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History of UCI commune to be displayed

UC Irvine exhibit reflects on campus's short-lived 1960s experiment with communal living.

July 17, 2012|By Deirdre Newman, Special to the Daily Pilot
(Courtesy UCI )

UC Irvine — The year was 1968. The Age of Aquarius was in full swing. The Tet offensive was pushing forward. And, Joan Didion's "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" was published.

It was amid this period of cultural and political upheaval that UCI , still in its infancy, hosted an experiment in intercultural exchange and immersion in social scientific learning. This experiment lasted only about a year, but its ramifications raised several questions that the Social Sciences faculty used as a springboard for later research.

The experiment was a commune known as The Farm, and it is the subject of an exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center on campus, now underway through July 20.

Artifacts from the Farm are being displayed in advance of UCI's 50th anniversary in 2014, according to Robbie Kett, co-curator and a Ph.D. in anthropology. Kett and co-curator Anna Kryczka, a Ph.D. in visual studies, were interested in exhibiting a unique and quirky part of UCI's history in anticipation of the 50th anniversary celebration, Kett said.

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The exhibit includes a timeline showing where The Farm activities fit into everything else that was going on in the 60s, both globally and here in Orange County. It also includes photographs and a short film of Alfredo Tzum, a potter who spent time working and teaching at the Farm, demonstrating the techniques of Mayan pottery making. And, there's an artistic model of how The Farm was laid out, replete with a model chicken coop and school bus, both of which students turned into living spaces.

The Farm was the brainchild of Prof. Duane Metzger, who in 1967, submitted a proposal for a site for social scientific education and research. He compared the function of the Farm for the School of Social Sciences to that of an artists-in-residence program or a scientific laboratory.

The location was situated behind what is now the Anteater Recreation Center. The entire ranchland that UCI inhabits had previously supported a Native American settlement, as well as Spanish and Mexican expansions into California.

The Farm provided a counterpoint to the prevailing industry of the time in Orange County – the Cold War military and aerospace industries. As a result of the dominance of these industries, helicopters and aircraft could be seen and heard flying over the ranchlands of Irvine and the new UCI campus.

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