Black Mountain College
a talk by Walker Brents III

Sunday, September 30 – 2:30 pm

Students work with Buckminster Fuller to assemble a geodesic dome at Black Mountain College, North Carolina

In the hills of North Carolina from the 1930s into the 1950s, a unique succession of intellectual and artistic developments occurred in the rather ramshackle environment of Black Mountain College, as if it were a sort of farm tended by a succession of agronomists, field hands and dabblers.

Some, like the artists Josef and Anni Albers, were at it a long time — fifteen years, in their case.  Others passed through more briefly.  Many already had, or were soon to make, huge names for themselves in their chosen fields or endeavor, be it writing, dance, music, sculpture, painting…

Poet and publisher Jonathan Williams at Black Mountain College, photo by poet Robert Creeley

Key individuals in post-war American culture like John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Ruth Asawa, Robert Rauschenberg, Buckminster Fuller and many more taught, studied or simply worked on their art projects there for a semester, a summer, a year…

and then there were the many students whose names are not familiar to us, who spent time in the intentional community that was the raison d’etre of the academic experiment that was Black Mountain, and found their lives profoundly influenced.

As a first year student at UC Berkeley in the mid-1970s, the proprietor of this bookshop, Bird & Beckett, while browsing at Shakespeare & Company there on Telegraph Avenue, latched onto a well-worn copy of Martin Duberman’s history of the school and found in it the description of an approach to education and to living in the world that influences him to this day — and that influences the swirl of activity that takes place at Bird & Beckett.  Although we continue to fall far short of the potential implied and described by Black Mountain College, we continue to hold it out as an ideal and a possibility.

Walker Brents will muse on the history, experience and meanings of Black Mountain College for an hour and a half this coming Sunday, and whether you know a lot about the school or nothing, you can be assured of coming away with some insights that will affect the way you look at the questions of community, culture and education.

Walker has developed an avid following in his several years of monthly talks at Bird & Beckett on subjects ranging from bits of mythology to philosophy to poetry to pop culture — for good reason.  Come and be edified and entertained, in company with others likewise engaged…