International Conference Highlights Legacy of Black Mountain College

Noted Beat Generation poet Ed Sanders headlines art and literary showcase

The Black Mountain College north Symposium will be held Oct. 1 through 3

The mission and legacy of Black Mountain College, the experimental art and literary institution that helped spawn the Beat Movement and a generation of American artists, writers and designers, will be the focus of an upcoming international conference hosted by Rochester Institute of Technology.

The Black Mountain North symposium, in connection with Writers & Books, Rochester’s literary center, and the Visual Studies Workshop, will feature a series of art exhibitions, poetry readings, theatrical performances and lectures including prominent national scholars and alumni from the Asheville, N.C., college, that operated from 1933 to 1957.

The symposium will run from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3 and events will be held at RIT’s Center for Student Innovation and at different venues throughout Rochester, including the Memorial Art Gallery and the Steve Carpenter Studio.

The conference’s keynote speaker is Ed Sanders, the prominent Beat poet, founding member of the rock/theater group The Fugs, and author of The Family, one of the best-known chronicles of the Manson Family murders. Sanders will speak at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 3 in the Eisenhart Auditorium at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

“Black Mountain College was an incredibly influential institution that helped shape numerous aspects of popular culture while being a model for progressive education initiatives,” notes John Roche, associate professor of English at RIT and director of the conference. “Through this symposium we hope to showcase the ideals the college was based on, its impact on the arts in Upstate New York, and ask how the Black Mountain philosophy can spur continued artistic expression and educational excellence.”

In addition to Sanders, the conference will feature three alumni of Black Mountain College, painter and poet Basil King, author Martha King, and writer and poet Martha Rittenhouse Treichler, as well as historian Mary Emma Harris. A corresponding exhibit of Black Mountain-inspired art and photography will also be hosted by RIT’s Gallery R, located on Park Avenue in Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. The exhibit, titled “Porch,” runs from Sept. 23 to Oct. 30.


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