[sixties-l] Mendocino museum celebrates the hippie past (fwd)

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Date: Sat Feb 16 2002 - 17:51:00 EST

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    Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 18:39:03 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Mendocino museum celebrates the hippie past

    Mendocino museum celebrates the hippie past


    by Mike Geniella
    New York Times News Service
    Published Feb 7, 2002

    WILLITS, CALIF. -- Andree Connors and her flamboyant hippie home-on-wheels
    typified a counterculture movement that began to redefine Mendocino County
    more than 30 years ago.
    Gutting the interior of an old International bakery van, Connors, a writer,
    used strips of old redwood, lushly colored fabrics and treasured trinkets
    from around the world to create a unique mobile residence that she
    inhabited for several years.
    To those mystified by her desire to live in the renovated van and roam the
    region, Connors once wrote: "Lifestyle is only limited by lack of
    imagination. There are many wonderful ways to be in this world."
    Connors died last year of breast cancer, but her colorful van is a lasting
    testimonial to life on the back roads of Mendocino County.
    The new settlers
    Before her death, Connors donated the van to the Mendocino County Museum,
    which is using it as a centerpiece for a new exhibit paying homage to a
    movement that, while faded, remains tightly woven into the county's
    socioeconomic fabric.
    Museum curator Elaine Hamby describes the "Wonderful Ways to Be" exhibit as
    an exploration of the youthful idealism, creativity and activism
    surrounding a cultural phenomenon dating to 1969, when the first large
    influx of so-called new settlers arrived in Mendocino County.
    "Anyone living on the North Coast 33 years ago will remember the dawn of a
    demographic shift that is part of the Mendocino County cultural mosaic even
    to this day," Hamby said.
    Rebecca Snetselaar, the museum's curator of collections, said that by the
    early 1970s, the back-to-the-land movement had exploded, with thousands of
    newcomers leaving urban areas and flocking to a still-rugged, remote county
    with a population of about 55,000. Mendocino County was then dominated by
    big timber, livestock and agricultural interests.
    Today the county has about 85,000 residents, and some of them are
    second-generation sons and daughters of counterculture parents.
    Over time, they have reshaped the county's political, social and artistic
    Snetselaar said the transformation has not always been quiet.
    "They came to create their own vision of society, and to the consternation
    of many longtime residents, they were very vocal about their views on
    politics, the environment and the status quo in general," Snetselaar said.
    As a result, old-timers were rankled by the newcomers' quirky leftist
    politics, free-spirited lifestyles and the introduction of marijuana
    cultivation, an illicit cash crop that would soon eclipse the value of all
    other agricultural endeavors combined in Mendocino County.
    America's Bohemia
    "It will be interesting to see how this exhibit is greeted in some
    quarters. There are people who are still not happy about the changes we've
    seen," Snetselaar said.
    She said, however, that the exhibit reflects the museum's goal to document
    the multilayered history of the county, from exhibits of baskets made by
    American Indian populations to historic farming and logging equipment.
    "The counterculture movement is yet another chapter in the county's
    history," Snetselaar said.
    Bruce Levene, a Mendocino Coast author, wrote in a recollection prepared
    for the new exhibit that when he arrived in early 1969, "This little place
    in California was the last American Bohemia." He added, "There have been
    other places like it before, but this was the last one, and there will
    never be another."
    Levene said that during the 1970s, when the local counterculture movement
    flourished, he rescued hundreds of music, arts and political posters from
    billboards and fence posts and preserved them. Now part of the museum's
    permanent collection, the vintage posters are included in the new exhibit.
    He recalled: "As soon as an event was over, I would take down the poster
    and I would save it. Now, if you ask me why, I can't tell you. I just
    thought it was a very important time that I was living through."
    Also included in the new exhibit are photos and excerpts from the "New
    Settler Interview," a monthly journal that is still published after three
    Snetselaar said the works of publisher Beth Bosk and photographer R.D.
    Dienes provide intimate snapshots of an era that is a distant memory for
    mainstream society.
    "I don't think they set out to record history, but in fact they did, and
    thanks to their work, a movement has been preserved for posterity,"
    Snetselaar said.

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