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Black Mountain College Museum completes first phase of renovation and expansion project
Interior view of exhibition gallery at 56 Broadway, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Asheville, NC. Phase one of 2014-15 renovation and expansion project designed by Randy Shull. Photograph by David Dietrich.

ASHEVILLE, NC.- Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, in Asheville, NC, completed the first phase of its expansion project with the renovation of its current facility led by artist and designer Randy Shull and BMCM+AC Board Chair J. Richard Gruber. The renovated gallery space reopened to the public on January 30, 2015, with an exhibition of work by Susan Weil, an alumnus of the profoundly influential Black Mountain College (BMC) (1933-57). The new Center for Black Mountain College Studies and redesigned orientation area are also open following the month-long renovation.

Visitors to the just-completed facility at 56 Broadway in Asheville's vibrant arts district encounter elements of BMC at the front door. To enter, they walk over a photographic image of Josef Albers imbedded in the concrete threshold. The influential artist, who taught at BMC from its establishment through 1949, is seen speaking with students along with his famous description of a teacher's essential role: "to open eyes."

Shull said, "Walking over the image is truly eye opening and provides an engaging way for visitors to begin their Museum experience even before entering the orientation center. The pristine gallery is designed to be flexible and includes moveable cases for display and storage. The passageway to the Studies Center in the rear is intentionally narrow to create a transition from the open gallery to a more intimate space for reading, research, and reflection."

In the orientation area, an original wooden sign from the College is suspended from a laminated wood canopy inspired by a feature of the BMC's pottery shed. Beneath the canopy-painted the same orange-red color incorporated in Albers's logo for BMC-books about the College are exhibited. The modular and moveable display system, made of Southern yellow pine, allows for special events, functional variation, and future growth.

Established in 1993, BMCM+AC celebrates the history and legacy of Black Mountain College and honors its role as a forerunner in progressive, interdisciplinary education with a focus on the arts. The College attracted an extraordinary roster of gifted individuals-many central to the emergence of Abstract Expressionism-including Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, Francine du Plessix Gray, Ray Johnson, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Charles Olson, Robert Rauschenberg, M.C. Richards, Cy Twombly, Peter Voulkos, Jonathan Williams, and many others whose impact on the arts continues today.

Materials in the new Studies Center serve to introduce newcomers to the College's story as well as provide seminal resources for well-versed enthusiasts. Window displays and wall text, multi-media encounters, and Bauhaus-inspired café-style seating are designed to connect with visitors of all ages.

Dr. Gruber, Board Chair, stated, "The entire BMCM+AC program including, most notably, our renovation and expansion, evokes the spirit of Black Mountain College. Randy Shull enthusiastically embraced the project and brought to his work meticulously considered design elements, materials, and historic details-constantly innovating and fabricating everything from light fixtures to floor treatments to furniture. Our visitors experience the Bauhaus aesthetic imported by faculty members such asAlbers, de Kooning, and Xanti Schawinksy who were central to the development of the College's pedagogy and, in the case of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, its physical space. We are very grateful for the support of the Windgate Charitable Foundation as we look to preserving and extending the legacy of this extraordinary time and place."

Phase two of the BMCM+AC's expansion project will more than double the current space and comprises a new 1,400-square-foot gallery and 800-square-foot storage area in a building across the street at 67 Broadway, owned by The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design. Scheduled to open in summer 2015, it will feature a temporary exhibitions gallery and create storage space for the Museum's growing collection of artwork and materials by BMC faculty and alumni. The original gallery space completed in phase one will then focus on rotating displays of materials and objects from the BMCM+AC collection and archive. The expansion also allows the BMCM+AC to extend its current schedule of programs.

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