By Emma Castleberry
Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center (BMCM+AC) celebrates 30 years as a museum this year, while the college celebrates its 90th anniversary. The museum was founded by Mary Holden Thompson in 1993 to celebrate the history of the college and continue its legacy of artistic and educational innovation. Since then, BMCM+AC has hosted more than 80 exhibitions, amassed a collection of more than 4,000 pieces of artwork and ephemera, and recorded more than 60 oral histories. “As we look back over these 30 years, each milestone builds on the previous ones and leads us forward to the next,” says Alice Sebrell, director of preservation. “The past three decades of work have set us up well to continue sharing the story of BMC with our community and the world as we also facilitate the creation of new stories extending the legacy of the college.”
BMCM+AC draws inspiration from the college’s values as a blueprint for its work. “The values of Black Mountain College went beyond the traditional Western cultural practices of literature, music, philosophy and art,” says Jeff Arnal, executive director of BMCM+AC.
“The college prioritized the greater good, experimentation and accountability as a global institution. Seeing how such values can be applied in education and other aspects of life is inspiring.”
While history is crucial to the operation of BMCM+AC, collaboration with living artists is also a significant part of the museum’s vision, as evidenced by two programs launched in 2017: The Performance Initiative, a multi-part project investigating the role of time-based art through performance projects, publications, and curatorial and scholarly collaborations; and ACTIVE ARCHIVE, a residency program that invites artists, scholars and curators to engage with Black Mountain College through research-based commissions.
The museum moved into its current space in downtown Asheville in 2018. “This move has enabled us to dramatically expand our programming and to put together some very important exhibitions that include the work of contemporary artists as well as Black Mountain College artists,” says Sebrell.
BMCM+AC is co-hosting the 14th annual ReVIEWING Black Mountain College Conference at UNC Asheville’s Reuter Center from Friday, October 13, through Sunday, October 15. The interdisciplinary conference is an opportunity for scholars to submit original work examining Black Mountain College and its role in cultural history. The program also celebrates the opening of the museum’s new exhibition Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students, curated by Michael Beggs and Julie J. Thomson.
“The college’s commitment to a democratic community based on the importance of the arts within a liberal arts education, a working farm and a progressive and inclusive approach to living, are relevant ideas in our community today,” says Sebrell. “Our work exploring these ideas through the history of Black Mountain College can help us understand some of the challenging circumstances we face today.”
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is located at 120 College Street, Asheville. For more information, visit BlackMountainCollege.org.