Black Mountain College was an experimental college founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice, Theodore Dreier, and a few others. Based in Black Mountain, North Carolina, the school was culturally based around John Dewey’s ideals of education, which underscored holistic learning and the study of art as fundamental to liberal art education.
Many of the school’s professors and alumni have been or will continue to be highly influential in the arts, including Josef and Anni Albers, Charles Olson, Ruth Asawa, Walter Gropius, Ray Johnson, Robert Motherwell, Dorothea Rockburne, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Franz Kline, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, and Mary Caroline Richards. Although it was quite impressive during its lifespan, after 24 years of funding, the school closed in 1957. The past and tradition of Black Mountain College is preserved and expanded by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
A Brief History
Black Mountain was creative in nature and committed to an interdisciplinary approach, prioritizing art-making as a necessary component of education, and attracting faculty and lecturers who included many of America’s leading visual artists, composers, poets and designers. In the 1930s and 1940s, the school flourished, becoming well established as an incubator of artistic talent.
It was here that the first large-scale geodesic dome was created by faculty member Buckminster Fuller and students, where Merce Cunningham founded his dance company, and where John Cage performed his first musical performance. In the 1950s, the school’s focus shifted to the creative arts under Charles Olson’s rectorship. Olson founded The Black Mountain Review in 1954 and, together with his colleague and student Robert Creeley, established the Black Mountain Poets Poetry School.
The School’s Structure
The school operated using non-hierarchical methodologies which placed students and educators on the same plane. Revolving around the 20th-century values on the value and importance of combining schooling, art and cooperative labor, students were required to participate in farm work, construction projects, and kitchen duty as part of their integrated education. Students have been active at all stages of institutional decision-making. Students were also left to decide when they were ready to graduate, which, unfortunately, few have ever done. There were no criteria for classes, official qualifications (except for transfer purposes) or approved degrees. Graduates were presented with personalized diplomas as purely ceremonial symbols of their achievement.
The liberal arts program offered at Black Mountain was broad and complemented by art making as a way of fostering creative thinking in all fields. When Albers was in charge of the school, the only two criteria were a course on materials and form taught by Albers and a course on Plato.
You will find this school in the beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, along with these other must-see places of interest:
- Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (Asheville)
- Black Mountain College (Black Mountain: 1933–1957)
- Shaw University College of Adult and Professional Education or C.A.P.E.
- Brevard College (Brevard)
- Lenoir-Rhyne University – Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville (Asheville)
- Mars Hill University (Mars Hill)
- Montreat College (Montreat)
- The University of North Carolina at Asheville (Asheville)
- Warren Wilson College
And of course, after visiting this amazing school, stop by Mary Jane’s CBD Dispensary – Asheville CBD Store on Hendersonville Road in Asheville!