The Asheville Art Museum takes Black Mountain College online

Artist unknown, Black Mountain College Tri-Fold Bulletin Brochure, Vol. 3, No.8, 1945, ink on paper, Black Mountain College Collection, gift of Barbara Beate Dreier and Theodore Dreier Jr. on behalf of all generations of the Dreier family, 2017.40.002

Table of Contents

The Asheville Art Museum (2 S. Pack Square) just received a major grant of $163,694 to create the Digital BMC Collection and Interconnective Timeline, which will allow them to digitize their collection of Black Mountain College materials to make it public + accessible.

What was Black Mountain College, and why is it so important for the history of art, and for our region specifically? 

The experimental liberal arts school opened in 1933and closed in 1957. During its short time, it hosted teachers + students who revolutionized their fields, like John Cage, Elaine de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham + more. Some people even credit the school for helping Asheville + the surrounding area become the center for creativity that it is today. Read our in-depth dive into Black Mountain College here. 

Artist unknown, Photograph of Lorna Halper unloading pipe for FHA Housing Building, not dated, photograph, 2 5/8 x 2 inches. Black Mountain College Collection, Gift of the Black Mountain College Project and Lorna Blaine Halper, 2012.26.132 | Photo courtesy of Asheville Art Museum

Black Mountain College is one of the Asheville Art Museum’s major focuses, and the museum has around 3,000 objects and documents by BMC faculty and alums, including Josef and Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, John Cage + Robert Rauscehnberg. Many of the items are “hidden,” i.e. they have never been seen before, because they are fragile and might be easily damaged. The museum is also the repository of the Lorna Blaine Halper Estate. She was a multimedia artist who attended the college and studied under Josef Albers.

The funds, awarded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, a national nonprofit that works with libraries + institutions to improve resources and access to information, will help the museum create the archive over 24 months. That timeline will –

  • Include hundreds of items, like archival documents, artworks, literature, pieces of furniture + more, that have never been seen before by the public
  • Feature high-quality, detailed photography of the items in the museum’s collection
  • Be all digital – created for scholars, students + the general public 
  • Be open + free – and accessible around the world 

At the end of the process, the Art Museum will organize a digital symposium that will feature Black Mountain College scholars. 

John Urbain, Untitled, 1946, watercolor on paper, 11 3/8 x 8 3/8 inches. Black Mountain College Collection, Gift of the Artist, 2009.22.02.29 | Image courtesy of Asheville Art Museum 

Fifty-eight institutions across North America received grants supported by the Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives awards program – which “supports the creation of digital representations of unique content of high scholarly significance that will be discoverable and usable as elements of a coherent national collection.” 

And, the museum also received a Save America’s Treasures grant last year to help with conservation of their Black Mountain Collection, awarded by the National Park Service.

Want even more Black Mountain College? Besides visiting the museum and awaiting the timeline and digital archive, you can head to the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC) at 120 College St. Their current show, Question Everything! The Women of Black Mountain College, celebrates the BMC’s leading ladies, highlighting their contributions through art, personal accounts, film, photography + more. The exhibition runs through April 25.