Rural Avant-Garde: The Mountain Lake Experience Opening Reception

Friday, November 15, 2019 - 5:30pm to 8:00pm

Contemporary art, interdisciplinary research communities, and traditional Appalachian culture converge in "Rural Avant-Garde: The Mountain Lake Experience," an exhibition showcasing the collaborative creative works that emerged from the Mountain Lake Workshop series, which spanned four decades.

Founded by artist and scholar Ray Kass in 1980 and co-organized with influential art critic Dr. Donald B. Kuspit, Dr. Howard Risatti, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), the workshops integrated the arts and sciences in a dynamic experimental creative process that pushed past the traditional boundaries of art, dance, performance, and theater. Community centered from its inception, it demonstrated the relevance of the arts across disciplines, and foregrounds the present-day emphasis arts organizations place on social and participatory learning. Anchored in the idea that artist and audience can work dynamically together to create expressive, process-based art, the workshops ambitiously proposed that every community can create its own "high" art.

The workshop’s annual convening in rural southwest Virginia underscored the wealth of creative value found in traditionally underserved rural locales, and supported Kuspit’s call for contemporary art’s decentralization from urban centers. Local residents engaged in animated discussions of contemporary art theory with Donald Kuspit, Clement Greenberg, and Howard Rissatti. They worked side-by-side with leading contemporary artists such as John Cage, Cy Twombly, Howard Finster, and Sally Mann in the creation of experimental works of art. This exhibition is comprised of such works, many of which are now in museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Asian Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Several works, including large-scale installations, remain in Virginia at the VMFA, the Taubman Museum of Art, the Mountain Lake Workshop Archival Collection, and the LCVA. The exhibition reflects the expansive nature of MLW, and includes the work of 20 living artists in addition to those who have passed away, such as Cy Twombly, John Cage, and Howard Finster.

The exhibition will be on view November 16, 2019 – March 8, 2020, with an opening reception on November 15 from 5:30-8p.m. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue (published by Longwood University in association with the University of Virginia Press) provide an important record of MLW within the context of contemporary creative practice. Complementary programs, carefully structured to replicate the dynamic, collaborative explorations that MLW nurtured, will provide important context for these nationally significant experimental art happenings.

The LCVA will host a series of free and public workshops and lectures inspired by the works found in Rural Avant-Garde: The Mountain Lake Experience. For more information about these events, please visit

This exhibition is sponsored by the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, and supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and Virginia Commission for the Arts.

LCVA exhibitions and programs are made possible through the generous support of the Wells Fargo Foundation, the Walter J. Payne Foundation, Anne Carter & Walter R. Robbins, Jr. Foundation, the E.B. Duff Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, Southside Electric Cooperative, Walmart, Julie Kline Dixon and Guy Dixon, Navona & David Hart, Real Living Cornerstone, Helton House, Haley Auto Mall, The Woodland, Inc., Candice Jamison Dowdy ’69 and Charles H. Dowdy III + Northwestern Mutual, Foster Fuels, Linda Arthur, Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, and Longwood University Office of Alumni and Career Services.


North Main Street

The LCVA is a 20,000-square-foot exhibition center featuring two rotating galleries that have shown works of worldwide importance, including the award-winning Reflecting Centuries of Beauty: The Rowe Collection of Chinese Art, the nationally traveled Pre-Columbian Art from the Mississippi Museum of Art, and a steady stream of solo and group exhibitions for nationally known artists such as Faith Ringgold, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Lesley Dill, David Macaulay, and Kojo Griffin.

The LCVA also dedicates one gallery to a permanent exhibition of stunning African art, part of the Ziegler and Brumfield Collections of African Art. In 1997 Robert Ziegler, a longtime resident of Africa, established this collection with twenty-six important pieces. In 1999, Thomas and Donna Brumfield donated an additional eighty-eight works of African art. The collection includes an impressive array of statues, masks, drums, baskets, and garments, covering four geographical areas, twelve countries, and twenty-seven cultures. A catalog of this collection, Telling Objects: African Art from the Permanent Collection of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, is available.

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