Black Mountain College Case: Transformation Trends in Art Education in the First Half of the 20th century

Jana Migašová


In the 19th century, a gradual reform of art education began, which achieved its peak in the 1930s. This process manifested itself in the form of schools with an explicit anti-academic spirit – the Bauhaus in Europe and Black Mountain College in the United States. In this paper, I contend that such attempt at reform has never repeated again after the Black Mountain College case, where the combination of John Dewey’s educational principles, Josef Albers’ peculiar conception of art instruction, and the college founders’ ideas concerning the essentiality of art for contemporary democratic societies created a unique environment for the development of an experimental form of art education. Examining this innovation with regard to the current situation of teaching art and the humanities, I argue that - despite a process of reform lasted more than a hundred years - art education still manifests residues of the old, conservative academic spirit, while art schools show features of exclusivity or even elitism. The pursuit for a wholesome social position of art, on the other hand, was the most striking endeavour of many brilliant thinkers in 19th and 20th century (e.g. Semper, Morris, Lichtwark, Dewey, Albers), something that art educators and art theoreticians of the 21st century must take this into a serious consideration.


Black Mountain College; Josef Albers; art education; learning by doing; perception; ethics

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ESPES. The Slovak Journal of Aesthetics (ISSN 1339-1119) is published biannually by Faculty of Arts, University of Presov, Slovakia and the Society for Aesthetics in Slovakia

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