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Leap Before You Look

November 25, 2015

Until January 24, 2016

The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston is having their biggest show ever and wow, is it an interesting exhibit (and title) called “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933–1957”. The show has more than two hundred and sixty works by almost a hundred artists, curated by Helen Molesworth. Black Mountain College was not an artists’ community or a writers’ colony, or even an art school. It was a very small college that was established in the Depression and lasted for about 24 years. Located in Asheville, NC, the most students enrolled was 60. It had to close when the money disappeared. While operating students could take a full liberal arts education including science, mathematics, history, economics, languages, and literature.

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Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 3.22.32 PMHere’s what I like best about Black Mountain College: What made Black Mountain different from other colleges was that the center of the curriculum was art-making. Students studied pretty much whatever they wanted, but everyone was supposed to take a class in some kind of artistic practice—painting, weaving, sculpture, pottery, poetry, architecture, design, dance, music, photography. The goal was not to produce painters, poets, and architects. It was to produce citizens.

John Andrew Rice established the college and he did not think of art-making as therapy or self-expression. He thought of it as mental training. Many of his ideas came from John Dewey but there are reflections of Plato’s philosophy as well.

You can read the entire article from the New Yorker about the college and the exhibit by clicking here.

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