helen and Scott Nearing who moved to the country a few years later and whose own writings also encourage self-reliant, agricultural life. The School of Living was founded to teach the pragmatics of small-scale subsistence farming and living, such as carpentry, organic gardening and food storage. Self-sufficiency was at the core of his belief system, but he also considered the broader aspects of modern society and was particularly concerned about the overuse of nonrenewable resources—a topic of great importance today. After World War II, Borsodi’s mission was taken up by Mildred Loomis. In 1965, under her leadership, the School of Living purchased a 150-year-old gristmill in Maryland to serve as the center of a community where the pursuit of personal and spiritual growth could be interwoven with a lifestyle respectful of the land. Heathcote, as it was named, has thrived, and in accordance with its communal belief that we live on a planet in crisis, it practices and teaches permaculture. A contraction of the words “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture,” permaculture is a philosophy that informs an approach to planning, building and maintaining sustainable systems, the ultimate expression of which is a sustainable community. Nature itself is the model for permaculture; close observation and working in concert with the natural world are at the heart of this thinking. The long foreground of Heathcote—from Borsodi’s personal transformation to Mildred Loomis’s assumption of leadership; from Heathcote’s formation as a 1960s commune to its present role as a center of permaculture—offers a model of communal evolution. From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005


Image: 26.5 × 33.2 cm (10 7/16 × 13 1/8 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

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions