From an interview of Richard Neal by David Schwartz

Richard Neal has been connected with Camphill since going to Camphill Village Copake (“Copake”) in 1971.  He currently lives in Copake and has had a long and rich journey in community life with people having intellectual and developmental disabilities. He has been a gardener, householder and administrator. He has lived in the United States and Germany. He will be celebrating his seventieth birthday on July 31 this year. To honor his birthday we have included pictures of some of his paintings and will share a little of his life story as a painter and Camphill community member with our readers. For fifty years Richard has been an artist in community. Please enjoy these pictures of Richard’s art.

Richard was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 31, 1951. Here are his words describing a defining early moment of self-realization:

When I was 15 years old I came across a reproduction of Monet’s painting, Impression:Soleil, and received the first important recognition of what my biography would be – I knew immediately that I would paint, even though I knew nothing of art.

He went to an art supply store soon after this experience, bewildered by all that he saw. When he was sixteen he met Robert Logsdon, an American anthroposophist and painter also from Louisville. With that meeting he was on his journey as a painter. He and Robert drove up from New York City to visit Copake so that Robert could be interviewed by Harmut von Jeetze to do his civil service requirement there. Out of that visit Richard also was interviewed and decided to come as a co-worker. He realized that he had a personal calling to live in community with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also lived in Camphill Special School (Beaver Run) for a year at this time in his life.

By the age of twenty-one he had realized the three fundamental interests of his life:  Art and Painting; Anthroposophy; and Community. These interests led him in 1974 to go to Germany and join the effort to establish a community with people having intellectual and developmental disabilities that was not part of Camphill on the Lake of Constance, near the Camphill places there, called Laudenbach.  This initiative was started by a man, well known to many of us, Hans Dackweiler.  

Richard lived in Laudenbach for twenty-three years. He married his first wife, Rosemary, there and was father to three children. He gardened. As the community established itself he moved into teaching and administrative work. Always, he painted. He was involved in building projects such as the hall and chapel projects. Through the chapel he became involved in creating stained glass windows.  

In 1996 he experienced a life crisis. He had just been carrying too much, which many of us know can happen in community life. His life was out of balance. His marriage ended and he left Laudenbach on a sabbatical. On this sabbatical he met his current wife, Elvira.

Richard had maintained his connection with Copake all these years away in Germany. In 1998 he and Elvira moved to Copake. About 2006 he became the executive director of Camphill Village Copake and got involved in regional adult education. He always continued painting, no matter what was happening in his life. He did say that probably he is still involved in too many groups!

After fifty-five years as a painter Richard does not see his paintings as representing a particular style. His paintings depict “experiential projects,” showing what he is seeing at a given time in his life. Through painting he is always learning something new. He sees three things in painting: color, light and form. He says that his art emphasizes color and light. He also sees his painting as exploring inner questions. He moves on in his art if it starts to become too comfortable. Here are his words for his process as an artist:

For me, painting has always been best compared to a journey. Something catches my attention: a shaft of light, a shape in the landscape, it could be almost anything that serves as a starting point. From there on it’s new territory that takes me somewhere different. So I have always tended to work in a series that has a starting point, a process and an end. Until something new comes along…