LAURINBURG — In the spring of 1974 St. Andrews Presbyterian College, now St. Andrews University, in Laurinburg, NC, held the first Black Mountain College Festival to celebrate the history, the mission, and the arts of Black Mountain College.
What was Black Mountain College? In 1933, in a small town in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, an extremely experimental and innovative school of higher education was founded by John A. Rice, a scholar, who had left Rollins College, Florida, amid controversy over educational methods.
He wanted to establish a new type of college that stressed the study of art as central to a liberal arts education and to use John Dewey’s principles of a progressive education that included a cross-disciplinary curriculum with an emphasis on avant garde art.
Professors and students who had taught and studied there subsequently moved on to have important careers. The following is just a sample.
Robert Creeley, a poet, would win the Bollingen Prize in poetry in 1999.
Josef Albers, an artist, would become the first living artist to have a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan in 1971.
John Cage, a composer and music theorist, would become a pioneer of indeterminacy in music and in electro-acoustic music.
Merce Cunningham, a dancer and choreographer, would receive the highest honors bestowed in the arts, including the National Medal of Arts and a MacArthur Fellowship.
Buckminster Fuller, an inventor and architect, would become famous for his creation of the geodesic dome and would receive the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1983, presented by President Ronald Regan.
At St. Andrews, in 1974, Buckminster Fuller delivered the opening address for the Black Mountain College Festival and built one of his famous geodesic domes on campus. Merce Cunningham and John Cage staged a collaborative music and dance performance. Josef Albers had an art exhibition. Robert Creeley gave a poetry reading.
Although Black Mountain College closed in 1956, having sustained 23 brilliant years of experimental higher education, its legacy, its mission, and its spirit continues to influence all the arts today.
That is why St. Andrews University is pleased to announce that there will be another Black Mountain College Festival for the fall semester of 2016. Over thirty scholars, artists, poets, writers, musicians, inventors, and dancers will be in Laurinburg, NC, to celebrate its history and its future.
St. Andrews University encourages all local schools and members of the community to attend the various events. All readings, performances, lectures, art exhibitions, and discussions are free and open to the public.