Black Mountain College Museum receives Windgate grant

Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center received a grant from the Windgate (photo by Kyle Sherard)
Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center received a grant from the Windgate (photo by Kyle Sherard)

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center announced on Tuesday afternoon, Sept 2, that it has received a $646,685 grant from the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

The award places the 20-year-old nonprofit museum among a growing list of Western North Carolina art-and-craft institutions that have received funding from the Siloam Springs, Ark.-based organization. In the past year, the foundation has awarded over $5 million in capital projects, funding and programming grants to Warren Wilson College, The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design and the Penland School of Craft, among others.

“The grant marks the next stage in our development,” says Dr. J. Richard Gruber, board chair for the museum.

Over the next three years, say Gruber and program director Alice Sebrell, the museum will carry out a multipronged initiative to expand and upgrade its exhibition space, digitize its permanent collection, enhance annual conference and program offerings, create an apprenticeship position with a local artisan, add two internships, develop a library and research center in its existing space, and more.

First among those changes is the an expansion into 67 Broadway, a CCCD-owned space across the street from its current location at 56 Broadway. The new space, says Sebrell, will be devoted to temporary exhibitions that focus on alumni work and examining the college’s lineage and impact on contemporary art and artists.

The museum will also use a downstairs portion of the 67 Broadway location for storing its permanent collection, which features over 800 works of art and more than 1,200 letters, photographs, documents and various pieces of Black Mountain College ephemera. The collection has previously been housed by several area art institutions, including UNC Asheville and Blue Spiral 1.

The museum’s current location, meanwhile, will be completely reconfigured.

“We’ll be updating and redefining our current space with an increased focus on our permanent collection,” Gruber says, adding, “we want to create a research space that’s accessible to the public.”

Asheville artist and designer Randy Shull will design and oversee the expansion project, which is slated to begin early this fall. The museum aims to open the new space by spring 2015. It will remain open during the expansion.

Shull, whose background and forte is midcentury modern design, says he is focussing on the duality of the spaces.

Unlike 67 Broadway’s attention to temporary exhibits, 56 Broadway will be the new home to a permanent BMC historical display composed of rotating works from the permanent collection and archive. It will also feature a study and research center and house the museum’s library, which recently added several hundred volumes of BMC-related texts.

Furthermore, the space will be the home to the newly created Institute for the study of Democracy, Education and the Arts (IDE+A), a center for “investigating and continuing the college’s legacy in experiential education, democratic practice and artistic innovation.” The center will be directed by former board chair and UNCA professor of philosophy Dr. Brian E. Butler.

“One says a lot about the history of Black Mountain College, the other says a lot about the spirit,” says Shull, “so it’s about articulating and unifying the two spaces with these concepts in mind.”

The expansion, Gruber and Sebrell say, is part of the museum’s long-term goal to reach a larger audience and amplify its mission to preserve and continue BMC’s educational and artistic legacy.

“All of this evolved out of our 80/20 anniversaries in 2013,” said Gruber. Black Mountain College was open from 1933-1957 in what is now Camp Rockmont for Boys. The museum, which has been in downtown Asheville since 2003, was founded in 1993 by Mary Holden, who still holds a position on the Board of Directors.

“We spent a lot of that last year-and-a-half looking at our history,” he said, “absorbing that history and thinking about what are the logical next steps. And in the 21st century, where should we be going and how should we be moving there.”

“We’re celebrating the past, but we’re also looking at the future as well.”

For more information on the museum, go to blackmountaincollege.org. Visit the museum this Friday, Sept. 5, for an opening reception for Dan Rice at Black Mountain College: Painter Among the Poets. This event is free and open to the public.

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About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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