LAURINBURG — St. Andrews University is celebrating its connection to the innovative, influential but short-lived Black Mountain College.
The university will host the Black Mountain College Festival over the course of the 2016 Fall semester. The festival kicks off Aug. 26 with an opening panel discussion to educate students at SAU as well as the community on the history of Black Mountain College.
Throughout the festival there will be poetry readings, prose readings, art exhibits, dance performance and open mic readings for anyone to express their artistic abilities.
“Black Mountain College in a word is about innovation of the arts through pushing boundaries about what art was and sort of an offshoot of modernism,” said Dr. Ted Wojtasik, co-chair of the Black Mountain College Festival and creative writing professor at St. Andrews.
The festival takes place to pay tribute to the innovation of the arts Black Mountain College is responsible for, which continues to influence many institutions as well as artists.
“There is no doubt that as you talk with faculty and administrators, that Black Mountain College really shaped the mentality of the institution they think St. Andrews is and should be,” said Dr. Tim Beach-Verhey, St. Andrews dean of students.
Wojtasik said he hopes many people from the Laurinburg community will attend the multiple events through the fall. All events are free and open to the public.
For St. Andrews and the Laurinburg community, the relationships built through poet and St. Andrews Presbyterian College professor, Ronald H. Bayes, and many alumni of Black Mountain College, St. Andrews has created a strong connection to the innovative Black Mountain College.
“St. Andrews is trying to emphasize its connection to Black Mountain College primarily through Ron Bayes,” Wojtasik said. “We used to have a lot of Black Mountain College poets come here to read, like Jonathon Williams and Robert Creely — who were friends of Ron’s. He was in that generation, but he wasn’t physically at Black Mountain College.”
Wojtasik went on to explain the influence Black Mountain College had on Bayes which in turn influenced the students he taught at SAPC.
BMC was a college that turned the iconic 20th century American poet, Ezra Pound’s saying, “Make it new,” into reality, he said.
“I’m really excited about the festival, I think it comes at a great time as we are moving forward while also having a chance to look back to the history and heritage of Black Mountain College, an institution that deeply influenced St. Andrews,” Verhey said.
Black Mountain College was founded in 1933 and closed in 1956, — however there is some controversy over whether or not BMC courses were secretly taught through 1957.
“The physical college did shutdown in 1956, but Charles Olson kept teaching people so the college kept going for another year,” Wojtasik said. “Charles Olson was a twentieth century poet and was in charge of Black Mountain from the middle years to the end.”
Basil King and Martha King, both alumni of Black Mountain College who met and married after meeting there are scheduled to read poetry and prose Oct. 27 at the Ronald H. Bayes Lounge of Orange Hall on the St. Andrews campus.
Although it is not set in stone, there is a possibility the poet Mary de Rachewiltz, 91, the daughter of Ezra Pound, could be making an appearance at the Black Mountain College Festival this fall. De Rachewiltz will fly from Italy if she is able to attend.
De Rachewiltz has been teaching St. Andrews students who study abroad in Italy since the 1970s.
“A few years ago we started a Black Mountain scholarship at St. Andrews and we just want to emphasize the connection between the two institutions,” Wojtasik said.
The Black Mountain College Festival is set to end with a closing panel discussion on the future of Black Mountain College on Nov. 19.