Black Mountain College was a pioneering arts institution in North Carolina, known for its pioneering experimentation in art, music, dance, and design. The college only operated from 1933 to 1957, but its short but significant lifespan left a strong mark on the world of education and art. The history of this establishment is explored in the documentary exhibition “Idea + Place, The Legacy of Black Mountain College”, currently on display at the Eyedrum Art Gallery. “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes discussed the exhibit with curator Alice Sebrell, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center executive director Jeff Arnal, and eyedrum co-founder Will Lawless.
Philosophy of progressive art and threatened democracy:
“Black Mountain College was an extraordinary place with an extraordinary cast of characters, and between 1933 and 1957, 24 years where it had a lasting impact on the arts and culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Founders truly believed in their responsibility to shape a resilient and inclusive society with democratic governance, community living, arts-based experiential learning,” Arnell explained. “I think another thing to point out as well is really from the very beginning, the connection to the Bauhaus. Hitler came to power in the early 1930s. By 1933 he had closed the Bauhaus, and by then…Josef Albers accepted a teaching position at Black Mountain College.
Arnal continued, “The idea of a search for innovation, an allowance for this idea of experimentation has been a recurring theme throughout these 24 years, and again and again we see that come back in creative writing. , visual arts and performance. So experimentation and the idea of…this non-hierarchical community, this community of experimentation, this real hope or struggle for democracy is part of it.
Preserving BCM’s treasures at the Museum and Art Center exhibition:
“The Museum was founded in 1993 and currently had five people. We do a lot of different jobs. We really rely on Black Mountain College for a plan when it comes to… our public programs, our exhibits, our publications. We truly exist to preserve the history of Black Mountain College, but also to support the artists and curators whose work continues the legacy, multidisciplinary innovations of Black Mountain College. So in itself we connect with contemporary art, dance, theater, music, performance and many other things,” said Arnal.
“We knew we wanted to do a history show and we didn’t have unlimited space to do it. So the idea of looking at the history of Black Mountain College through the different places that inform that history, that was kind of the core of the idea,” Sebrell said. She later added, “There are definitely original pieces, works of art, ephemera. There’s a program that Joe Fiore typed up for his painting class… There’s original illustrations, original photographs, as well as digital images.
On the present and future of eyedrum, itself a 24-year-old art haven:
“We started first so that local artists and musicians would have a place to perform and show their work, as well as a place where national and international artists and musicians could come and showcase their work as well,” Lawless said. “In 2023, we are looking to explore other opportunities for artists and musicians here in Atlanta by potentially going to Mexico City and beginning a cultural exchange with artists, filmmakers, musicians and writers from Mexico City and Atlanta. And then we’re also talking about working with arts organizations and artists in West Africa and parts of Africa, and also with arts organizations here in the South East. that we’ve always done to create those opportunities, but being a little more forward-thinking about what those opportunities can be.
The exhibit “Idea + Place, The Legacy of Black Mountain College” is currently on view at Eyedrum in Atlanta through November 12. More information is available here.