Monday, November 14, 2005

Could "Black Mountain College" happen today?

"For a short time in the middle of the twentieth century a small town in North Carolina became a hub of American cultural production. The town was Black Mountain and the reason was Black Mountain College. Founded in 1933, the school was a reaction to the more traditional schools of the time. At its core was the assumption that a strong liberal and fine arts education must happen simultaneously inside and outside the classroom. Combining communal living with an informal class structure, Black Mountain created an environment conducive to the interdisciplinary work that was to revolutionize the arts and sciences of its time.

Among Black Mountain's first professors were the artists Josef and Anni Albers, who had fled Nazi Germany after the closing of the Bauhaus. It was their progressive work in painting and textiles that first attracted students from around the country. Once there, however, students and faculty alike realized that Black Mountain College was one of the few schools sincerely dedicated to educational and artistic experimentation. By the forties, Black Mountain's faculty included some of the greatest artists and thinkers of its time: Walter Gropius, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, John Cage, Alfred Kazin, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Goodman. Students found themselves at the locus of such wide ranging innovations as Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic Dome, Charles Olson's Projective Verse, and some of the first performance art in the U.S." -

Check it out here:

So can it happen again? With the current power-structure of accreditation-based colleges and universities demanding pyramid-scheme-MFA programs (I liberated that one from an old "New Art Examiner" article: THE MFA: Academia's Pyramid Scheme by Karen Kitchel") - can learning for learning's sake reoccur?

Karen Kitchel quotes David Bayles and Ted Orlando (Art & Fear) as saying "If 98 percent of our medical students were no longer practicing medicine after graduation, there would be a Senate investigation, yet that proportion of art majors are routinely consigned to an early professional death."

"Black Mountain College" did not grant MFA's, yet some of the greatest western minds of the twentieth century gathered there to educate and learn.

I'm not saying that the knowledge and experience gathered during an MFA program are poor, I just believe they should be better for the $40k - 100k in student loans.

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