Black Mountain College:
An Experiment in Liberal ARTS
July 1st - September 3rd, 2016
Dody Weston Thompson
Besides our role as gallerists, we, Scheinbaum & Russek Ltd also oversee the works and use of the photographs by Beaumont and Nancy Newhall. For the past twenty years some of the most requested images for publications and museum exhibitions are the images the Newhalls made during their time at Black Mountain College in the late 1940’s. We have loaned works to museums and scholars the world over from Warsaw, Poland to Los Angeles, California. It was on our return from the opening events at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles for the Leap Before You Look – Black Mountain College, 1933 – 1957 exhibition that we realized it is time to share these important works that have already been viewed the world over with our community and friends here in Santa Fe.
Founded in 1933, and for the next 24 years, Black Mountain College, in North Carolina, embraced the teachings of the American philosopher John Dewey who professed “learning by doing”. This innovative school attracted influential faculty and students involved in the arts of the 20th century. Walter Gropius, a founder of the German Bauhaus, and Josef Albers, artist and teacher, brought the ideas and philosophy of the Bauhaus school and integrated them into the arts experience and curriculum at Black Mountain. Faculty and students included John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Motherwell, Jacob Lawrence, Buckminster Fuller, as well as past Santa Fe residents Hazel Archer and Jorge Ficke.
In 1946 Josef Albers invited Beaumont and Nancy Newhall to teach at the Summer Institute of the College. That summer Beaumont delivered four lectures on the history, approach, and aesthetics of photography. These lectures inspired future students to learn the process and technique of making photographs. The Newhalls were invited back the following summer to teach photography in the newly constructed darkroom.
The Newhalls cherished their time at Black Mountain and its environs. They found the school a remarkable example of cooperative and conscious living while the curriculum presented not just an integrated way to learn, but an integrated approach to life, specifically life as an artist.
Photography at Black Mountain included amongst its faculty and students, besides the Newhalls, Harry Callahan, Barbara Morgan, Robert Raushenberg, Arthur Siegel, Aaron Siskind, and Dody Weston Thompson, all who have works included in our exhibition.
The focus of the exhibition is the work of Nancy Newhall. Nancy photographed the school, its environment, faculty, and students often during the times Beaumont was teaching. She befriended and photographed many of the notable individuals connected to the school including her sensitive portraits of Jacob and Gwen Lawrence, Annie Albers, and Buckminster Fuller, who at the time was in the process of designing his now famous geodesic domes.
Scheinbaum & Russek, representatives of the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate, have amassed an extraordinary group of photographs that represent this “successful” experiment in arts education – Black Mountain College.