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Black Mountain College

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Title: Black Mountain College  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Clara Porset, Robert Rauschenberg, Hazel Larson Archer, Robert Creeley, Black Mountain, North Carolina
Collection: 1933 Establishments in North Carolina, 1957 Disestablishments in North Carolina, 1967 Disestablishments in North Carolina, Art Schools in North Carolina, Black Mountain College, Buildings and Structures in Buncombe County, North Carolina, Defunct Universities and Colleges in North Carolina, Education in Buncombe County, North Carolina, Educational Institutions Established in 1933, International Style Architecture in the United States, Liberal Arts Colleges, Modernism, Music Schools in North Carolina, National Register of Historic Places in Buncombe County, North Carolina, University and College Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in North Carolina
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College
Active 1933–1957
Type Liberal arts college
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
Nearest city Black Mountain, North Carolina
Area 586.9 acres (237.5 ha)
Built 1923
Architectural style Bungalow/craftsman, International Style
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 82001281[1]
Added to NRHP October 5, 1982

Black Mountain College, a school founded in 1933 in Black Mountain, North Carolina (near Asheville, North Carolina), was a new kind of college in the United States in which the study of art was seen to be central to a liberal arts education, and in which John Dewey's principles of education played a major role. Many of the school's students and faculty were influential in the arts or other fields, or went on to become influential. Although notable even during its short life, the school closed in 1957 after only 24 years.[2] The history and legacy of Black Mountain College is preserved and extended through Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, in downtown Asheville, NC.

The school's Lake Eden campus, used from 1941 to 1957, is now part of Camp Rockmont, a summer camp for boys.


  • History 1
  • Faculty and alumni 2
    • Notable alumni 2.1
    • Black Mountain poets 2.2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


From 1933 to 1941, Black Mountain College was located at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly.
Its Lake Eden campus, used from 1941 to 1957, is now part of Camp Rockmont, a summer camp for boys.

Founded in 1933 by Rollins College,[3] Black Mountain was experimental by nature and committed to an interdisciplinary approach, attracting a faculty that included many of America's leading visual artists, composers, poets, and designers, like Buckminster Fuller, who developed the geodesic dome.

Operating in a relatively isolated rural location with little budget, Black Mountain College inculcated an informal and collaborative spirit and over its lifetime attracted a venerable roster of instructors. Some of the innovations, relationships, and unexpected connections formed at Black Mountain would prove to have a lasting influence on the postwar American art scene, high culture, and eventually pop culture. Buckminster Fuller met student Kenneth Snelson at Black Mountain, and the result was their first geodesic dome (improvised out of Venetian blind slats in the school's back yard); Merce Cunningham formed his dance company; and John Cage staged his first happening[4] (the term itself is traceable to Cage's student Allan Kaprow, who applied it later to such events).

Not a haphazardly conceived venture, Black Mountain College was a consciously directed liberal arts school that grew out of the progressive education movement. In its day it was a unique educational experiment for the artists and writers who conducted it, and as such an important incubator for the American avant garde. Black Mountain proved to be an important precursor to and prototype for many of the alternative colleges of today ranging from College of the Atlantic, Naropa University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Marlboro College to Evergreen State College, Hampshire College, Shimer College, Prescott College, Goddard College, World College West (1973-1992), and New College of Florida, among others, including Warren Wilson College located just minutes down the road from where Black Mountain College was located. Bennington College was founded the year before Black Mountain College based on the same philosophy.

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), which later became a long-time location 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.

The college suspended classes by court order in 1957. This was due to debts not sustained by the decreased number of students. In 1962, the school's books were finally closed, with all debts covered.[5]

The college was featured in the Nicholas Sparks movie, "The Longest Ride"in 2015.

Faculty and alumni

Among those who taught there in the 1940s and 1950s were:

Josef and Anni Albers, Eric Bentley, Ilya Bolotowsky, Josef Breitenbach, John Cage, Harry Callahan, Mary Callery, Fritz Cohen, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Edward Dahlberg, Max Dehn, Willem de Kooning, Robert Duncan, Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius, Trude Guermonprez[6] Lou Harrison, Alfred Kazin, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Richard Lippold, Alvin Lustig,[7] Beaumont Newhall, Charles Olson, M. C. Richards, Albert William Levi, Alexander Schawinsky, Ben Shahn, Arthur Siegel, Aaron Siskind, Theodoros Stamos, Jack Tworkov, Robert Motherwell, Emerson Woelffer, and William R. Wunsch.

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

Ceramic artists Peter Voulkos and Robert C. Turner taught there as well.

Notable alumni

The college ran summer institutes from 1944 until its closing in 1956. It was however influential to the founding of the Free University of New York.[10]

Black Mountain poets

Various avant-garde poets (subsequently known as the Black Mountain poets) were drawn to the school through the years, most notably Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Jonathan Williams, Ed Dorn, and Robert Creeley.[11] Creeley was hired to teach and to edit the Black Mountain Review in 1955, and when he left two years later for San Francisco, he became the link between the Black Mountain poets and the poets of the San Francisco Renaissance.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  2. ^
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Harris, Mary Emma (2002). The Arts at Black Mountain College, p. 226. MIT Press.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Trude Guermonprez". Collection.  
  7. ^ Heller, Steven; Lustig Cohen, Elaine (2010). Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig. pp. 178–180.  
  8. ^ "James Bishop". Annemarie Verna Gallery. Retrieved 26 July 2015. 
  9. ^ Fox, Margalit. "Jane Mayhall, Poet Who Gained Prominence Late in Life, Is Dead at 90", The New York Times, March 19, 2009. Accessed March 19, 2009.
  10. ^  
  11. ^ Harris (2002), p. 245.

Further reading

  • Díaz, Eva (2014). The Experimenters: Chance and Design at Black Mountain College.  
  • Collier, Caroline (ed.) (2005). Starting at Zero: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957.  
  • Harris, Mary Emma (2002). The Arts at Black Mountain College.  
  • Katz, Vincent (ed.) (2003). Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art.  
  • Lane, Marvin (ed.) (c. 1990). Black Mountain College: Sprouted Seeds: an Anthology of Personal Accounts.  
  • Duberman, Martin (c1972/1993). Black Mountain An Exploration in Community.  
  • Rumaker, Michael (c. 2003). Black Mountain Days. Black Mountain Press.  
  • Bennis, Warren & Biederman, Patricia Ward (1997). "Experiment at Black Mountain". Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration.  

External links

  • Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
  • Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Hazel Larson Archer
  • The Journal of Black Mountain College Studies
  • The Black Mountain College Project
  • Fully Awake: Black Mountain College Documentary the only documentary solely on Black Mountain College. The story of BMC is woven through interviews with students, professors and modern scholars with archival footage and photographs.
  • Honoring the Mind's Eye article on Hazel Larsen Archer, a photographer who documented her years at the college in the 1940s and early '50s
  • Bauhaus in America a documentary about the influence of the Bauhaus on America, including a segment on Black Mountain College with Anni Albers, Ted and Bobbi Dreier, et alia. produced and directed by Judith Pearlman, Cliofilm.
  • Black Mountain College Celebration 75th Anniversary of Black Mountain College
  • Asheville Art Museum
  • Travel ItineraryDiscover Our Shared HeritageAsheville, North Carolina, a National Park Service
  • Finding Aid for the Black Mountain College Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Finding Aid for Black Mountain College Publications at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • University of Connecticut special collections related to Black Mountain writers
  • Finding Aid of the Black Mountain College Photograph Collection, 1940 - 1945 at the State Archives of North Carolina's Western Regional Archives (Asheville)
  • Finding Aid of the Black Mountain College Miscellaneous Collection, 1943 - 1945, 1975 - 2007 at the State Archives of North Carolina's Western Regional Archives (Asheville)
  • Finding Aid of the North Carolina Museum of Art, Black Mountain College Research Project, 1933 - 1973 at the State Archives of North Carolina's Western Regional Archives (Asheville)
  • Additional finding aids for the private papers of scholars, faculty, and students associated with Black Mountain College at the State Archives of North Carolina's Western Regional Archives (Asheville)
  • Online archive of a portion of the State Archives of North Carolina's Black Mountain College collections
  • "Buckminster Fuller's Experimental Finishing School," an excerpt from The Experimenters: Chance and Design at Black Mountain College by Eva Díaz.
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