At the 10th Annual Black Mountain College ReVIEWING conference (September 2018), I moderated a panel with three innovative makerspace leaders — Adam Rogers (NCSU), David Romito (UNC), and Lauren Di Monte (U of Rochester). We talked about how the modern university makerspace is a continuation of the interdisciplinary hands-on educational philosophy that guided the Bauhaus art school in Germany (1919-1933) and Black Mountain College in Black Mountain, North Carolina (1933-1957). Responding to quotes gathered from BMC student and teacher interviews, memoirs, essays, and other artifacts, we connected the voices of the past with the voices of the present to discuss everything from the challenges of implementing Neo-Bauhaus pedagogical philosophies to whether a 3D printed pot is still pottery.
The conference was hosted at UNC Asheville, September 28-30, 2018. This year’s focus was the Black Mountain College Summer Art and Music Institutes, summer programs that brought together creative artists, designers, and happening makers like the composer John Cage, dancer Merce Cunningham, poets Charles Olson and Robert Creeley, designer R. Buckminster Fuller, painters Willem and Elaine de Kooning, and too many others to list here. It was “galaxy of talent,” as painter Ray Johnson described it, gathered to, as Martin Duberman said, break down the false differentiation between “curricular” and “extracurricular.”
Below is the abstract for our panel and brief bios of our panelists with links to the makerspaces in which they carry on the work of providing students an open opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary projects in the tradition of Black Mountain College.
The Makerspace as 21st Century Bauhaus: A Black Mountain College in Every University
The modern university makerspace carries on the mission of Black Mountain College and its Bauhaus roots by providing a space where students and faculty can explore interdisciplinary projects both as part of degree programs and in shorter, non-credit workshops and project-based programs. Makerspaces provide students an opportunity to learn traditional crafts like sewing and woodworking, modern methods like 3D printing and digital design, and the creative use of microcontrollers and other computer technologies – providing a combination of art and science, theory and hands-on skills. In this discussion with members of three university makerspace programs, we will highlight the similarities between the modern makerspace and BMC from the challenges of finding a space (and then, sometimes, having to find another), how to engage faculty and students from multiple disciplines, how to build a sustainable community of interdisciplinary studies, the relationship between the business of making (or sustaining such a place) while retaining the freedom to pursue esoteric aesthetic adventures, and even how some modern technologies like 3D printing are more like hands-on crafts like pottery than people may imagine. We will discus similarities and differences in the well-established makerspaces at NC State (NCSU Makerspace) and UNC (BeAM makerspaces) and a newer space at the University of Rochester (TinkerSpace) with three people working in those programs whose own backgrounds in visual arts, biology, and cultural anthropology are as diverse as the cultures they help to create.
Head of Making & Innovation Studio, NC State University
North Carolina State University Libraries Makerspace
Adam Rogers is an innovative, user-focused librarian who works at the intersection of public services and new technologies. In his role as Head of Making & Innovation Studio for the NCSU Libraries, he directs the library’s Makerspace program, which includes spaces at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library and the D.H. Hill Library, and makes 3D printing, 3D scanning, laser cutting, and electronics prototyping tools accessible to all at NC State.
Science Librarian, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill)
Kenan Science Library, BeAM Makerspace
David Romito is a science and makerspace librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He works with students, faculty, and staff in all disciplines, helping them enrich their research and learning experience with technologies such as 3D printing, electronics, and virtual reality.
Lauren Di Monte
Director of Research Initiatives, University of Rochester Libraries
River Campus Libraries TinkerSpace
Lauren Di Monte is the Director of Research Initiatives at the University of Rochester where she works to engage and support faculty in interdisciplinary research. In 2017, she founded the library’s TinkerSpace with workshops that included such diverse skills as creative coding with microcontrollers to basic electronics skills like soldering and data science skills like data visualization and creative coding projects. In the 2018 academic year, the TinkerSpace program will expand from the River Campus Libraries to include workshops in the Rettner Fabrication Studio, part of the new Roland Rettner Hall for Media Arts and Innovation.
Musical Maker / Experimental Psychologist / Data Scientist
Musical Circuits (aka, where you are now)
Elliot Inman has led workshops in electronics and creative coding on topics ranging from basic electronics and Arduino programming to Fast Fourier Analysis, 8-bit chip synths, MIDI controllers, and the Internet of Things. He developed and led the “Musical Circuits” series as Maker-in-Residence at UNC (spring 2016) and “Quantification: The Art of Making Data” workshop series at NC State (fall 2016). At Moogfest (2017, 2018) and Knobcon (2016), he led workshops on experimental musical instrument design. He is an active participant in the maker faire scene, having participated in Burlington, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Rochester. He earned his undergraduate degrees in English and Psychology at North Carolina State University and his PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Kentucky, completing his masters thesis on text processing and a dissertation on visual perception and learning. He works for a leading analytics software company designing data mining and data visualization software. He first encountered Black Mountain College as an undergraduate at NC State when he discovered the Black Mountain Review and, in particular, the work of Cage and Cunningham — surprised to discover that such a utopia had once existed so close to home.
This year’s ReVIEWING conference was held at the University of North Carolina Asheville campus. While Google can provide perhaps more detailed views of Asheville from street-level to satellite, no one has illustrated Asheville more accurately than Willem de Kooning.
~ WEI 2018