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New Exhibition at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center Explores the Life of Vera B. Williams

Vera B. Williams. Photo by Andy Oates

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC) presents Vera B. Williams / STORIES, an exhibition exploring the life and works of Williams, who graduated from Black Mountain College in 1948. “Fewer than 100 students ever graduated from BMC, so this accomplishment placed Vera in rare company,” says Alice Sebrell, director of preservation at BMCM+AC. “After BMC, she and her husband Paul Williams were instrumental in founding the Gate Hill Cooperative an hour outside of New York City, where many BMC figures came to live and work after Black Mountain College closed.”

Williams is widely known for the children’s books that she wrote and illustrated, including It’s a Gingerbread House, Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea, Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe and the Caldecott Honor Book A Chair for My Mother. Despite this recognition, much of her life outside of this work remains unexplored. Williams was a creative powerhouse: she designed dozens of covers for Liberation magazine; collaborated with activist Grace Paley on a Peace calendar; and completed hundreds of cartoons, sketches and doodles about late life, aging and illness. “The exhibition will include many original works by Williams which have never been exhibited before to the public,” says Sebrell. “Her groundbreaking work as a political activist and her tireless dedication to children’s education remain highly relevant today, and we hope to expand public knowledge of these important aspects of her oeuvre.”

The team at BMCM+AC has worked closely with Williams’ family and scholars to create the extensive exhibition, which will be on display through May 11. “We hope that visitors will gain a new understanding of Vera B. Williams’ role in the Black Mountain College story,” says Sebrell, “and that they will leave with a renewed appreciation for her courage, compassion and unending creativity.”

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is located at 120 College Street, Asheville. For more information, visit BlackMountainCollege.org.

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