This is the alternative: Black Mountain School
It's been nearly a week since I returned home from a uniquely intimate retreat/planning weekend in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I made my way to Black Mountain for one reason: the promise of making and doing something different. Along with sixteen other artists, musicians, curators, and organizers who descended on the mountain lodge just outside of the small town, we intended to find out how to make something brand new--at first just an idea--into a reality.
Black Mountain School is our plan. In response to rising higher education and art school tuition costs (and the frankly bewildering recent popularity of fine art PhD programs), we want to do something different. As an alternative to the high cost and the limited, often prohibitive nature of the traditional application process and classroom learning system, BMS takes its inspiration from a well-known predecessor, Black Mountain College.* Several decades after the original college closed for good, there are still issues of class and artistic diversity that are not met in most higher education institutions, if for the sole basic reason that it is so incredibly expensive. For numerous artists or artists-to-be, university study is not the right fit, whether by choice or necessity, and we want to discover ways to reach out to those who might learn and share in an alternative way. Because when an artist is indebted into the tens of thousands of dollars, how is one supposed to make a living? How can we change that equation?
Black Mountain School will kick off in late spring 2016 on the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly campus just a few minutes outside of Black Mountain. With two sessions of approximately two weeks each, the first season (a trial! an experiment! an experience!) will run May 20 to June 17 with the intention of expanding running time and physical space as resources allow.
We intend for BMS to be an entirely immersive art-meets-life experience. A fluid application process will pair with a wide variety of classes ranging from visual art practice to theory, environmental subjects and practical skill applications such as archiving and art writing. It will be, at its core, a communal environment consisting of like minds with different perspectives to share. And as part of the project, a work-sustainability aspect will involve time spent preparing food, working in a community garden plot, and keeping the show running smoothly. It is important to us that we engage with those who attend the school, but just as important that we are a part of the community at large as well.
A website is currently in the works, as well as the application. More news to come! In the meantime, if you have any questions or are interested in learning more about the school, or attending, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Black Mountain School is completely unassociated with the Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center or the Black Mountain School of poets.