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Ground Beneath Us builds on a series of four long weekend intensive visits to Waterford, Virginia located just an hour north of Washington D.C.


THE MODERN RESIDENCY PUNCTUATES THE YEAR THROUGH INTENSIVE WEEKEND STUDY. Fellowship develops in the village of Waterford, Virginia — a former Quaker settlement. The Quaker model for gathering is the meeting house. The meeting house is non-hierarchical and exists wherever the community gathers. The Ground Beneath Us Institute is a space for artists, writers, teachers, policy makers, and scientists to gather. We hope to incubate citizenry. The agent of incubation is story and image.

The beating heart of the program leverages physical activity and intellectual work to uncover histories of equity, resistance, and activism. Narratives are located in this ground — ecological stories, indigenous voices, and the overlooked and forgotten histories that permeate this site. Through image making, work projects, discussions and storytelling participants traverse the seasons to hear what a single place has to say. Over four long weekends throughout the year, participants will think about history in tree time. What is the long arc of a place? How does the history of a place bear on contemporary culture? How do stories shape perception of a place?

Participants will have a short reading list to give context to the discussions and lectures over each weekend. The weekends will be a mix of drawing exercises to generate ideas and images, printmaking, on-site work projects, lectures from visitors and group discussions. Each weekend will have a theme. The course works like an accordion. During the weekends rich, dense content is compressed in a few days. Over the six weeks between courses students unpack and digest the material.

Ground Beneath Us attempts to incubate new stories and models of education. An emphasis on being physically present with a group leads to an intensive and empathetic approach to learning. Each course will take a holistic view of the place. The aim is to create a small spark of citizenry and agency in each participant. How can we expand our image world and refresh our stories from the rich material at hand?  


APRIL 2021:
The Gossip of the Roots
We introduce ourselves to the landscape of Waterford this first weekend. The history of the fields, the names of trees and the ecology of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains fill our discussions, drawings, and stories. We build a bread oven and eat bread from local wheat. 

JUNE 2021:
Catoctin’s tongues
Who were the indigenous people of Northern Virginia? Stories from Sioux and Algonquin tongues. This is not a historical look back but a reinvigoration of what is here.

August 2021:
Abolitionists and the Enslaved
The town of Waterford is rife with oral histories of abolitionist, freed men, and resistance to slavery. However like all places affected by the weight of history, Waterford has a much more complicated story to tell. We walk the historic buildings and look through the archives to create visual narratives that reflect ambiguous and troubled histories. What songs from these old buildings affect contemporary culture?

October 2021:
Whispers of War
The Civil War is a flash point in the story of Waterford. Waterford was a center of Union sympathies across the border of the Confederacy. Stories of brothers fighting brothers and uneasy alliances permeate the ground of the village. We look for the specifics of conflict in the soil and their echoes in our own time.