Fred Culver

Artists, Writers Work Together Community for Creative Studies

The roots of Collegium Spiritus and The Creative Process lie in the Community for Creative Studies.

3.8.77—Fred Culver wanted to establish a community of artists and other creative people so much that, with the philosophical and financial support of two dozen friends, he bought several buildings on a city block to house such a center.

“When we went to close the deal, the title company was aghast: Deeds of trust (by participation contributors) as small as $1,000 on the buildings,” said Culver, a Jungian philosopher and gestalt therapist. “I think it indicates there was and is real grassroots support for the dream.”

This was last June. Today, the Community for Creative Studies, which occupies buildings 4524 to 4558 Main, houses artists’ studios, a gallery for local art, theater, and mime, and facilities for writer’s workshops, T’ai Chi instruction, and a gestalt group.

The dream is for a” community of genius,” Culver explained.” By genius, we do not mean something unattainable. We mean merely the courage to live out of one’s own inner life, the courage of the individual to live originally.”

Yasha Sklansky, a Russian-born photographer and cinematographer, and Frank Szasz, a portrait artist, were already renting space in the buildings when Culver and his associates arrived. Szasz is glad to see the center developing because, he said, it gives the artists a place to show their work and meet for mutual stimulation and encouragement.

At Community for Creative Studies, Ms. Lydia MacDonald runs an art showroom, Creative Process, which displays the work of 35 area artists. Four other artists—Richard Matthew, Robert Fagan, Suzanne Richards, and Joe Arnone—participate in community artistic ventures or share studio space in the buildings. The Mary Byrne Conry Studio and Gallery (where the Kansas City Art Coalition meets and keeps slides of artists’ works) and Harry Fredman Studios are also in the buildings.

“We’re an association of working professionals sharing our skills… You don’t know how really discouraging it can be to work in a vacuum. I was a journalist in San Francisco for 15 years (working for the Associated Press, Time magazine, and McGraw-Hill) after leaving the Kansas City Star. Four years ago, I set up my own freelance studio. For the last two years, I have been working on a book, and I felt I would like a different environment to work in. I went to New York to find an intellectual community to share stimulation. But New York was in the midst of its own depression. So intellectually, it was a very down community, and hazards on the street were terrible.”

The few successful intellectuals he met were living in high-rise, armory-type apartment buildings on $40,000 a year. Wood knew that Culver, his former Westport High School classmate, was forming a cultural center, so he returned here to help with it.

He and Culver think the Westport area is teeming with action in the arts and education. They point out that their center is near the Kansas City Art Institute, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Conservatory of Music, several churches that promote cultural events and lectures, the New School of Human Education, the Learning Exchange, and Renascence Library. They try to keep in contact with creative individuals in these institutions.

Theater Workshop has moved from its River Quay location to space in the Community for Creative Studies. A permanent performance area will be ready in June, Jim Caines, technical director, said.

“We’re close to all our audience here,” Liz Gordon, chairman of Theater Workshop’s board, said. Diana Mange, producing director, added, “We’re right between the Plaza and Westport and you can’t beat that… And older people who’d like to come to a matinee but don’t want to travel all over town can come here.”

Steve Harris, director of Mimewock (a mime troupe and school), likes the interchange of dramatic talents with Theater Workshop that is possible because of the proximity.

A psychologist, Dr. Fred de Wit, also has a private professional practice in the buildings. Another resource person and participant in the community is Ms. Karen Mitchell, who lectures in political science and women in politics at several colleges and is on the staff of Ottawa University.

Culver is a former Presbyterian minister who now considers himself an existential theologian. He conducts an ongoing gestalt group and hopes to begin one just for artists. He hopes to attract to the community on Main additional artists, writers, musicians, photographers and others self-employed in creative mediums.

Based on KCStar article from Tuesday, March 8, 1977

Albert Einstein "Imagination is more important than knowledge.'
MLK poster
Albert Einstein "Imagination is more important than knowledge.'
Teilhard de Chardin
Pope John Paul II
Mother Teresa
Gandhi "Real beauty is my aim."

Fred Culver, a passionate soul, and community activist passed away on June 1, 2021, at Kansas City Hospice. He was born July 2, 1936, in Mason City, Iowa, to Dale and Jeanette Mac Millan Culver.
He and Nancy Culver had four children together, Deb (Paul) Stover, Michael (Cristie), Paul (Ericka de la Madrid), and Mark (Aimee Baird). The grandchildren include Joe, Rachel, Robin & John Paul; Christine and Shannon; and Gianfranco and Isabella. He is survived by numerous nieces, nephews, great-grandchildren, his wife Rae Petersen, and stepdaughter Jessica. Fred was preceded in death by his sister Joann Bonewits.
Fred graduated from Kansas City’s Westport HS and Missouri Valley College, Marshall, Missouri. Before attending Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey he served in a circuit of churches in Central Missouri while teaching at the Postal one-room country school. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church and served the Presbyterian Church in Wheatland, IA, and Midway Presbyterian Church in Chicago, IL.
After returning to Kansas City, Fred trained in Gestalt Therapy and formed Collegium Spiritus, an ‘experiment in depth’ learning community. He also started the Creative Process, publishing portraits by Frank V. Szasz.
He helped lead the KC World Peace Celebration from 1986 – 2000 as The Future is Now organization. The Heart Forest, the Center for Global Community, and the Troost Ave. Festival all grew out of the Peace Celebration.

Frank Szasz, Fred Culver, Count Basie