There was so much communal magic created here this summer that sustains us and pushes us to build a better Black Mountain School. We are so grateful to each teacher, student, and staff member that was here this summer for their unique contributions. For those of you who were here, we hope you will not forget all of the good in the experience, and can begin to trust that we are fighting to keep that good, and working tirelessly to eradicate the bad.
We hope that we can take what we have learned to make a safer, more welcoming, and more supportive environment moving forward. We know that we have made mistakes this year that need to be addressed. We understand that because of our mistakes many of you think that we aren't interested in having a community that is diverse, which couldn’t be further from our intentions. It stings because we know that these mistakes were due to our using an approach that was too idealistic.
When we began planning for our first year, we were excited about the idea of an application process that was unlike those of traditional institutions. We made our application such that we had no idea of what our community would look like until the day everyone arrived. We deeply regret how short sighted this was, and from day one we recognized that this application method was a problem. We chose to avoid many traditional parameters by being blind to applicant’s educational background, location, gender, criminal record, and race. We thought that we would be offering a process that was fair, which we now realize was naive.
We also know that many of you take issue with Chelsea Ragan’s work, which was shown as a part of a student organized exhibition on the second to last night. We sincerely apologize that there wasn't more of a space for discussion about this difficult work. We thought that by Chelsea offering to have one-on-one conversations with people, that was the best way to offer a dialogue without interfering with the last day of classes and final events. In hindsight, we see that putting our community in the position to reach out to her, instead of providing a safe space for group discussion, that we weren’t creating enough (or the right kind of) space.
We recognize that given Chelsea’s role as founder and driving force for the school, as well as the energies that she has put into our first session, that her work is intrinsically tied to the school. She has heard the great deal of feedback and is taking time to process the perception of her work. She is processing and preparing a statement about her intentions and how they align with the perception of her work. We are open to facilitating a healthy, constructive conversation, but we feel that another social media discussion is not the best space.
Moving forward, we are committed to being more intentionally inclusive. We aim to be an alternative to the broken higher education system, which is a symptom of a broken society. We know that programs of intentional inclusivity in higher education, where they still exist, are under constant threat. We are committed to building relationships with organizations serving diverse populations. Our hope is that our community, unlike higher education and the “art world”, will be a wider reflection of the art making community as a whole. We want for BMS to be accessible to anyone who wants access. Moving forward, inclusivity is our first priority, as it should have been all along.
We want to continue to learn, we want to grow, and we want for your voice to be heard if you want for it to be heard. We are a community that welcomes constructive critique, no matter how difficult it may be.
We hope that there is space for understanding, space for forgiveness, and space for growth.