Anni Albers, Orchestra III, 1983. Black Mountain College Collection

Black Mountain College: Art, Poetry, and the Counterculture (In-Person)

Instructor: Jude Webre
Property is Theft
411 South 5th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Often dubbed the “American Bauhaus,” Black Mountain College was a radical, and radically unique, experiment in arts education, modernist pedagogy, and democratic self-governance in mid-century rural Appalachia. Founded by John Andrews Rice in 1933 as a refuge for academic freedom in the fundamentalist Jim Crow south, the school fused a Dewey-inspired pedagogy with the cutting-edge Weimar theory and design aesthetics of emigré visual artists Josef and Anni Albers—a combination that attracted and was further developed by faculty and fellows like John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Jacob Lawrence, and Charles Olson, who then trained and collaborated with a postwar generation of students that included Robert Rauschenberg, Ruth Asawa, Cy Twombly, Ed Dorn, and many others. By the time its threadbare finances gave out in 1957, Black Mountain College had set a template for the democratic avant-garde and countercultural experimentation that would thrive throughout the 1960s and 70s. What philosophical and aesthetic concerns motivated the creative laboratory that was Black Mountain College? And what have been its lasting impacts, not only on postwar poetry, arts, and design, but also on the way we think about art movements as social and political projects? 

In this course, we’ll trace the philosophical roots of Black Mountain College through the aesthetic theory of John Dewey and the institutional innovations of the Bauhaus. We’ll also examine the structure of the college’s social and political life, as its faculty and students navigated financial uncertainties and the wider socio-political environment in which it was situated. How did the innovative methods of instructors like Cage, Fuller, Olson, and others influence not only a generation of students but further shape the postwar art scenes, from New York to Los Angeles and elsewhere? Where and how can we see the influence of Black Mountain College—pedagogically, aesthetically, philosophically—in today’s experimental educational and countercultural communities? In addition to texts and artworks by its participants, we’ll reconstruct the history of the college and its legacy through the scholarship and criticism of Martin Duberman, Robert Westbrook, Eva Diaz, Mary Ellen Harris, Dave Hickey, and others.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:45-9:45pm ET
July 09 — July 30, 2024
4 weeks


Registration Open

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