Guest blog: Black Mountain College Museum's expansion helps its global reach

Photo from the January 2015 Grand Reopening of BMCM+AC. Photo courtesy of BMCM+AC.

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Carley Brandau is a Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center intern/apprentice. This is part three in a series about the museum expansion. Read part one and part two.

Carley Brandau; photo by Lydia See
Carley Brandau; photo by Lydia See

I recently returned to Asheville after 15 days in Russia to take part in the “Costume at the Turn of the Century 1990-2015” exhibition. My travels were funded by Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center’s (BMCM+AC) new Research Travel Grant program. Within my first few days in Russia, I found Black Mountain College (BMC) faculty member Buckminster Fuller at the Garage Museum in “Face-To-Face: The American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959/2015.”

The event took place in a geodesic dome, a structure first constructed by Fuller at BMC. In fact, Fuller traveled to Moscow to help build that very dome. BMC’s importance and influence is evident inside and outside of the museum/gallery setting, but it’s name remains under the radar. I found many people interested in BMC faculty and alumni, but few who actually knew the name Black Mountain College. I was able to sing the song of BMC while simultaneously exhibiting my own work. With additions such as the Travel Grant program, the expansion broadens opportunities for spreading BMC history on international and local levels.

The two Windgate-funded internships grant BMCM+AC a larger staff, which alone opens new doors for BMCM+AC. For example, Windgate intern and local musician Frank Meadows applies his event planning experience from running a local venue and music festivals to help coordinate museum events. He has become a key member of the INTERLUDE committee and hosted/performed at an avant-garde performance held at BMCM+AC.

While these efforts are underway, BMCM+AC also has works from its collection on loan in Berlin for the first comprehensive exhibition in Germany devoted to BMC. The exhibition, “Black Mountain, An Interdisciplinary Experiment 1933-1957,” which recently closed, was one of the largest international BMC exhibitions to date, with an opening night turnout of over 1,000 attendees. BMCM+AC is also a key lender for the traveling exhibition “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College: 1933-1957” which is currently on display at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and will travel through 2017 to California and Ohio.

Further, BMCM+AC’s new storage and updated facilities provide an improved platform for traveling exhibitions and general research. With the revised website and online archive, the renovated art center will facilitate BMC research on physical and digital grounds. The additional gallery and storage vault will allow more exhibitions, events and collection growth.

The flux in activity and growth is already causing a surge in the developing downtown Broadway Arts District and in the press. Since January, BMCM+AC has been featured in, among others, The New York Times, Art Forum and Asheville Citizen Times, appealing to regional and national readers. Whether through scholarship, education policy, or tracing the influences of artists working today, BMC is a name that is already resurfacing in contemporary society. As we extend our reach through our expanded exhibition spaces, dynamic programming, and digital presence, the BMCM+AC will be able to support, encourage and act as a core for the growing interest.

I recently heard Program Director Alice Sebrell express that even after working at the museum for 16 years, she is still exploring new “tendrils of BMC,” finding significant figures and events overlapping at the college. As a timeless research topic, BMC needs a reference center that properly pays homage to the institution while providing space for research and discovery. The expansion enables BMCM+AC to take the next step to become that setting through updated facilities and technology, collaboration of a larger staff, and the ability to interact with other institutions around the world.

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