International Conference

October 11-13, 2013

Thematic Focus: Shaping Craft and Design

From its Bauhaus workshop-model foundation brought over from Germany by Josef and Anni Albers in 1933 to the forward-thinking designers live Alvin Lustig and Buckminster Fuller who taught during the 1940s, to the early growth of the studio pottery movement via Karen Karnes, Marguerite Wildenhain, and others, Black Mountain College has played a significant role in shaping craft and design ideas and practices of our time. This conference explored that role, and links it to the importance of craft on 20th-century modernism as a whole. 

Keynote Speaker: Christopher Benfey

Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English and Acting Dean of Faculty at Mount Holyoke, where he has taught since 1989. He was educated at the Putney School, Earlham College, Guilford College, and Harvard (from which he holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature). He has held fellowships from the Danforth Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2012, Benfey was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies. A prolific journalist, Benfey served as the long-time art critic for the online magazine Slate, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among many other publications. His family memoir, Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay; Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival, was published in the spring of 2012 by Penguin. The book explores strands of Benfey’s family involving brick-making, pottery traditions in North Carolina, and the pioneering educational institution of Black Mountain College. A well-known scholar of Emily Dickinson, Benfey is the author of four highly regarded books about the American Gilded Age. These include A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade, which won both the 2009 Christian Gauss Award of Phi Beta Kappa and the Ambassador Book Award.He is also the author of The Double Life of Stephen Crane (1992); Degas in New Orleans (1997); and The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan (2003). For the prestigious Library of America editions, Benfey has edited both The American Writings of Lafcadio Hearn and the complete poems of Stephen Crane. His edition of essays on the Iliad by Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff appeared as War and the Iliad (NYRB Classics, 2005). Benfey’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, and Ploughshares.

Jenni Sorkin, Conference Featured Speaker is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History, University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently completing a book manuscript, titled Live Form: Craft as Participation, which examines the confluence of gender, artistic labor, and the history of post-war ceramics from 1945 to 1975. She holds a PhD in the History of Art from Yale University and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. From 2010-2011, she was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. In 2004, she was the recipient of the Art Journal Award, given by the College Art Association.

Ulrich Schwarz, Conference Featured Speaker is Professor of Visual Communication and Vice Dean at University of the Arts Berlin and a Managing Partner of Bertron Schwarz Frey, a design firm focused on Museography, Exhibition Design and Information Design. He is the author of publications such as “Space, Time, Characters” and “Museography and Exhibition Design” as well as contributions to “Information Graphics” and “Information Design Source Book”.