Black Mountain College Project
 


   

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

Section 1. The Role of the Arts

  John Stix and Lisa Jalowetz Aronson preparing costumes for Macbeth production. Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives, Black Mountain College Papers.  

  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 ....    

 

Self-Direction, Self-discipline, Initiative, Development of the Whole Person, Including the Emotions, were Emphasized.

Robert Bliss:  It was a self-motivated and self-directed educational experience. There was self-government, absence of grades, no grade competition. It was an exceptional faculty, not one or two outstanding personalities. It was a unique faculty.

Will Hamlin:  “Motion comes out of Emotion,” said Wunsch, who loved epigrams. “One moves because one is moved. If one is not moved: if one is not moved to move, one does not move.” A production was not ‘blocked’ movement by movement; what happened on stage developed as we became the characters we were acting, learned to know and feel for and with each other’s characters, and thus to “Move because we were moved.” It follows that, to a large degree, we were directing each other and ourselves.

Alexander Eliot:  But the affective element and the discipline element also represented two polarities: the emotional and the rational, the hedonistic and the ascetic, which had to be bridged.

One thing Albers had to give was a reprise of the “Foundation Course” he’d taught at the Bauhaus. It was like a medieval Guild initiation restructured for the mid-20th Century. But that was only half of what Albers conveyed. Mastering a sketch-pencil or constructing a thin-paper bridge helps one to develop self-control as well. From artistic discipline springs confidence plus flexibility.

Leonard Billing: At BMC I studied piano and English country dancing with Allan Sly, math with Ted Dreier, economics with Jerry Barnes, literature with Ken Kurtz, music with John Evarts, but the most interesting and self-developing were the Werklehre classes of Josef Albers. He expanded my vision, encouraged my sense of color and composition which gave me a great deal of confidence. 

Bela Martin: I took courses suggested by Bob Wunsch, my faculty advisor. The idea of quality evaluation of the learning process rather than numerical grades merited recognition of the world of education. Quality evaluation reflected the learning process of the “whole” person, which BMC implemented as a measure of development of student as a person as well as subject achievement. 

John Swackhamer: The central notion that all learning must be self-motivated and that this is best accomplished through peer pressure, was and is for me, the most noteworthy feature of Black Mountain College.

COMMENTARY

Mary Emma Harris: Community would play a significant role in the intellectual and emotional development of the student.

Katherine Reynolds:  Rice wanted to establish not the perfect democratic community or the perfect curriculum or the perfect student or faculty body, but the best possible place for learning in some areas of academic substance and some areas of self-awareness. he also very much wanted students to come away with mature processes of interaction and self-discipline that would allow them to apply learning at  Black Mountain in their future worlds. “To know is not enough; it’s what you do with what you know that is the important thing,” he often said.

Students understood they were experiencing something unique and valuable, not simply testing new practices that might or might not work. They were as convinced as Mr. Rice that education was maximized when it included emotional development, experiential processes, democratic philosophies and community interaction.

 

 

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