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Black Mountain College, a university founded in 1933 near Asheville, North Carolinamarker 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. The school attracted students and faculty many of whom were or went on to become influential. Although notable even during its short life, the school closed after only twenty-four years in 1957.


Founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice, Theodore Dreier and other former faculty of Rollins Collegemarker, Black Mountain was experimental by nature and committed to an interdisciplinary approach, attracting a faculty which included many of America's leading visual artists, poets, and designers, like Buckminster Fuller, who popularized 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 the first geodesic dome (improvised out of slats in the school's back yard); Merce Cunningham formed his dance company; and John Cage staged his first happening.

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 the University of California, Santa Cruzmarker and Marlboro Collegemarker to Evergreen State Collegemarker, Shimer College, Goddard Collegemarker, and New College of Floridamarker among others.

For the first eight years, the college rented the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly buildings south of Black Mountain townmarker. 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 and/or administrative facilities.

Faculty and alumni

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

Josef and Anni Albers,Eric Bentley,Alfred Kazin,John Cage,Harry Callahan,Robert Creeley,Merce Cunningham,Max Dehn,Willem and Elaine de Kooning,Robert Duncan,Buckminster Fuller,Walter Gropius,Lou Harrison,Franz Kline,Jacob Lawrence,Richard Lippold,Charles Olson,M. C. Richards,Albert William Levi,Xanti Schawinsky,Ben Shahn,Aaron Siskind,Theodoros Stamos,Jack Tworkov,Robert Motherwell, andWilliam 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 till its closing in 1956.

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. 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. Through Allen Ginsberg, a link with the Beat generation writers of Greenwich Villagemarker was initiated.

Further reading


Further Reading, please add:Michael Rumaker, Black Mountain Days, 2003, Black Mountain Press (an impress of Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center, Asheville, NC)

External links

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