Black Mountain College Project
 


 

STUDENT EXPERIENCE IN EXPERIMENTAL EDUCATION IN THE EARLY YEARS
(1933-43)

Section 1. The Role of the Arts

       

INTRODUCTION TO THE SUNLEY PROJECT AND DOCUMENTS

Description of the Study by Robert Sunley
*   Letter to the Students
*   Guidelines
*   Brief Biographies of
    Contributors

*   Brief Biographies of
    Faculty Mentioned in
    the Memoirs
*

SECTION 1. ROLE OF THE ARTS

    Statement by Robert
    Sunley


The artistic process as
    a major goal.

*   Individual, active
    anticipation was
    fostered but not
    required.
*   Focus on really “seeing”
    and “thinking” for
    oneself, not on the
    production of art.

Self-direction, self-
    discipline, initiative,
    development of the
    whole person....
The arts were diffused
    throughout the
    education ....    

 

The Arts were Diffused throughout the Education, not Segregated into Separate Courses Entirely, Influencing also Those who did not Take Specific Courses.

Harold Raymond: I did not come to BMC because of its reputation in the arts and took relatively little work in that area. I have subsequently somewhat regretted this. There was, however, considerable contact with the art work through the general atmosphere of the college – exhibits, concerts, visiting lecturers, and above all, conversations with fellow students and faculty. I found people like Bob Wunsch, John Evarts and Jalowetz very ready to talk informally with non-artists about their fields.

Robert Bliss: The arts were integrated and a natural element, not over-emphasized. We were all trying to teach and learn and not be self-consciously “innovative.”

Renate Benfey Wilkins:  As I indicated above, the arts certainly were integrated into the curriculum and the emphasis was on the liberal arts. It seemed to me to be in no way an art school.

Nancy Brager Katz:  The arts were part of every day life . . . one was surrounded by talented students and faculty members, so there was no feeling of “art” as a separate division of college life.

Gisela Kronenberg Herwitz: I was not really conscious of the integration of the arts into the curriculum. To me, they existed as concerts, music, plays and arts and craft work by friends and faculty. One learned from them informally the intricacies of threading a loom, the composition of a collage, or the geometry of Albers’ drawing, his relationship of colors. The dramatic presentation of ideas was provided by plays ranging from the Greeks through Checkov to those written by students.  Reading aloud was presented as well. During my first year, Bob Wunsch read the new For Whom the Bell Tolls as a “bedtime story” to an entranced group of us.  

Mary Brett Daniels: Arts were so pervasive and interwoven that I found myself taking harmony and piano lessons from Fritz Cohen, dance with Elsa Kahl. I was intrigued and puzzled watching students work on color projects with Albers, discovering Werkelehre.

Sue Spayth Riley: I think drama and music were well integrated into the college life, formally and informally. The ever present sound of classical music in one form or another – concerts in the lobby, Bach Cantatas practiced, madrigals echoing, visiting artists – all created for me a rich and deep experience that will be with me always.

COMMENTARY

Katherine Reynolds:  . . . Rice’s founding determination that learning happened by experiencing, observing and understanding a full range of intellectual and emotional possibilities. He estimated that two-thirds of the value of Black Mountain College for its students derived from what happened outside of the classes; and I observe that at least two-thirds of the discussion by former students in the recent collection centers on out-of-class developments.

Robert Sunley: In indirect ways, such activities formed part o the push to develop one’s scope and grasp of hitherto unheeded experiences. For example, a student would encounter an exhibit of Josef Albers’ Werklehre students’ work and might realize that here was something he or she did not understand, had not encountered before, and could then go on to seek further understanding. Participation in plays included usually faculty as well as students, most of whom were not drama “majors,” but all could gain a firsthand experience of drama in ways not available to those who took courses elsewhere but had no direct experience.

Photo: John Evarts and Heinrich Jalowetz. Courtesy of North Carolina Department of Archives and History.

SECTION 2. TEACHERS AND TEACHING

Introduction

Formal Aspects of the
Curriculum 

   Class Size 
   Grades    
   Advisors 
   Junior Division  
   Senior Division  
   Graduation

Methods of Teaching
   General

   John Andrew Rice 
   Josef Albers 
   Erwin Straus 
   Robert Wunsch 
   Others


Personalities of Faculty
  
John Rice  
   Josef Albers 
   Robert
Wunsch 
   Heinrich
Jalowetz  
   Others 

Outside the Classroom
   In General  
   The Work Program 
   Visitors -
   Trips 
   Drama 
   Interlude  
   Lectures, Concerts 
   Informal Interchange