(Menand’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 10/27.)
One thing to keep in mind if you visit (and, if you are in Boston, you should visit) the Institute of Contemporary Art’s huge exhibition “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933–1957”—more than two hundred and sixty works by almost a hundred artists, curated by Helen Molesworth, the biggest show the I.C.A. has ever mounted—is that Black Mountain College was not an artists’ community or a writers’ colony, or even an art school. It was a college.
A very small college. Black Mountain was launched in the Depression, and for twenty-four years it led a hand-to-mouth existence in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, outside Asheville, North Carolina. In a good year, enrollment was sixty. When at last the money dried up, the college shut its doors. But to the extent that finances permitted, and depending on who was available to teach, it offered a full liberal education. Students could take courses in science, mathematics, history, economics, languages, and literature.
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