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In Memory of Carl Djerassi

Carl Djerassi, founder of Djerassi Resident Artists Program, died this past week at his home in San Francisco.

A longtime friend of the Alliance, Djerassi had amassed a delightfully varied set of accomplishments in his 91 years. Best known for being a brilliant scientist and key contributor to the birth control pill, Djerassi was the author of numerous novels, plays, and poems, a professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, as well as a prominent art collector and supporter. Djerassi was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as many foreign academies, and received over 30 honorary doctorates.

Djerassi founded the Djerassi Resident Artists Program near Woodside, California in 1979. The program was created to honor his daughter Pamela Djerassi, who took her own life in 1978. He attributed the idea to a conversation he had with his wife, celebrated biographer Dianne Middlebrook, while traveling in Italy. In his memoir he describes turning to Dianne to note, "It’s hard to think what Florence would’ve been like without the Medicis." Dianne quickly responded, "But imagine what it would be today if their patronage had extended to women."

Djerassi Resident Artists Program was founded later that year on a stunning track of land in the Santa Cruz Mountains of northern California. Formerly a cattle ranch, the barns and houses of the property were converted into residential and workspace for artists. Since its founding in 1979, Djerassi Resident Artists Program has provided over 2,000 artist residencies- all free of charge. It is the largest artist residency program in the Western United States and known for its dramatic natural setting. The secluded property encompasses vast grasslands with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, cascading creeks, and woodlands thick with towering redwoods, ageless coastal oaks, and twisting madrone. Miles of hiking trails lead artists-in-residence to more than 40 site-inspired sculptures created on the land by former residents.

A number of tributes have been published sharing stories of Djerassi's remarkable life and diverse accomplishments. His son, Bay Area filmaker Dale Djerassi, shared two of his favorites:

San Francisco Gate:

Kenyon College:

Read more about Djerassi Resident Artists Program here.