This small fine and liberal arts college lived briefly, but vibrantly, from 1933-1957. Nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, it was the place where artists of every discipline, color and religion came to learn. They learned from each other, fought for their ideals and forever changed the trajectory of Modern Art. Most of today’s greatest artists can trace a straight line back to someone who either taught at or attended Black Mountain College. Tory’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection is inspired by the spirit of Black Mountain’s artistic ideals — those unburdened by rules and restrictions. We gathered some of our favorite facts about this influential school.

The Mother of All Necessity:

Black Mountain College was created out of necessity. It was founded as a progressive, experimental art school. And, importantly, it was a safe haven for many artists fleeing the rise of Nazism in Germany in the early 1930s, and specifically, the Nazi-forced closure of the famous Bauhaus school.

Who’s Who:

The list of faculty and students is unparalleled: Josef and Anni Albers, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, R. Buckminster Fuller, Cy Twombly, Ruth Asawa, Jacob Lawrence and Robert Motherwell.

Not Your Average College Experience:

Students decided for themselves when they were ready to graduate. This was in line with the school’s stance on grades, pre-reqs and degrees…none existed.

All Together Now:

Students and faculty helped keep the college day-to-day going. They gardened, farmed, served food, cleaned up, etc. They even carried and mixed concrete and built new buildings on campus.

Love was in the Air:

Many either came to BMC with their soulmates or found them there. Student Ruth Asawa married fellow student Albert Lanier…Anni Albers gifted her black fabric for her wedding gown and R. Buckminster Fuller designed her wedding ring. Choreographer Merce Cunningham and his long-time partner and lover John Cage both taught. Robert Rauschenberg married fellow student Susan Weil; later he would bring his lover Cy Twombly to the school.

Jim Crowe Isn’t Welcome Here:

While North Carolina was solidly under racist Jim Crowe laws in the 1930s, 40s and early 50s, the college invited black artists (and Asian and any other culture) to perform, attend and teach. It wasn’t a perfect desegregation of a school, but it broke boundaries. A decade before desegregation was federally mandated, Black Mountain was the first all-white Southern college to admit a black student.

What’s Einstein Got to Do With It?

The scientist and Nobel Prize-winner was a member of the college’s Board of Directors.