Smith Center History


Washington, DC artist Barbara Smith Coleman founded the organization, originally known as Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts, in 1996 after a life-transforming experience at a residential program for people living with cancer in Bristol, England. That experience led Barbara to consult with Michael Lerner, PhD, of Commonweal, founder of a California-based program whose retreats focus on the mental and spiritual effects of cancer. The Commonweal Cancer Help Program is well known through the Bill Moyers PBS special, “Healing and the Mind.”  It became Barbara Smith Coleman’s life mission to offer similar programs in the nation’s capital and to offer the healing powers of art and creativity to people facing life-threatening illness, their caregivers, and medical professionals.

In September 2001, Ms. Coleman donated her partial ownership of a two-story building at 1632 U Street, NW in Washington, DC with the organization purchasing the remaining interest. This space is the permanent site for offices and on-site programs as well as a newly expanded art gallery dedicated to the healing power of the arts. Barbara Smith Coleman passed away in 2003 at the age of 71, but her philosophy, work, and spirit live on.

Since early 2010, Smith Center’s U Street space has been undergoing a large-scale renovation and expansion to enable us to serve more people with our programs and events. The new space will open this September, with 2,000 square feet of additional program space including a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen, a large multi-purpose room for programs and workshops, and a courtyard. Learn more about our new space.

Barbara Smith Coleman

Visionary, artist, and founder of Smith Farm Center

I hope Smith Farm will maintain a deep respect for people and that we make no one feel more alone because of our actions or attitudes. Truth — we tell the truth as best we are able to perceive it. We deliver what we promise and promise only what can be delivered. We are considerate and tolerant. We dream. We care for our gifts as a sacred trust and spend them more carefully than we would our own. We are ready for a change. We delight in a challenge. We laugh. We work to maintain our personal lives in a state of grace, so that this grace will be available to those in need of our service.”

— From a journal entry by Barbara Smith Coleman

Read more from the Journal of Barbara Smith Coleman

Web Coleman

Web Coleman

Web Coleman was a staff member at CHP’s Hallowood weeklong cancer retreats for over 15 years. He led orientation and trail walks, plus Sugarloaf Mountain trips and climbs. He aided his wife Barbara Smith [Coleman] in researching and founding Smith Center. Web’s early experiences included camping, scouting, outdoor activities and sports. Careers included teaching, advertising, nationwide corporate consulting: employee communications, technical writing, supervisory training, management development. Web was a lifetime sailor. In retirement, he took up horses and 100 mile competitive trail riding. He knew Barbara for many years, and when both were widowed, married in 1994 at the original Smith Farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

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