Black Mountain College Lecture

When I Ask to Lecture I Talk About BMC

Text by Shannon Hebert Waldman, Warren Wilson College ’16.

My identity can be stripped down to two parts. I am sometimes more complex, but the complexities emerge from the two truths that

1) I am from a small southern town that serves as a liberal, arts focused oasis: Asheville, North Carolina.

And 2) I am an (all too) avid art history student aspiring to be a teacher.

Which is why I asked to give a short lecture on an important part of art history in my hometown, Black Mountain College.

Yes. I asked to give a lecture. Im not sure how many more times that will happen in my life as lecturers are usually invited to speak. But regardless if I am ever offered the chance to teach or not I have found ways to make it happen which, for me, is very relevant to the college I gave a lecture on.

Black Mountain College was founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice, who was a student of John Dewys educational philosophies regarding experiential and experimental learning. The college hosted teachers such as Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Charles Olson and had students such as Ruth Asawa, Kenneth Noland, and Robert Rauschenberg. As I said in my brief talk in the second floor common room, looking at the Black Mountain faculty list and student record is like looking at a who’s who of 20th-century art and thought.

I feel like I owe it to these individuals, and to my home, to keep the legacy of Black Mountain College relevant in contemporary art and arts education, since I am a direct byproduct of the work done at the college through its closing in 1956.

I grew up playing on the campus of Black Mountain College, being educated by teachers who believed in the principals of John Dewys educational pedagogy, and now go to a college in my hometown which models itself greatly in the image of Black Mountains legacy of an educational environment led by students.

I keep the legacy of Black Mountain College vital by asking to lecture in cubby-hole venues, creating my own major at Warren Wilson College (which is a five minute drive from Black Mountain Colleges second campus), and by inserting myself into situations where I can be a part of the lasting Black Mountain College community in events such as the {Re}Happening, a performance arts gathering that pays homage to the original happeningwhich occurred on the Black Mountain College campus.

Shannon giving her lecture for the other NYAP students and faculty.

So yes, I am sometimes just an eager student from Asheville, North Carolina, but this also means that I have the opportunity to ask to lecture in my home in New York City, to my peers from across the country on a part of art history that I have an intense connection to. These simple bits of my identity have shaped up to give me a holistic understanding of myself, and my aspirations that I hope the members of the Black Mountain College community would be proud of, or at least I like to think so when Im making a fool of myself over their memory.

Shannon is an integrative studies major at Warren Wilson College in her hometown of Asheville, North Carolina where she has arranged her whole education to focus on how art can be, and is, used as a tool for social change.

She is currently an intern for No Longer Empty with Regine Basha and for the Museum of Arts and Design.

She keeps a blog at and hopes to someday teach at a university and to continue having lengthy conversations with museum guards.



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