Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Mary Caroline Richards papers
Date (inclusive): 1928-1994
Collection number: 960036
33 linear feet
Getty Research Institute
Special Collections and Visual Resources
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688
Abstract: Papers document Richards's work as a scholar and teacher of English literature, her work as a poet, potter, and translator,
and finally her lectures, workshops, and writings in art education. The papers emphasize the 1940s and 1950s, the period during
which Richards taught at Black Mountain College.
Language: Collection material in English
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Mary Caroline Richards papers, 1928-1994, Getty Research Institute,
Research Library, Accession no. 960036.
Acquired in 1996.
Philip Curtis (with assistance from Kelly Nipper) arranged,
processed and described the collection from 1996 to June 1997. He completed
this finding aid in June 1997.
Separated books were incorporated into the Getty Research
Institute Library, general collection.
Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community. E.P.
Dutton and Company, New York 1972.
Richards, Mary Carolyn.
Crossing Point: Selected Talk and Writings. Wesleyan
University Press, Middletown, Connecticut 1966.
Mary Caroline ("M.C.") Richards, self-described "teacher, writer,
lecturer, potter, poet," was born in 1916, and received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Berkeley
in 1942. She taught English both at Berkeley and at the
University of Chicago before joining the faculty of Black Mountain College in
Asheville, North Carolina in 1945, a school that had a formative
role in postwar American art. She and her husband Bill Levi became
prominent members of the Black Mountain community; she in writing and
literature, he in philosophy and as rector from 1947-1948. In 1948, Richards
and her students started the Black Mountain Press which they used for literary
publications and to print Richards's first volume of poetry. In that same year
she met the composer John Cage, who had just joined the summer faculty and who
that summer produced Erik Satie's play
Le Piége de Méduse, performed by Buckminster
Fuller and Merce Cunningham, directed by Arthur Penn, and translated by M.C.
Richards. Richards served as chair of the faculty from 1949-1951, participating
actively in the many conflicts between various factions in administration and
faculty. She was instrumental in bringing the poet Charles Olson to the faculty
in 1951. He served as rector from 1953 until the college closed in 1956.
After the summer session of 1951, Richards resigned and left for New
York City with pianist and Cage associate David Tudor. She returned to Black
Mountain the subsequent summer to participate in an event that came to be
known as the first "happening," organized by John Cage and also involving
Robert Rauschenberg, Charles Olson, David Tudor, and Merce Cunningham. During
her time in New York City she translated, at Tudor's suggestion, Antonin
Le Théatre et son double, which was published by
Grove Press in 1958 to wide acclaim. In 1954 Richards, Tudor, and Cage, among
other former Black Mountain faculty, became a part of the Stony Point community
in upstate New York, founded by the architect Paul Williams. In 1964, the same
year she left Stony Point, her book
Centering: in pottery, poetry and the person was published
by Wesleyan University Press, followed in 1973 by
Crossing point: nine Easter letters on the art of
and in 1980 by
Toward wholeness: Rudolf Steiner education in America.
These books reveal a very personal view of the development of the individual
through art and life and, combined with her extensive teaching and lecturing
throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, were widely influential in the arts education
and craft communities. Mary Caroline Richards died in 1999 in New York City.
Scope and Content of Collection
The collected papers of Mary Caroline Richards gather together a
lifetime of work in several artistic disciplines and touch upon many others.
Richards's career saw a progression from scholarship and teaching in English
literature, to freelance work as a poet, potter, author, and translator, to
work in arts education through lectures and workshops. During this time she
established close relationships with a large number of people, as may be seen
through her correspondence, which is remarkable for its intimacy and warmth. Her correspondents include representatives
virtually every artistic discipline and many of the major American art
movements of the 1950s through the 1980s.
The papers give special emphasis to the period
during which Richards served on the faculty of Black Mountain College in the
1940s and 1950s. Here began many of the associations which connect her to the
music and art worlds, through friendships with David Tudor, Lou Harrison and
John Cage in music, Merce Cunningham and Remy Charlip in dance, Charles Olson,
Robert Creeley, and Robert Duncan (the so-called "Black Mountain Poets") in
literature, and Lyle Bongé and Joe Fiore in the visual arts. Her
involvement with theater began at Black Mountain College with her translation
of plays by Cocteau and Satie, and continued after her departure when she
became the first English translator of Artaud, acting on an interest which
began at Black Mountain.
Included in the collection are manuscripts, correspondence, diaries and notebooks,
books, photographs, slides, clippings, posters, audio tapes, and artwork (including oil paintings and drawings in pencil,
ink, chalk and
Black Mountain College
(Black Mountain, N.C.)
Dance—Study and teaching
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts
C. G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology
Poetry—Study and teaching
Pottery—Study and teaching
Steiner, Rudolph, 1861-1925—Philosophy
Genres and Forms of Materials
Barfield, Owen, 1898-
Blum, Fred H.
Boyd, John M.
Duncan, Robert Edward,
Fairbanks, Jonathan L.
Forczek, Leszek, 1946-
Harrison, Lou, 1917-
Herlihy, James Leo
Robertson, Seonaid M. (Seonaid Mairi)
Centering in poetry, pottery and the person