Black Mountain College has long been acknowledged as the birthplace of the true American avant-garde. The experimental school was founded in 1933 on the principles of attaining a perfect balance between academics, arts, and crafts within a purely democratic society, where all members, students, and teachers were considered to be equal.
Legendary even in its own time, Black Mountain College attracted and created maverick spirits, including Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller, to name just a few! Its history and legacy are now preserved and extended by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC), located in Downtown Asheville. To tell the incredible (and sometimes scandalous) story of Black Mountain College (BMC), we welcome Kate Averett, a writer and curator based in Asheville, where she serves as Staff Historian, Project Coordinator, and Board Member at BMCM+AC. In today’s episode of Artsville, you’ll learn about the historical synchronicity that informs the connection between BMC and the Bauhaus, the legendary parties that were thrown at the college, and the role that the BMCM+AC plays in keeping the BMC legacy alive, as well as how they create space for the artists, scholars, and curators who uphold the open-mindedness that BMC was built on, plus so much more! Tune in to learn more from remarkable storyteller, Kate Averett!
Black Mountain College — Episode Key Points:
- Louise and Daryl introduce today’s guest: Kate Averett from BMCM+AC.
- Learn about some of the major influential figures who attended BMC.
- Kate starts by sharing a bit about herself and her role at BMCM+AC.
- Hear the origin story of BMC which, like all good stories, starts with a scandal!
- Insight into BMC founder John A. Rice’s educational philosophy on hands-on learning.
- How the rise of the Nazis and the closing of the Bauhaus led Josef and Anni Albers to BMC.
- Some of the influential figures that attended BMC and the relationships that developed.
- The legendary Greek Party that Jean Varda threw at BMC, complete with a Trojan Horse!
- Kate highlights the communal, democratic structure between faculty and students at BMC.
- How avant-garde artists like Robert Rauschenberg were influenced by their time at BMC.
- Learn about one of the many famous student revolts at BMC known as The Split.
- The impact that cultural and political pressure had on BMC toward the end of the 1950s.
- Kate reflects on the role that BMCM+AC plays in keeping the BMC legacy alive.
- How BMCM+AC came to be a museum and arts center as opposed to just a museum.
- The different stories that BMCM+AC hopes to tell about BMC, not just its history.
- Looking to the future in the ReVIEWING Black Mountain College conference.
- Kate reflects on the history of identity intersection and integration at BMC.
- Kate ends on an anecdote about Harriet Sohmers Zwerling and sexual liberation at BMC.
“By working with materials and problem solving and doing all the things that go into the creation of art, whether you’re an artist or not, is going to change your perspective on the world to a point where you can problem solve in other ways. That was foundational to Black Mountain; it’s not only hands on learning, but at the center of that would be arts. That’s one thing that I want to say upfront: Black Mountain College wasn’t an arts school. It was a liberal arts school. You could study anything there, but arts were central to learning from a pedagogical and educational standpoint.” — Kate Averett [0:13:17]
“In the 1990s, there was a reunion and the question was posed to [Black Mountain College] alumni and faculty: what would you want this museum to be? As you can imagine, a very Black Mountain College answer: we don’t want this stagnant institution that tells the same story and doesn’t progress further. This is part of the reason why we’re a museum and arts center. That really goes back to Robert Rauschenberg saying, ‘Museums are dead. We don’t need a museum. We need an arts center.’ We hold both of those spaces [at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center].” — Kate Averett [0:42:10]
Black Mountain College Tweetables:
“The classroom was just one element of the larger community that was involved at the college. Especially when we talk about the relationships between faculty and students, you have to think about [them] sitting next to each other at dinner every night and sharing space.” — Kate Averett [0:26:11]
“There continued to be these flashpoint of incredible cultural progress at Black Mountain College, but this is against the backdrop of [a] slow financial and community crumbling of the college.” — Kate Averett [0:35:37]
“It’s not about having a gallery space where you walk in [and] go, ‘Here is the history of Black Mountain College from beginning to end.’ We’re here for that, but in addition, you can [have] hands-on experiences with different exhibitions that tell a lot of different stories.” — Kate Averett [0:44:56]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Black Mountain College Episode:
Kate Averett on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-averett-b5466568/
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center — https://www.blackmountaincollege.org/
ReVIEWING Black Mountain College International Conference — https://www.blackmountaincollege.org/reviewing/
Black Mountain Days — https://www.amazon.com/Black-Mountain-Days-Michael-Rumaker/dp/1933132663
Artsville Podcast —
Scott “Sourdough” Power — https://www.notarealartist.com/
Louise Glickman — https://www.louiseglickman.com/
Daryl Slaton — http://www.tailsofwhimsy.com/
Not Real Art — https://notrealart.com/
Sand Hill Artists Collective (SHAC) — https://sandhillartists.com/