Black Mountain; The Changing of Asheville Through Art.
Art has many influences that are invokative of change in one form or another. The most direct change that art brings about is obviously that of altering art itself. Art is a forever changing form of expression, that is continually influenced by the styles, techniques and concepts of previous art. Art also changes the way society advertises, decorates and dresses. But does art have the power to change society’s thoughts, actions, and behaviors as a whole? I believe that the answer is yes, and that Black Mountain College, through the influence of art, changed Asheville into the freethinking mecca that it is today.
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In 1933, John Rice, and many of his supporting colleagues were dismissed from their positions at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. The Great Depression made it difficult for them to find new jobs, so they decided to start a school that would change the current structure of education. Robert Wunsch, who had previously taught in Asheville, found a site for the school that was complete with existing buildings. The YMCA currently occupied the Blue Ridge Assembly buildings during the summer, but during the remainder of the year they were now to be known as the Black Mountain College. In June of 1937, the college purchased the Lake Eden property, and by 1941 they had moved the school to this site.
Black Mountain College applied the principles of democracy, not only in the classroom, but also in the whole way that the school was structured. Educational policy was returned to the faculty, and the responsibility for education was returned to the students. The guidelines were not based upon required classes and academic regulations, but rather on a program of study that each student custom built. The college operated on a gradeless system, but in later years grades were given for the sole purpose of transferring credits.