Black Mountain College
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Black Mountain College
Black Mountain College
Black Mountain College seal.jpg
Type Liberal arts college
Active 1933-1957
Director John Andrew Rice (until 1940)
Administrative staff
about 30
Students about 1,200 total
Location Asheville and Black Mountain, North Carolina, United States
Black Mountain College Historic District
Black Mountain College is located in North Carolina
Black Mountain College
Black Mountain College is located in the US
Black Mountain College
Nearest city Black Mountain, North Carolina
Area 586.9 acres (237.5 ha)
Built 1923
Architectural style Bungalow/craftsman, International Style
NRHP reference # 82001281[1]
Added to NRHP October 5, 1982
Buckminster Fuller and students assemble a geodesic dome, 1948

Black Mountain College was an experimental college founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice, Theodore Dreier, and several others. Based in Black Mountain, North Carolina, the school was ideologically organized around John Dewey's principles of education, which emphasized holistic learning and the study of art as central to a liberal arts education.[2] Many of the school's faculty and students were or would go on to become highly influential in the arts, including such people as Josef and Anni AlbersWalter GropiusRobert MotherwellCy TwomblyRobert RauschenbergMerce CunninghamJohn CageBuckminster FullerWillem and Elaine de Kooning and Allen Ginsberg, among others. Although it was quite notable during its lifetime, the school closed in 1957 after 24 years due to funding issues. The history and legacy of Black Mountain College are preserved and extended by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center located in downtown Asheville, NC.[3]


Black Mountain was founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice, Theodore Dreier, Frederick Georgia, and Ralph Lounsbury, who were controversially dismissed as faculty from Rollins College for refusing to sign a loyalty pledge.[4] The school was experimental by nature and committed to an interdisciplinary approach, prioritizing art making as a necessary component of education and attracting a faculty and lecturers that included many of America's leading visual artists, composers, poets, and designers.[5] Operating in a relatively isolated rural location with little budget, Black Mountain depended upon its students and faculty. During the 1930s and 1940s the school flourished, becoming well known as an incubator for artistic talent. Notable events at the school were common, it was here that the first large-scale geodesic dome was made by faculty member Buckminster Fuller and students, where Merce Cunningham formed his dance company, and where John Cage staged his first musical happening.[6]


The school operated using non-hierarchical methodologies that placed students and educators on the same plane. Revolving around 20th century ideals about the value and important of balancing education, art and cooperative labour, students were required to participate in farm work, construction projects, and kitchen duty as part of their holistic education.[7][8][9] The students were involved at all levels of institutional decision-making. They were also left in charge to decide when they were ready to graduate, which notoriously few ever did. There were no course requirements, grades or degrees. Graduates were presented with handcrafted diplomas as purely ceremonial symbols of their achievement. The liberal arts program offered at Black Mountain was broad, and supplemented by art making as a means of cultivating creative thinking within all fields.[10] While Albers led the school, the only two requirements were a course on materials and form taught by Albers and a course on Plato.[11]

Sociopolitical context

In 1933, the Nazis shut down the Bauhaus in Germany, a similarly progressive arts-based educational institution. Many of the school's faculty left Europe for the US, and a number of them settled at Black Mountain, most notably, Josef Albers, who was selected to run the art program and his wife Anni Albers, who taught weaving and textile design.[12]

Adolph Hitler's rise to power and the subsequent persecution taking place in Europe led many artists and intellectuals to flee and resettle in the US, populating Black Mountain College with an influx of both students and faculty.[13]

In addition, the college was operating in the South during the period of legal racial segregation at other colleges and universities in the region. While not immune from racial tensions, the student Alma Stone Williams, an African-American woman, is considered by some to be the first black student to enrol in an all-white institution of higher education in the South during the Jim Crow era.[14]


For the first eight years the college rented the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly buildings south of Black Mountain, North Carolina. In 1941, it moved across the valley to its own campus at Lake Eden, where it remained until its closing in 1956. The property was later purchased and converted to an ecumenical Christian boys' residential summer camp (Camp Rockmont). This has been used for years as the site of the Black Mountain Festival and the Lake Eden Arts Festival. A number of the original structures are still in use as lodgings or administrative facilities.


Black Mountain College closed in 1957, a few years after Albers left to direct the first design department at Yale. The college suspended classes by court order due to debts, being unable to sustain their finances given the greatly decreased number of students. In 1962, the school's books were finally closed, with all debts covered.[15]

Buckminster Fuller at Black Mountain College in 1949


The Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center continues the legacy of Back Mountain College through talks, exhibitions, performances and an annual fall conference that examines the college's legacy. Black Mountain College was the subject of the museum exhibition Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957, which opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston on October 10, 2015. The show was curated by Helen Molesworth with Ruth Erickson.[16] The show later exhibited at the Hammer Museum February 21, 2016 to May 15, 2016, which was organized by Anne Ellegood, senior curator, with MacKenzie Stevens, curatorial assistant and January Parkos Arnall, curatorial assistant.[17] Black Mountain College was featured in Nicholas Sparks' novel, The Longest Ride (2013) and the 2015 movie adaptation of the same name.[18]

Notable Faculty and Alumni

From 1933 to 1941, Black Mountain College was located at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly.
Main Building of the former Black Mountain College, on the current grounds of Camp Rockmont

Josef and Anni Albers,[19]Ruth Asawa, Hazel Larson Archer, Eric Bentley, Harrison Begay, James Bishop[disambiguation needed], Ilya Bolotowsky,Josef Breitenbach, Carolyn Brown, John Cage,[20]Harry Callahan, Mary Callery, John Chamberlain, Fritz Cohen, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Edward Dahlberg, Fielding Dawson, Jose De Creeft, Max Dehn, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, Buckminster Fuller, Joseph Fiore, Jorge Fick, Tom Field, Joseph Fiore, Suzi Gablik, Allen Ginsberg, Anna and Natasha Goldowski,[19]Paul Goodman, Lorrie Goulet, Francine du Plessix Gray, Mary "Molly" Gregory,[21][22]Walter Gropius, Trude Guermonprez,[23]Lou Harrison, Wesley Huss, Ray Johnson, Karen Karnes,[19]Alfred Kazin, Franz Kline, Gwendolyn Knight, Tony Landreau, Jacob Lawrence,  Denise Levertov, Albert William Levi, Leo Lionni, Richard Lippold, Katherine Litz,[19]Edward Lowinsky, Gretel Lowinsky,[19]Alvin Lustig,[24]Jane Mayhall, Hilda Morley,[19]Robert Motherwell, Peter Nemenyi, Beaumont Newhall, Kenneth Noland, Charles Olson, Robert Rauschenberg, Dorothea Rockburne, M. C. Richards[19], Ben Shahn, Aaron Siskind, Theodoros Stamos, David Tudor, Robert C. Turner, Cy Twombly, Jack Tworkov, Peter Voulkos, Susan Weil, Jonathan Williams, Emerson Woelffer, Stefan Wolpe, and William R. Wunsch.

Notable guest lecturers included: Albert Einstein, Clement Greenberg, Bernard Rudofsky, Richard Lippold, and William Carlos Williams.

See Also:


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "The Artists of Black Mountain College | American Masters | PBS". American Masters. 2006-10-16. Retrieved . 
  3. ^ Kino, Carol (2015-03-16). "In the Spirit of Black Mountain College, an Avant-Garde Incubator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved . 
  4. ^ Mary Seymour, "The Ghosts of Rollins (and Other Skeletons in the Closet)", Rollins Magazine, fall 2011,; John Andrew Rice, I Came Out of the Eighteenth Century (1942), reissued, with new introduction by Rice's grandson, William Craig Rice, University of South Carolina Press, 2014, ISBN 1611174368
  5. ^ "The Artists of Black Mountain College | American Masters | PBS". American Masters. 2006-10-16. Retrieved . 
  6. ^ Kino, Carol (2015-03-16). "In the Spirit of Black Mountain College, an Avant-Garde Incubator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved . 
  7. ^ "The Art Story: School - Black Mountain College". Retrieved . 
  8. ^ Kino, Carol (2015-03-16). "In the Spirit of Black Mountain College, an Avant-Garde Incubator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved . 
  9. ^ Cotter, Holland (2015-12-17). "The Short Life and Long Legacy of Black Mountain College". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved . 
  10. ^ Cotter, Holland (2015-12-17). "The Short Life and Long Legacy of Black Mountain College". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved . 
  11. ^ Kino, Carol (2015-03-16). "In the Spirit of Black Mountain College, an Avant-Garde Incubator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved . 
  12. ^ "Josef and Anni Albers Foundation". Retrieved . 
  13. ^ "Black Mountain College: A Brief Introduction - Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center". Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Retrieved . 
  14. ^ Anonymous. "Black Mountain College: A Pioneer in Southern Racial Integration". The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. 54: 46. JSTOR 25073557. 
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-30. Retrieved . 
  16. ^ Swenson, Kirsten (December 16, 2015). "Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957". Art in America.  (exhibit review)
  17. ^ "Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957". Hammer Museum. Los Angeles. Retrieved 2016. 
  18. ^ Creative, The Uprising. "The Longest Ride". Nicholas Sparks. Retrieved . 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Black Mountain College Museum 2008.
  20. ^ Kino, Carol (2015-03-16). "In the Spirit of Black Mountain College, an Avant-Garde Incubator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved . 
  21. ^ Finding Aid: Mary Gregory Papers, State Archives of North Carolina, retrieved 2016 
  22. ^ "1950s", 70 Years of Making: The Timeline, American Craft Council, retrieved 2016 [dead link]
  23. ^ "Trude Guermonprez". Collection. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Retrieved 2012. 
  24. ^ Heller, Steven; Lustig Cohen, Elaine (2010). Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig. pp. 178-180. ISBN 978-0-8118-6127-4. 


External links

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