Black Mountain College Project


 

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

Introduction to the Sunley Project

   Photo: Studies Building Construction, 1940-41. A. Lawrence Kocher, architect. Photo: John Harvey Campbell.    

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 ....    

 

 

Guidelines for Responses

Your name ____________________________  

The Early Years at Black Mountain; Student Experience in Experimental Education, 1933-43

A        About yourself – your background

What led you to chose BMC? Any previous or later college experience? What years were you at BMC, and why did you leave?  Was your main interest in going to BMC focused on one or more of the arts – music, art, drama, writing, dance, weaving, etc.?

Describe what you consider relevant earlier experiences, including family background, influencing you to go to BMC.

What later contacts have you had with BMC students – how does this compare with students at other colleges?

B         Study at BMC

What classes did you take, and why? Role of faculty advisor and others? Size and composition of classes? What studying and other work was involved? How did you feel about the absence of grades? Were there other forms of competition?

Because experience in the arts was a central feature of BMC, what classes and other experiences in the arts were influential or memorable? If your interest in coming to BMC was because of one or more of the arts, what classes and other experiences were influential, apart from the arts?

Which teachers seemed best then, and in retrospect? Any particularly poor teachers or negative experiences?

What part did initiative, self-discipline and curiosity play, for you? Did progress through the college occur – such as moving from junior to senior division, graduating?

Looking back, did the arts seem integrated with the other parts of the curriculum? Over or under-emphasized? Did you feel interested in or excited by innovative aspects of the art classes?

Were there innovative aspects to other classes (besides the arts)? Did you and others study current social issues (such as the Depression, labor movement, Spanish Civil War, Fascists and Nazis, the New Deal, TVA, etc.)?

What part did activities other than class-related ones have in your life at BMC? (Work program, evening events, concerts, plays, other performances, trips, bull sessions, social times such as dancing, parties, etc)? Were some students not involved or left out?

How were educational policies and courses set? Roles of students? How were faculty chosen, how were students admitted? Did you have any part in any such activities?

Other comments.

C         The Physical Aspects

Was the isolated location in rural North Carolina a source of strength and/or weakness for education? Did the nature of the surrounding areas affect your experience (racist, anti-union, anti-left, etc)? What was the impact of visitors – generally and any specified experiences you had?

Was the relative poverty of the college, faculty, and many students a limitation on your educational experience? Did it promote or limit certain areas of study? Did the relative affluence of some have any effect?

What effects on education and community did the physical plant have (All basically in one large building, usually eating together, daily personal contacts among faculty, students, visitors)?

What influence of the natural beauty of the college surroundings and countryside?

Other comments. . .

D         The College Community & People

The sense of “community” – what did you understand about it, how did it affect you, who formulated it? What were positive and negative aspects of the small community?

What were the effects of the formal and informal structures (student government and meetings, faculty meetings, Board meetings, general meetings of the entire community; and informal meetings, gripe sessions, etc)? What influence did these have upon you?

The importance of personal involvements – friendships, affairs, etc., leaders and models, inclusion or exclusion from groups, being cast into roles; learning about people, strange behaviors, conflicts, handling by faculty and students of major events such as suicides, schisms, people leaving, etc. – and what did you gain or lose?

Other comments.

E         Totality of experience

Your view of the major or noteworthy features of BMC for yourself and for others, and

 

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