Black MountainCollege Project
 


 

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

Section 1. The Role of the Arts

  Josef Albers Class. Albers (kneeling). Hope Stephens Foote (far right), Fred Stone (jacket open), Betty Brett Hamlin (white sweater), Claude Stoller (bending), Miriam "Mimi" French Batchelor (right). Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives.   

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 ....    

 

Focus was on Really "Seeing" and "Thinking" for Oneself, Not on the Production of Art

Claude Stoller: At Black Mountain, Josef Albers was my faculty advisor who played an enormous role in my life as a teacher, friend, and, of course, advisor. Foremost at all times he was an intense teacher whose stubborn insistence was that his pupils “learn to see.”

Jane Mayhall: Mainly, what BMC offered was a forecast of what one desired. I received a profound education in music, better than in later legitimate Music Schools. Dewey’s theory of knowledge, as being the beginning point ant not the arrived achievement was certainly substantially what BMC offered. A process of “creating in students critical and inquisitive minds.”  As Dewey said: “To maintain such an education is the essence of morals. For conscious life is a continual beginning afresh.”

Emil Willimetz: Just as Rice’s writing class required a submission of work to attend, Albers classes met for three hours, twice a week and everyone had to bring work done. The work was spread around the room and each student had to explain his solution to the class assignment.

In the drawing class, my good friend Eva is huddled under a Mexican poncho as the model. Albers is admonishing one of his students: “No, no, see! She’s a potato!” with appropriate circular gesture, “See, a potato!”

Robert Bliss: With Werklehre, Albers woke up, opened my eyes. Music with Evarts, made me a listener (no musical talent) and now a constant pleasure with CDs, symphony and chamber music. Larry Kocher’s arrival, his lectures and the design building program revealed architecture as a field in which my interests and abilities might mesh.

John Stix: Looking back, it was Albers’ teaching which ultimately shaped my life in its choice of physical surroundings. He made me see.

COMMENTARY    

Robert Sunley: Innovative and experimental teaching aimed at guiding students into thinking and experiencing for themselves. Teachers emphasized method, not neglecting content, but recognizing that learning how to process content would serve the student better in later life than the reverse emphasis. Those faculty most mentioned by the former students were the ones who on the whole stood for such emphasis in teaching – Rice, Albers, Evarts, Jalowetz, Wunsch, Kurtz, Schawinsky. The most mentioned courses were indeed typical of this approach: Rice’s Plato class and writing seminar; and Albers’ drawing and Werklehre classes. In music and drama also, the focus was on individual participation, direct experience, and understanding of the artistic process, rather than “appreciation” and an essentially passive learning.

 


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