Black Mountain College (1933 – 1957) symbol of the experimental spirit

Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College was founded by John Andrew Rice and a group of dissident, radical academics in North Carolina’s mountains in 1933. It became a symbol of academic freedom and the experimental spirit in American culture.

Europes’s Finest Minds

Before its closure in 1957, the tiny college, which had fewer than 1,200 students, grew into a combination of a liberal arts school, summer camp, farm school, pioneering village, refugee camp, and religious retreat. It survived with little money and little facilities. Still, its faculty included some of Europe’s finest minds, many of whom had migrated as refugees to America. In this manner, the college was influential in America in reinterpreting and assimilating European modernist thought. 


Josef Albers, who came in 1933, brought Bauhaus ideas with him. Kenneth Noland and Robert Rauschenberg, who were both professors, were to be a significant influence. 

The college was predominantly connected to two communities in the 1960s: the Black Mountain Poets, the John Cage (1912-92) and Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) circle of writers, singers, musicians, and performers.

Coming soon

Black Mountain College art exhibit – Encyclopedia of Design

“Connecting Legacies: A First Look at the Dreier Black Mountain College Archive” features archival objects from the Theodore Dreier Sr. Document Collection presented alongside artworks from the Asheville Art Museum’s Black Mountain College Collection to explore the connections between artworks and ephemera.


Falconer, M. (2001). Black Mountain College. In The Oxford Companion to Western Art. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 Jan. 2021, from

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