It was heady stuff for a girl of 18 to have her own study and to be listened to as an equal… I had a great need to share whatever I was learning with others, but I had no idea how that characteristic would be utilized later on in teaching… or that the naturalness of the cross-currents of art and philosophy in the air we breathed at BMC would culminate in the perpetuation of that ideal in the teaching mode.

— Adele Milhendeler Borouchoff (Student 1947 Summer Session)

Elaine Schmitt Urbain (Student 1946-1950) (b.1925-d.2004), Portrait of Josef Albers, n.d. Ink on paper. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Michael Urbain.

While Black Mountain College was a liberal arts college, where students could study everything from psychology to mathematics, the arts were at the center of the curriculum. Across the board, Black Mountain College was held in high esteem, though the faculty never moved to accredidate. For many of the women who studied at BMC, it was a place of radical intellectual freedom and responsibility. They were asked to perform at a high level, under the guidance of some of the greatest minds of the 20th century. To be self driven and to explore your inner voice was a guiding principles in the educational process at Black Mountain college. In this section of Question Everything! The Women of Black Mountain College we showcase this connection, illustrating how the hands-on approach to learning opened up new possibilities for students across all disciplines. 

Notable artworks and ephemera

Exhibited in the Spring 2020 exhibition Question Everything! The Women of Black Mountain College.

Renate Benfey in her student study in the Studies Building, Lake Eden campus, ca. 1942-1943. Western Regional Archives Black Mountain College Digital Collection.

Margaret Balzer Cantieni (Student 1945 Summer Session) (b.1914-d.2002), Folded paper study for Josef Albers’ course, 1945. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Janice Carter Larson.

Students in Lake Eden campus library, from Black Mountain College Bulletin, February 1943 (Vol. 1, No. 3). Collection of Black Mountain  College Museum + Arts  Center.

Diana Woelffer (Faculty Spouse, Assisted with Photography classes 1949 Summer Session) (b.1907-d.1990), Cora Kelley Ward, 1949. Vintage gelatin silver print. Collection of Black Mountain  College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Maurice Badon.