Hosted by Stuart Smithers, Brendan Kiley

The Rubicon Foundation’s annual Symposium is a weekend of inspiring and challenging presentations, explorations, exchanges, and discussions with an audience of 200 to 250 Northwest thinkers, artists, teachers, and organizers—the people who shape and build our communities. The presentations take place in an open-air barn on the edge of a large field.

Topics for the Symposium have included race and imprisonment, brain structure and imagination, the life and death of newspapers, social-psychological incentives to deny unsettling phenomena such as climate change, city planning in China, recent psilocybin experiments at Johns Hopkins, US drug policy, and much more. Speakers have included scientists, MacArthur and Soros Foundation fellows, and members of the Black Panther Party. Presentations are followed by audience conversations and the weekend ends with discussion over a communal dinner by a notable Seattle chef.

The Symposium welcomes a diverse crowd of people, provides ample space for conversation and contemplation, and is a temporary site for community in action.

2009: Change You Can’t Believe In

  • Mott Greene, “The Physiology of Imagination”
  • Tim Keck, Stranger Publisher, on future media
  • Mark Cook reflects on life as a member of the Black Panther Party
  • Carl Lehman-Haupt, “Starting Over When It’s Already Too Late”
  • Ken Williford explains why Astro-Biology matters
  • Marya Kaminski, Eulogy


2010: The World That Pretended to Be What it Was

  • Bob Swain, architect, building entire cities in China.
  • Sunil Argawahl, MD/PhD, on the geography of marijuana.
  • Ed Meade and Mark Cook, George Jackson Brigade, on political prisoners in the U.S Sarah Rudinoff, actress turned real estate agent.
  • Corianton Hale, on the concept of cool.
  • Clark Martin, psychotherapist featured in the NYTime’s article on psilocybin research at John Hopkins, on the mind.


2011: All That is Solid Melts into Air

  • Will Potter, investigative journalist, author of “Green Is the New Red” from City Lights Books
  • Sanho Tree, scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in D.C., international expert on the drug war
  • Gilda Sheppard, sociologist and filmmaker, authority on pedagogy and prison systems in Ghana and the U.S.
  • Michael A Schwartz (MD), professor and psychiatrist, founding president of the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry
  • David Schmader, writer and solo performer, who will present a new monologue
  • Sukha Worob, professor, print maker and photographer, will be our first artist-in-residence



  • Irina Feygina: “Society vs. Nature: Transforming Climate Change Denial into Pro-Environmental Action”
  • Zoe Scofield, Juniper Shuey, and Brendan Kiley: “The Pleasures and Pains of Being on Display”
  • C.S. Soong: “When Subjects Become Objects and Vice Versa: Reflections on Alienation, Labor, and Human Agency”
  • Tanya Erzen: “Jails for Jesus: Why Are U.S. Prisons so Religious?”
  • John Zerzan: “The End of Community and Life in the Technosphere: Pathologies of Mass Society”
  • Dinner by Monica Dimas of Monsoon.