By Ellen Gwin Burnette
BOONE, N.C. — Black Mountain College (BMC) was founded in North Carolina’s Swannanoa Valley in 1933 by a band of academic dissidents led by John Andrew Rice Jr. — whose papers are housed in Appalachian State University’s W.L. Eury Collection — and closed its doors in 1957. To this day, BMC remains the greatest academic adventure ever launched on American soil.
Appalachian and BMC share the same geographic backdrop, and each locale has witnessed similar changes in rural livelihoods, demographics and ecologies that have reshaped the cultural meanings of place in southern Appalachia. Appalachian continues BMC’s tradition of progressive, experiential education with commitment to collaboration and respect between students and faculty.
This spring 2018 semester will link BMC to place by drawing from archives, original field interviews, regional news, excerpts from the exhibition’s companion publication, Appalachian Journal: A Regional Studies Review, and many visiting speakers on the subject. Each of these activities promises to have wider impacts on student learning at Appalachian, public education programming and external partnerships.
Part of the Black Mountain College Semester (BMCS)
Part of the Black Mountain College Semester (BMCS), 2/15
Part of the Black Mountain College Semester (BMCS), 2/22
Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, 2/28
Upcoming Back Mountain College Events Include:
- Thursday, Mar. 1, 2018: Speaker Basil King, TCVA, Turchin Center Lecture Hall at 6 p.m.
- Friday, Mar. 2, 2018: Grand exhibition opening and meet the artists during the Spring Exhibition Celebration at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, 6 – 10 p.m. in conjunction with the Town of Boone First Friday Art Crawl.
- Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018:Speaker David Silver at Belk Library and Information Commons, Appalachian State University, Room 114 at 7 p.m.
- Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018: Speaker Anne Waldman at the Table Rock Room, Plemmons Student Union, Appalachian State University at 7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2018: TVCA: Speaker Julie Thomson, TCVA, Turchin Center Lecture Hall at 6 p.m.
- Wednesday, April 4, 2018: Speaker Mary Emma Harris at the Belk Library and Information Commons, Room 114, Appalachian State University at 7 p.m.
- Friday, April 6, 2018: Theatre Piece #1 Revisited: A Happening, coordinated by Fellows participant and Professor of Theatre & Dance, Ray Miller. The event will take place at the Turchin Center for the visual arts from 7 – 9 p.m.
- Saturday, April 7, 2018:BRAHM “Arts at the Center: A History of Black Mountain College” exhibition ends.
- Wednesday, April 11, 2018: Speaker Lucy Massie Phenix at Belk Library and Information Commons, Room 114, Appalachian State University at 7 p.m.
- Wednesday, April 18, 2018:TVCA: Alice Sebrell, Turchin Center Lecture Hall at 6 p.m.
- Thursday, May 17, 2018: TAC Talk and Jeffery Beam presents Jonathan Williams: Lord of Orchards at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM) at 6 p.m.
- Saturday, June 2, 2018: TCVA exhibition ends.
- July 2018: Black Mountain College exhibition begins at Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center in Black Mountain, N.C.
- Dec. 2018: Black Mountain College exhibition ends at Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center in Black Mountain, N.C.
About Back Mountain College:
Black Mountain College (BMC) was founded in 1933 in North Carolina’s rural Swannanoa Valley, near Asheville by a band of academic dissidents, led by John Andrew Rice (whose papers are housed in Appalachian’s W.L. Eury Collection) and closed its doors in 1957. BMC was an early leader of progressive, experimental education in the 20th century and to this day remains one of the greatest academic adventures ever launched on American soil.
The school was dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach, attracting faculty and lecturers that included America’s leading visual artists, poets and influential writers, musical composers, dancers and designers. John Andrew Rice insisted that art should be at the center of a broad academic curriculum.
BMC was operated by the faculty and committed to democratic governance and the idea that arts are central to learning. The faculty instilled in their students and colleagues many of the same values upheld by Appalachian State University today, learning by doing, collaborative learning and education for social justice and democracy.
During its existence, many of the nation’s greatest thinkers and artists were in residence or paid visits to Black Mountain College including Anni Albers, Josef Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, John Dewey, Albert Einstein, Aldous Huxley, Willem de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, Paul Goodman, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Henry Miller, Robert Motherwell, Charles Olson, Arthur Penn, Francine du Plessix-Gray, Robert Rauschenburg, Aaron Siskind and many others.
Legendary even in its own time, Black Mountain College attracted and created maverick spirits, some of whom went on to become well-known and extremely influential individuals in the latter half of the 20th century. Despite the closing of Black Mountian College, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center continues the legacy of Black Mountain College through talks, exhibitions, performances and an annual fall conference that examines the college’s legacy.
It is not by coincidence that Appalachian proposes dynamic exploration of this legacy through the Black Mountain College Semester. Appalachian and Black Mountain College share the same geographic backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and each locale has witnessed similar changes in rural livelihoods, demographics and ecologies that have reshaped the cultural meanings of and attachments to place in southern Appalachia. Appalachian continues Black Mountain College’s tradition of progressive, experiential education with deep commitments to collaboration and respect between students and faculty.