The World's Most Successful Failure: The Life Cycle of Black Mountain College
Second keynote will be given by Katherine de Vos Devine.
When Black Mountain College shut its doors after twenty-four years of operation, its closure was described as a failure. But why should the closure of the campus be treated as a failure? And does failure represent the end - or merely an end?
Using lenses borrowed from management studies and entrepreneurship, this talk reinterprets the closure of Black Mountain College as essential to the college's long-term impact on artists, writers, musicians, and educators. The talk identifies failure as an important pedagogical tool for Black Mountain College faculty and students. It also explores the interplay between risk, experimentation, failure, and success in innovative projects by Black Mountain College faculty and students including Buckminster Fuller, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ruth Asawa.
This talk treats failure as inevitable, and the closure of the Black Mountain College campus as the ending of a phase. It proposes a new model that organizes the college’s history into three periods: first, as a physical location; second, as a network; and third, as a style. This model acknowledges that Black Mountain College failed to thrive as an educational institution, but recognizes its failure as a key factor in the college’s broad cultural impact. This new look at the history of Black Mountain College affirms the college as a model for twenty-first century educational initiatives, especially those designed for non-traditional spaces and non-linear curricula.