With just a few minutes before our tour of the Moog factory, it was decided that a drink was in order. Luckily, a quick survey of the vinyl and guitar shops on N. Lexington also yielded a bar with afternoon hours.
A Symbiotic Colony
Maybe you’ve had kombucha. The thought of different species in a “symbiotic colony” is a little much for some. The reminder of that colony in a sometimes gooey or lichenous form is too much for others. Anyway, those taps weren’t beer taps. And, it was delicious. Buchi – local to Asheville – is delightfully effervescent on draft, and it is served without the lichenous surprises at the bottom.
Beautiful, Wonderful, and Handmade Things
It was with effervescent delight that we kicked off the visit to Moog headquarters. Yes, there’s a store there. More importantly, there are Americans actually building things at Moog.
And, they are beautiful, wonderful, and important things: Electronic musical instruments.
I could go on for hours about Moog. Thanks to Bob Moog and the Moog brand, we have music as we’ve known it since the 60’s: The sonic climax in “Lucky Man,” important chunks of Sun Ra’s flavor of Afrofuturism, countless themes and sound effects. Dubstep. The reason that “Here Comes The Sun” sounds different than other Beatles songs.
And still, they make these instruments by hand in Asheville. On this particular day, clouds were literally over the factory, but inside, there was another cloud – that of the loss of another music icon, Keith Emerson.
History and Perspective
Back at the Grove Park Inn – I’m sorry, the Omni Grove Park – the evening was already in full swing with the ever-present music of the Great Hall. Smaller halls feature portraits of distinguished guests, annually selected. Some years were apparently bigger than others – I spotted both Eleanor Roosevelt and Richard Simmons.
Later that night I tried to explain to an Uber driver that our view was over the entrance/exit for the parking garage. She tried to convince me that this was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s favorite spot, so that he could monitor the comings and goings of the guests.
I must have had the wrong parking deck.
The centerpiece of this trip with Atlanta Contemporary donors was to explore the story and site of Black Mountain College. Atlanta Contemporary makes guided trips like this available to its donors, and these excursions provide unique experiences with sights and stories you might otherwise miss. Like a trip to Hale County, Alabama that we took some time ago.
In today’s era of academic inflation, Black Mountain College is an almost unbelievable story: Some of the world’s greatest creative minds of the 20th century congregated just east of Asheville in an effort to explore new ways of learning and creating.
On top of that, they actually had some graduates.
Two Views of the Past
Black Mountain College hosted the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Willem De Kooning, Josef Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, and dozens of others during its time.
The story is kept alive in downtown Asheville by Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. They show Black Mountain College related work as well as house a collection. In addition, the Asheville Art Museum houses works by Black Mountain College artists, and they highlight them in their exhibitions.
Meanwhile at the actual site on Lake Eden, about twenty minutes east, the former studies building stands as a stark reminder of the school’s role in shaping countless creative paths.
Other structures remain. There’s the dining hall, where the residents put on plays and performances. Beneath the studies building, two frescoes by Jean Charlot are weathered, but still visible.
The campus is now home to a kids’ camp. I’ve read a few accounts regarding the experience there. It was intimate. It was experimental. It was hippie dippy before its time. Being part of the community actually required labor, sacrifice, and personal investment.
Having the opportunity to walk the campus now, you get the distinct feeling that life would not have been easy by our standards at all.
But, there would have been a spirit, a creative drive, that would keep the residents moving forward in their purpose. What is that? What does it look and feel like? Where are the Black Mountain Colleges of our day?
They’re out there. Or are they?
Sure, the arts are alive in Asheville, but right now, beer is the bigger draw. Fun fact: Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other city in the US. But, if kombucha or beer isn’t your thing, there are any number of drinking and dining establishments from moonshine cocktails to sunset cocktails. Then, there’s The Crow & Quill, membership required.
And there are the handmade goods. Amid the sound of a distant drum circle, you can shop for any handmade leathergoods you might require. While waiting for brunch, you too can discover a fantastic shop with vintage belt buckles and handmade wallets, keychains, belts, and checkbooks. Which is nice. It’s real, man. And it’s there waiting for you.
Meanwhile if you find another kombucha bar or an artisan knot shop, let me know.