Richards, Mary Caroline

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American poet, educator and potter Mary Caroline ("M.C.") Richards taught literature and drama at Black Mountain College in North Carolina from 1945 to 1951.

During her time at Black Mountain College, she wrote her first volume of poetry, Poems, which was published at the school's Black Mountain Press in 1948. Later Richards wrote poetry and essays with a connection to creative arts and spirituality, including Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (1964) and Opening Our Moral Eye: Essays, Talks, and Poems Embracing Creativity and Community (1996).

In the early 1960s she began teaching artistic classes that brought pottery and other forms of creativity together. Richards was awarded the Holy Names Medal from Fort Wright College in 1974, and was made a fellow of the Collegium of American Craftspersons of the American Crafts Council in 1976.

Born July 13, 1916, in Weiser, Idaho, Mary Caroline Richards died on September 17, 1999, at Camphill Village, in Kimberton, Pennsylvania.

Wanda Shult studied writing with Richards during the 1947-1948 academic year at Black Mountain College.

"M(ary) C(aroline) Richards." Contemporary Authors Online. (reproduced in Gale Biography In Context). (accessed July 2011). "M.C. Richards, Poet, Potter and Essayist, Dies at 83." The New York Times. (accessed July 2011). Ilya Bolorowsky letter to Reverend Carrol Leland Shult. William Reese Company. Catalogue no. 286, item #56. (accessed July 2011).

From the guide to the Mary Caroline Richards letter to Wanda Shult, 1948 October 12, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Biographical/Historical Note

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 Artaud's 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 education 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.

From the guide to the Mary Caroline Richards papers, 1928-1994, (Getty Research Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Mary Caroline Richards papers, 1928-1994 Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Mary Caroline Richards letter to Wanda Shult, 1948 October 12 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn David Tudor papers, 1884-1998 (bulk 1940-1996) Getty Research Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Barfield, Owen, 1898- person
associatedWith Berensohn, Paulus person
associatedWith Bilderback, Carolyn person
associatedWith Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Blum, Fred H. person
associatedWith Bongé, Lyle person
associatedWith Boyd, John M. person
associatedWith Cable, Herb person
associatedWith Cage, John person
associatedWith C. G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology corporateBody
associatedWith Charlip, Remy person
associatedWith Conner, Julia person
associatedWith Cunningham, Merce person
associatedWith Duncan, Robert Edward, 1919- person
associatedWith Fairbanks, Jonathan L. person
associatedWith Forczek, Leszek, 1946- person
associatedWith Frances, Molly person
associatedWith Geiger, Nicola person
associatedWith Green, Jesse person
associatedWith Harrison, Lou, 1917- person
associatedWith Haystack Mountain School of Crafts corporateBody
associatedWith Herlihy, James Leo person
associatedWith Higgins, Dick, 1938- person
associatedWith Iozia, John person
associatedWith James, Charity person
associatedWith Kazanis, Barbara person
associatedWith Lane, Mervin person
associatedWith Mac Low, Jackson person
associatedWith Olson, Charles person
associatedWith Robertson, Seonaid M. (Seonaid Mairi) person
correspondedWith Shult, Wanda person
correspondedWith Shult, Wanda, correspondent. person
associatedWith Steiner, Rudolph, 1861-1925 person
associatedWith Supree, Burton person
associatedWith Tassencourt, Shirley person
associatedWith Tudor, David, 1926- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Dance--Study and teaching
Poets, American--20th century--Correspondence
Pottery--Study and teaching
Art, American--20th century
Woman educators, American--20th century--Correspondence
Art--Study and teaching--United States
Poetry--Study and teaching




Ark ID: w6wv10v3

SNAC ID: 48843316