March 15, 2022
For immediate release

Kira Houston, Outreach Coordinator
828.350.8484 |

Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian. Photo courtesy of SHIRN.

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC)
awards the inaugural BMC Prize to Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian 

This annual grant of $20,000 is awarded to international or national artists working in the spirit of Black Mountain College (1933-1957).

Following an extensive search across disciplines, BMC Prize nominators Peter Cole, Hedy Fischer, Kelly Kivland, Ralph Lemon, Abaseh Mirvali, and Randy Shull selected Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian as the inaugural recipients of the $20,000 annual grant for international or national artists working in the spirit of Black Mountain College (1933-1957).

BMC Prize artists have the opportunity to develop their practice in a context that is rich with artistic and cultural significance and ongoing contemporary relevance through a guided site visit to the historic Black Mountain College campus at Lake Eden with BMCM+AC staff, transportation to Asheville, and a four-day stay to spend time at BMCM+AC, with a tour of the exhibitions and archival support at the museum and neighboring Western Regional Archives.

Origins of the Prize
Black Mountain College (BMC) was a uniquely global college, with ideas and ideals grounded in worldviews that extend beyond the Western canon. In the same way, the legacy of the college has taken root across the globe, evolving and expanding to encompass disparate identities and forms of expression. BMCM+AC is dedicated to preserving the history of BMC as well as facilitating new work through collaboration with contemporary artists. As we advance this mission, we are privileged to have a blueprint set forth by Black Mountain College that valued the greater good, experimentation, and accountability. Funded by cultural pollinators Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull, The BMC Prize will allow BMCM+AC to continue on this path by building relationships and creating an impact with intention by supporting the creation of new work by the most innovative artists working within the BMC tradition today. The BMC Prize reflects the spirit of Black Mountain College as a place conducive to experimentation, where global social movements, communitarian efforts, and process-based practice flourished.

About the 2022 BMC Prize Awarded Artists: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian.

Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian. Photo courtesy of SHIRN. | Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian – QAGOMA. Photographer: Natasha Harth. Copyright Queensland Art Gallery.

Over the past few decades, Ramin, Rokni, and Hesam have shared a life philosophy that has allowed for mutual creation, during which their individual practices interact with their collaborative ones and which is informed by the understanding and technical skills of other people. From the dialogues they build among themselves and with other artists, friends, and collaborators, these artists have established a personal language that has enabled them to present different layers of content and texture in their work.

Aware that their practice does not only encompass what they do but also the contributions of other individuals, from other artists, carpenters, technicians, thinkers, and caretakers to everyone else who is involved in the making of a project, these artists refuse the concept of the genius Artist. They prefer to acknowledge everyone who becomes part of their working process, as they believe that through their individual participation, everyone, collaboratively, creates a shared environment and a unique sensibility that enables them to coexist while contributing to the making of something new. Thus, a main element of their practice is human labor, including theirs, as well as a working process that involves the inclusion of different opinions, discussing and considering opposing perspectives and approaches, and mainly, experimenting with a wide range of possibilities.

About the Nominators

Peter Cole is a poet and translator, currently serving as Senior Lecturer of Judaic Studies and Comparative literature at Yale Univerity. Cole has received numerous honors for his work, including fellowships from the NEA, the NEH, and the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, the Association of American Publishers’ Hawkins Award for Book of the Year, the PEN Translation Award for Poetry, the American Library Association’s Brody Medal for the Jewish Book of the Year, and a TLS Translation Prize. He is the recipient of a 2010 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2007 was named a MacArthur Fellow.  He is currently a co-editor of Princeton University Press’s Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation, and divides his time between Jerusalem and New Haven.

Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull are cultural pollinators based in Asheville, NC and Merida, Mexico. Hedy and Randy establish spaces for social advocacy and community-centered art practice, reflecting an awareness of power dynamics and institutional barriers, specifically against female, Black, and Latinx artists. As the pair states, “Part of our commitment to the arts is a feeling of responsibility to participate in the global discourse that seeks to rewrite many overlooked histories and to provide an avenue for conversation and understanding.” Together they founded Pink Dog Creative in Asheville’s lively River Arts District as well as 22 London, where they present exhibitions from their personal art collection of internationally recognized artists and performances. They have been active participants in the international art world as art collectors for the past twenty-five years. Hedy is on the Board of Trustees of Art21 in New York City as well as the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center, Asheville, NC. Randy Shull, himself an artist, works at the intersection of architecture, landscape design, furniture design, and painting and keeps studios in both Asheville, NC, and Merida, Mexico. Randy has received an NEA Southern Arts Federation Grant as well as a Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council. Randy is on the Board of Trustees of The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC.

Kelly Kivland is Chief Curator & Director of Exhibitions for the Wexner Center for the Arts, the multidisciplinary contemporary art laboratory at The Ohio State University. Since 2011, Kivland served as curator at Dia Art Foundation. Her curatorial work there includes solo exhibitions and projects focused on Nancy Holt, Isabel Lewis, Steve Paxton, and Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Maren Hassinger, and Joan Jonas. Recent projects include the acclaimed installation Party/After-Party by Carl Craig, as well as the digital commission May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme. Kivland has authored numerous essays, catalogues, and other publications in conjunction with these efforts. She has also overseen partnerships to steward two permanent works of Land Art that are part of Dia’s collection: Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Throughout Kivland’s career are instances of the curator expanding her collaborations with artists practicing in a variety of disciplines, along with numerous stints as a guest critic, juror, lecturer, and panelist. She’s worked with organizations and institutions in the US and abroad including the Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI); the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and the Walker Art Center; and is currently on the board of the biannual journal Fence.

Ralph Lemon is an artist generating interdisciplinary modes of artistic expression as he strives to communicate stories, emotions, memories, and identities that do not conform to standard categories of representation. His notable works Geography Trilogy (1996-2004), Scaffold Room (2014), and Saturnalia (ongoing) interrogate cultural exchange, language, and contemporary societal structures. Ralph Lemon’s work has been acknowledged with awards such as the National Endowment for the Arts choreographic fellowship; American Choreographers Award, 1987; Gold Medal, New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award, 1987. Lemon received a 2000 Creative Capital Performing Arts Award and 2012 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. He is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow. Ralph Lemon was one of the twelve recipients of the 2015 National Medal of Arts. In 2018, he received the 23rd Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities. In 2019, he received the Francis J. Greenburger Award for artists whom the art world knows to be of extraordinary merit but who have not been fully recognized by the public.

Abaseh Mirvali is a Curator and Cultural Project Producer with a career-long commitment to civic engagement and public service through innovative collaborations between contemporary art initiatives and the community at large. Most recently, Mirvali served as Executive Director, Chief Curator, and CEO at Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB), in California, USA, where she established a world-class level exhibition program, accompanied by substantive and innovative education and engagement initiatives. Her professional background includes previous roles as the Executive Director of the Colección/Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City from 2005-2008. There, Mirvali fortified and developed one of the most distinguished collections of contemporary art held by a private institution in Latin America. Mirvali also served as the CEO and Executive Director of Denver’s Biennial of the Americas for its 2013 edition, establishing the vision for their exhibitions, public art projects, and urban architectural interventions as well as its policy programs. Earlier in her career, Mirvali served as Senior Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador for Culture and Education, creating innovative art and educational programming led by the Embassy of the United States in Mexico City. Mirvali has also collaborated with renowned cultural institutions, artists, and architects around the globe as well as served on the boards of various cultural and educational organizations in cities including Bogotá, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Milan, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Turin, and Vienna, as well as Berlin and Mexico City.

BMC embraced the interconnectivity of the arts and struck a distinctive balance between the necessity of experimentation and the rigor of aesthetic choice. Founded in 1933, BMC was one of the leading experimental liberal arts colleges in America until its closure in 1957. After the Bauhaus in Germany closed due to mounting antagonism from the Nazi Party, Josef and Anni Albers readily accepted an offer to join the BMC faculty. 

During their 16-year tenure in North Carolina, the Alberses helped model the college’s interdisciplinary curriculum on that of the Bauhaus, attracting an unmatched roster of teachers and students, including Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Jacob Lawrence, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Susan Weil, Vera B. Williams, Ben Shahn, Ruth Asawa, Franz Kline, Arthur Penn, Buckminster Fuller, M.C. Richards, Francine du Plessix Gray, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Dorothea Rockburne and many others who have made an impact on the world in a significant way. Even now, decades after its closing in 1957, the powerful influence of BMC continues to reverberate.

BMCM+AC fills a unique role in Asheville, sustaining BMC’s tradition of innovation and interdisciplinary creative engagement, and bringing an eclectic roster of artists to the community. The only museum in the world solely dedicated to the history of Black Mountain College, BMCM+AC was founded in 1993 by arts advocate Mary Holden to celebrate the history of BMC as a forerunner in progressive interdisciplinary education and to explore its extraordinary impact on modern and contemporary art, dance, theater, music, and performance.

We are committed to educating the public about the history of BMC and spreading awareness of its extensive legacy through exhibitions, publications, performances, lectures, films, seminars, and oral histories. Through our permanent collection, special exhibitions, publications, and research archive, we provide access to historical materials related to the College and its influence on modern and contemporary artists.

BMCM+AC provides a forum for multifaceted programming in a dynamic environment in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Our goal is to provide a gathering point for people from a variety of backgrounds to interact – integrating art, ideas, and discourse.

Images: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian. Photo courtesy of SHIRN. | Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian – QAGOMA. Photographer: Natasha Harth. Copyright Queensland Art Gallery. | Hazel Larsen Archer, Merce Cunningham at BMC, ca. 1952. Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer. | VanDerBeek + VanDerBeek, 2020 exhibition at BMCM+AC featuring the work of BMC alum Stan VanDerBeek alongside and curated by his daughter, contemporary artist Sara VanDerBeek. Co-curated by Chelsea Spangeman of the Stan VanDerBeek Archive. Photo by Michael Oppenheim.