Media Arts Program

Friday, October 12, 2007

Co-sponsored/co-presented by:
Just Buffalo Literary Center

Cathryn Davis

Fully Awake: Black Mountain College

Presented at:

Tucked in the mountains of western North Carolina, Black Mountain College (1933Ð1957), is remembered as one of the most influencial experiments in American education. Though short lived, Black Mountain CollegeÕs unique model inspired and helped shape 20th-century American art, poetry, music, dance, and other fields of creative and intellectual pursuit. Fully Awake: Black Mountain College is a documentary film exploring "education in a democracy," and highlights the CollegeÕs philosophy that the creative arts and practical responsibilities are equally important to intellectual development. Life skills are developed through democratic governance, art exploration, manual labor, and community living.

Fully Awake reflects on the unique educational style and long-term significance of the school using archival photography, interviews with students, teachers, historians, and current artists, and voice-over narration. While Black Mountain College is popularly known as the site of such events as Buckminster FullerÕs geodesic dome, John Cage's first "happening," and the publishing of the Black Mountain Review (edited by BuffaloÕs own Robert Creeley), this film focuses on the unique educational approach of Black Mountain College to balance academics, art, manual labor, and communal living to educate the whole person—head, hand, and heart—as put into action and overseen by the CollegeÕs celebrated "rectors," including artist Josef Albers, novelist Edward Dahlberg, and another poet later associated with Buffalo, Charles Olson.

In addition to these towering figures, those who taught there in the 1940s and 1950s also included Anni Albers, Cage, Merce Cunningham, Willem & Elaine de Kooning, Fuller, Walter Gropius, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Ben Shahn, Jack Tworkov, and Robert Motherwell. Guest lecturers included Albert Einstein, Clement Greenberg, and William Carlos Williams.

Among the notable alumni of Black Mountain College are Fielding Dawson, Ed Dorn, Robert Rauschenberg, John Chamberlain, Kenneth Noland, Joel Oppenheimer, Jonathan Williams, Robert De Niro, Sr., Cy Twombly, and Kenneth Snelson.

A company of poets sometimes indentified as "Black Mountain Poets" were drawn to the school over the years, most notably Olson, Creeley, Dorn, Oppenheimer, Robert Duncan, and Denise Levertov. Creeley was hired both to teach and to edit the Black Mountain Review in 1955, and when he left two years later for San Francisco, he became the link between the Black Mountain poets and the poets of the San Francisco Renaissance and, through Allen Ginsberg, the Beats.

Some publications related to this event:
October, 2007 - 2007