Resources

A selection of books and films which explores Black Mountain College and its unique history in interdisciplinary studies.

 

Fully Awake: Black Mountain College

DER Documentary

directed by Neeley House and Cathryn Davis Zommer

Hidden in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Black Mountain College (1933 - 1957) was an influential experiment in education that inspired and shaped twentieth century American art.

Fully Awake: Black Mountain College is a documentary film that explores the college's progressive pedagogy and radical approach to arts education. Highly democratic and faculty-owned, the school promoted practical responsibilities and the creative arts as equally important components to intellectual development.


 
The Arts at Black Mountain College by Mary Emma Harris, MIT Press 1987

The Arts at Black Mountain College by Mary Emma Harris, MIT Press 1987

 

The Arts at Black Mountain College

Mary Emma Harris

It was at Black Mountain College that Merce Cunningham formed his dance company, John Cage staged his first "happening," and Buckminster Fuller built his first dome. Although it lasted only twenty-four years (1933-1957) and enrolled fewer than 1,200 students, Black Mountain College launched a remarkable number of the artists who spearheaded the avant-garde in America of the 1960s. The faculty included such diverse talents as Anni and Josef Albers, Eric Bentley, Ilya Bolotowsky, Robert Creeley, Willem de Kooning, Robert Duncan, Lyonel Feininger, Paul Goodman, Walter Gropius, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and Charles Olson. Among the students were Ruth Asawa, John Chamberlain, Francine du Plessix Gray, Kenneth Noland, Arthur Penn, Robert Rauschenberg, Kenneth Snelson, Cy Twombly, Stan Vanderbeek, and Jose Yglesias.In this definitive account of the arts at Black Mountain College, back in print after many years, Mary Emma Harris describes a unique educational experiment and the artists and writers who conducted it. She replaces the myth of the college as a haphazardly conceived venture with a portrait of a consciously directed liberal arts school that grew out of the progressive education movement. Proceeding chronologically through the four major periods of the college’s history, Harris covers every aspect of its extraordinary curriculum in the visual, literary, and performing arts.


Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957

Helen Molesworth

In 1933, John Rice founded Black Mountain College in North Carolina as an experiment in making artistic experience central to learning. Though it operated for only 24 years, this pioneering school played a significant role in fostering avant-garde art, music, dance, and poetry, and an astonishing number of important artists taught or studied there. Among the instructors were Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Karen Karnes, M. C. Richards, and Willem de Kooning, and students included Ruth Asawa, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly.
 
Leap Before You Look is a singular exploration of this legendary school and of the work of the artists who spent time there. Scholars from a variety of fields contribute original essays about diverse aspects of the College—spanning everything from its farm program to the influence of Bauhaus principles—and about the people and ideas that gave it such a lasting impact. In addition, catalogue entries highlight selected works, including writings, musical compositions, visual arts, and crafts. The book’s fresh approach and rich illustration program convey the atmosphere of creativity and experimentation that was unique to Black Mountain College, and that served as an inspiration to so many. This timely volume will be essential reading for anyone interested in the College and its enduring legacy.

 
Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 by Helen Molesworth, Yale University Press 2015

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 by Helen Molesworth, Yale University Press 2015

 

 
Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community by Martin Duberman, Northwestern University Press 2009

Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community by Martin Duberman, Northwestern University Press 2009

 

Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community

Martin Duberman

With faculty and alumni that included John Cage, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Olson, Josef and Anni Albers, Paul Goodman, and Robert Rauschenberg, Black Mountain College ranked among the most important artistic and intellectual communities of the twentieth century. In his groundbreaking history, Martin Duberman uses interviews, anecdotes, and research to depict the relationships that made Black Mountain College what it was. Black Mountain documents the college’s twenty-three-year tenure, from its most brilliant moments of self-reinvention to its lowest moments of petty infighting. It records the financial difficulties that beleaguered the community throughout its existence and the determination it took to keep the college in operation. Duberman creates a nuanced portrait of this community so essential to the development of American arts and counterculture.