Symposium to focus on Black Mountain College’s influence on art, humanities

A symposium on the history and legacy of Black Mountain College will be held on the University of Maine campus Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 22–24.

The UMaine Humanities Center in collaboration with the National Poetry Foundation will present the public conference that aims to bring together artists, critics, curators, educators, scholars, students and writers from around the country and across UMaine departments and disciplines to discuss the influence Black Mountain College (BMC) had on the visual arts, poetry, educational reform and democratic theory.

The event will focus on the people, ideas, artworks, social contexts and conflicts that defined the small experimental college during its influential existence from 1933 to 1957. BMC was located in North Carolina and placed the arts and humanities at the core of its interdisciplinary liberal arts curriculum with the hope of better educating citizens for participation in a democratic society.

The event coincides with the opening of “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933–1957,” an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), as well as the publication of the accompanying catalog by Yale University Press. It also is related to undergraduate courses offered in fall 2015 by UMaine professors Steve Evans in English and Justin Wolff in art history.

“Though Black Mountain College closed its doors in 1957, we’re learning from its example still,” Evans says. “This symposium offers us an opportunity to explore, to interrogate, and to celebrate a bold experiment in education that blended intellectual and manual labor, strove to be self-sustaining, and aimed to cultivate individuals who would be equal to the challenges of participating in a genuine democracy. As an early faculty member said, ‘Walt Whitman might have felt at home here.’”

The BMC Symposium is free and open to the public and will feature presentations, roundtable discussions, readings and forums. Among the presenters will be Ruth Erickson, assistant curator at the ICA/Boston, who curated the museum’s BMC exhibit with Helen Molesworth.

A complete schedule for the symposium is online. For more information or to request a disability accommodation, contact Evans at or 581.3818, or visit the event website.

The University of Maine Humanities Center (UMHC) also will offer a student bus trip to ICA/Boston on Saturday, Nov. 7 for a tour of the exhibit. For more information, visit the center’s website or contact Liam Riordan, UMHC director, at or 581.1913.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747