BMCMAC Announces Jeff Arnal as Executive Director

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center has announced that Jeff Arnal was appointed executive director. Arnal will be responsible for providing strategic and operational leadership and further developing the institution’s programming and resources. He will start in the position on August 1.
“Having worked in the arts and nonprofit sector for the past two decades, first as a composer and percussionist, and later as a curator, writer, administrator, and producer, Jeff is uniquely suited to lead BMCM+AC,” co-chair Brian Butler said. “We look forward to working with him to sustain the college’s tradition of exploring historic paths and forging new ones.” Arnal co-founded Free Range Asheville, a platform for performance, research, and discourse in 2015.
For three years he worked as a senior specialist for the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia. Arnal served as a consultant for National Sawdust, a performing arts venue in Brooklyn, and in 2001 he co-founded Improvised and Otherwise, an interdisciplinary festival for emerging artists in the borough.
Arnal earned his MFA in music from Bennington College and his BA in interdisciplinary studies: music composition and film-making from the University of Maryland. “Working with my new colleagues and the dynamic Asheville arts community, I look forward to creating programs—from intimate experiences to celebratory events—that offer a variety of entry points to engage with and interpret content that mirrors the evolving conditions of contemporary arts and culture,” Arnal said.
Established in 1993 in Asheville, North Carolina, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center preserves and pays tribute to the history and legacy of innovation of Black Mountain College (1933-57). Arnal, who succeeds Katherine de Vos Devine, is taking the helm of the organization one month after it opened a new gallery space and inaugural exhibition, “Randy Shull/Wide Open: Architecture and Design,” as part of a three-year expansion project.

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center Inaugurates New Gallery Space with Exhibition of Work by Randy Shull

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC), in Asheville, NC, presents an inaugural exhibition celebrating the completion of a three-year, two-phase renovation and expansion project led by artist and designer Randy Shull and J. Richard Gruber, PhD, director of the newly launched Architecture + Design Institute (A+D@BMCM+AC).

Organized by Gruber, Randy Shull/Wide Open: Architecture and Design at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center examines the enduring legacy of Black Mountain College (BMC, 1933‒57) through the lens of its architecture and design program and the influential innovators who taught there while contextualizing Shull’s design and construction process directly inspired by them. The exhibition is on view July 1‒September 3, 2016, and is accompanied by a publication.

Phase One of the BMCM+AC expansion project (2014‒15) was the renovation of the Museum’s original site including the addition of an orientation and retail space, gallery, modular furniture and display systems, and library and study center dedicated to BMC. It re-opened to the public on January 30, 2015, and presents exhibitions, displays of material from the Museum’s collection, public programs, and special events. 2 Phase Two (2015‒16), opening on July 1, 2016, across the street in a recently converted historic property, is a totally new, flexible 2,400-square-foot space for exhibitions, performances, and public programs.

Doubling BMCM+AC’s exhibition space, it also includes offices and an adjoining art storage center for the Museum’s growing collection of artwork and materials by BMC faculty and alumni. Both projects were made possible through the generous support of the Windgate Charitable Foundation. Reflecting the expanding educational and artistic mission of BMCM+AC, Randy Shull/Wide Open documents the evolution of the planning, design, and construction of the two facilities and Shull’s creation of complementary custom-made furniture, counters, desks, cabinets, and display systems. Shull’s designs and process were intentionally influenced by the architecture and design traditions closely associated with BMC, including the Bauhaus and modernist design principles. In addition to exhibitions, the moveable display system and gallery walls allow for configurations to accommodate functional variations and future growth. The exhibition features an array of Shull’s innovative designs—some of which are permanently integrated into the new space—including graphic panels, hand-built furniture, and a customized pegboard display system printed with archival photography. Wooden elements are made with modestly priced, locally sourced, and readily available materials like plywood, demonstrating creative problem-solving and an economy of resources that were central to BMC’s ethos. Working in close collaboration with Gruber and Shull, Asheville-based Susan Rhew Design developed the striking graphic identity for the Museum, exhibition, and accompanying publication.

In the reception area, visitors encounter a laminated plywood canopy inspired by a feature of the BMC’s pottery shed—painted the same orange-red color incorporated in BMC’s logo. It 3 references a similar design element in the original space (Phase One) and serves as a cue that they are related. Large graphic panels feature black-and-white photographs taken by Hazel Larsen Archer of Buckminster Fuller with his early geodesic dome experiments and dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham at BMC as well as a blueprint map of the campus. A large-scale photograph of the pottery shed incorporates a ceramic piece by Karen Karnes, who taught at BMC, to connect visitors to objects in BMCM+AC’s collection on view across the street. Shull’s process was informed by his research into BMC’s history and further enriched by his experience designing a house on the College campus in 2008.

Chief among Shull’s inspirations was the artist Josef Albers who led BMC’s faculty from its establishment through 1949. Albers, who had taught at the Bauhaus under Walter Gropius, famously said that a teacher’s essential job was “to open eyes.” Shull considered principles and values that defined BMC as embodied in bold experiments like those conducted there by Albers’ wife, artist Anni Albers, Fuller, Cunningham, architect A. Lawrence Kocher, and others, and the College’s mission to provide a liberal arts education while emphasizing the arts, creativity, and learning by doing. Shull’s explorations of BMC-inspired designs, materials, and mediums led to his creation of sculpted furniture and a painting that draws on Albers’ color theory. Also on view are photographs and descriptions of other Shull-designed buildings both built and unbuilt, furniture and lamp prototypes that incorporate BMC imagery, a scale model of the new space, drawings and sketches, and new experiments inspired by his work on BMCM+AC’s expanded facility.

Dr. Gruber said, “The new gallery space Randy created is eloquently synced with the original site across the street, the educational and artistic mission of BMCM+AC, and the spirit of innovation and experimentation that was a BMC hallmark. Like the Bauhaus masters who taught at BMC, he has blurred the lines between art, architecture, design, and traditional notions of craft. It is a smart, flexible space that enables a range of programming and possibilities. As the curator of the exhibition, director of A+D@BMCM+AC, and as coordinator of these two building projects, it has been an extraordinary collaboration with Randy and, in many ways, with Anni and Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius, and A. Lawrence Kocher. Thanks to Randy’s highly creative process, our visitors will better understand BMC and its far-reaching legacy and ongoing impact. We are very grateful for the support of the Windgate Charitable Foundation as we look to preserving and building on BMC’s exceptional legacy.”

An Inevitability: Ray Spillenger, Abstract Expressionism + a snowy weekend opening

BlackMountainCollegeRaySpillengerDavidHuffMother Nature may have been in on a conspiracy to keep Ray Spillenger’s paintings unseen, with a foot of snow dropping for their first unveiling since 1960. The paintings harken back to Black Mountain College’s famous Summer of 1948, and breathe fresh life into the abstract expressionist movement now embedded in the canon of art history. Ray Spillenger: Rediscovery of a Black Mountain Painter celebrates the work of an artist in league with Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning. The difference? Ray just never got around to finding critical acclaim before Andy Warhol redefined the “avant-garde,” and abstract expressionism stepped aside for Pop Art to claim the cultural zeitgeist. But now, unearthed from his 10th Street apartment, cleaned and framed on the wall of our gallery at 56 Broadway, Ray Spillenger’s paintings are finally shining. And an impressive group of hearty souls even braved the storm to welcome them! 

read more…

Presentation and Book Launch

Thursday, March 3, 7:00 p.m.
It’s been over sixty-five years since Jerrold Levy and Richard Negro composed, circulated, and performed Poems by Gerard Legro on the campus of Black Mountain College. Long forgotten in an archival box, the previously unpublished collaboration is now in print for the first time. Dr. Alessandro Porco will discuss the history of Poems by Gerard Legro and read a short selection from the book. Free Admission



Bidding Convergence/Divergence Farewell + Welcoming Ray Spillenger

BlackMountainCollegeMuseumConvergenceExhibtionClosing1_2015In the aptly named “Form and Function” section of Modern Magazine‘s Winter 2016 issue, Margot Ammidown remarked that “of all the institutions with a Bauhaus legacy, Black Mountain retains the image of a creative arcadia that produced many of the great artists of the mid-twentieth century.”

Ammidown, reviewing our recently closed CONVERGENCE/DIVERGENCE: Exploring Black Mountain College + Chicago’s New Bauhaus/Institute of Design, which was on view from September 4, 2015 – December 31, 2015, highlights moments of cross-pollination between the two schools but also discusses each school’s unique legacy – namely the reinstitution of the New Bauhaus as the Institute of Design, and Black Mountain College’s unique emphasis on experimentation rather than industry. 

We are sorry to see the objects, works, ephemera, and images of CONVERGENCE/DIVERGENCE go, but in a few weeks we will be thrilled to open the doors for our next exhibition: Ray Spillenger: Rediscovery of a Black Mountain College Painter, opening January 22, 2016 on view through May 21, 2016. 

Ray Spillenger studied with Willem de Kooning and Josef Albers at Black Mountain College during the summer of 1948. This exhibition comprises two decades of his work from the BMC era to the late 1960s. Spillenger’s paintings demonstrate a total commitment to abstraction and a passionate love of color.  read more…

Travel Scholarship Supports Asheville Artist’s Trip to Russia

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC) announces that Design Apprentice and Museum Intern Carley Brandau will travel to Moscow, Russia this summer to take part in the exhibition Costume at the Turn of the Century 1990-2015 at the A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum as part of BMCM+AC’s new Research Travel Grant program. Brandau’s BMCM+AC-administered travel scholarship is generously funded by a donation from Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer.

Brandau, a local artist and UNC Asheville graduate, began at BMCM+AC in October 2014 as a Design Apprentice, working under internationally-known, Asheville-based designer and artist Randy Shull on the redesign and renovation of the museum’s 56 Broadway gallery space. In February, 2015, Brandau was selected as a member of the inaugural class of Windgate Museum Interns at BMCM+AC. The Internship program, Apprenticeship program, and gallery redesign and renovation are part of the museum’s three-year Windgate Charitable Foundation-funded expansion plan. Brandau continues to document BMCM+AC’s expansion through the curation of dedicated Tumblr and Instagram accounts.  read more…

BMCM+AC in The New York Times

We were in the New York Times in March 2015! The detailed article, which focused on BMCM+AC’s expansion, includes a slideshow of archival images  and new photographs of our 56 Broadway gallery. To read the article online, click here.

From the article:
“We try to have one foot in the past, honoring what happened at the college,” said Alice Sebrell, the museum’s program director, who runs the institution with a staff of two and a few interns. “But we also keep one foot very much in the present, looking to the future and what ideas artists are investigating today.” read more…