Feature Articles

July 2013

Black Mountain Center for the Arts in Black Mountain, NC, Offers Exhibition Focused on Black Mountain College

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts in Black Mountain, NC, will present The Arts at Black Mountain College, on view in the Center’s Upper Gallery, from July 1 - 26, 2013. A reception will be held on July 7, from 2-4pm.

Based in Black Mountain from 1933-56, Black Mountain College continues to hold sway as a mecca for academics and artists from all over the world. Curated by BMCA Executive Director Gale Jackson in collaboration with the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and the NC Western Regional Archives, both located in Asheville, NC, this exhibit focuses on the school that lived at nearby Lake Eden and brought its influence into many of the world’s realms of visual art, architecture, dance, music, clay, film, literature, poetry and more.

Pieces in the exhibit include paintings, mixed media, and photography, as well as archival documents about the famous avant garde college. Works by former students and faculty will also include photos of events that took place and people who were there. Among them: A painting by Ati Gropius Johansen, daughter of Walter Gropius, Bauhaus architect who created the original designs for Black Mountain College campus, and who herself was later a graduate student under her father’s colleague, Josef Albers. Black and white photographs of faculty members Charles Olson and Lou Harrison by student Jonathan Williams. Lithographs by Emerson Woelffer and Robert Rauschenberg. An etching by Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence. Pieces that tell the story of what happened in the short span of two decades that has impacted the world of the arts and academia now for more than seventy years, and as the foundation of modernism, far into the future.

Originally housed at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, the school opened its own campus on the opposite side of US Highway 70 in 1941, now the site of a private K-8 school and a boy’s summer camp. Numerous books and articles have been written about the college, and a documentary film, “Fully Awake,” premiered in 2008.

When Professor John Andrews Rice was fired by the president of Rollins College (FL), an ambitious group of that school’s faculty determined to start a new college. They chose to locate in the mountains of western NC. Along with those faculty members, a group of European academics and artists who were fleeing the instability of the continent just prior to World War II came to the US and settled into teaching at Black Mountain College – among them, Josef and Annie Albers.

“The new school, according to the first catalog, was founded ‘in order to provide a place where free use might be made of tested and proved methods of education and new methods tried in a purely experimental spirit. . .’. It was one of the first schools in the nation to create an educational plan embodying the principles of progressive education. One of the major tenets of the school’s plan was to elevate the fine arts to full curricular status.

“Owing partly to the imbalance between the arts and sciences, Black Mountain College never received accreditation. Among the artists who were either students or faculty were: in architecture, Buckminster Fuller and Walter Gropius; in art, Josef Albers, Willem DeKooning, Robert Motherwell, and Robert Rauschenberg; in dance, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor; in music, John Cage and Lou Harrison; in film, Arthur Penn; and in literature, Eric Bentley, Robert Creeley, Paul Goodman, Alfred Kazin, Charles Olson, Joel Oppenheimer, and Jonathan Williams; and in children’s literature, Vera Williams.”

A proud part of the arts and education heritage of Black Mountain and North Carolina, an inspiration to hundreds of artists throughout the world, Black Mountain College stands as a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and the creativity of 20th century minds who gathered within a small community to share their ideas with the larger world.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listing, call the Center at 828-669-0930 or visit (www.blackmountainarts.org).

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