THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 6 Vera Williams (Political activist and writer of Children Books)


The Longest Ride: Britt Robertson Red Carpet Movie Premiere Interview

Nicholas Sparks Project to Focus on Black Mountain College


Well this is odd/interesting/anodynely adverbial: Best-selling, “achingly tender” novelist Nicholas Sparks (author of Our Favorite Ryan Gosling Movie) is focusing on a new project about–wait for it–Black Mountain College! From, appropriately, Black Mountain News:

Sparks, writer of “Safe Haven,” “The Lucky One,” “The Notebook,” and “Nights in Rodanthe,” has turned his sights to the mountains for his latest novel, “The Longest Ride.”

Playing a key role in the parallel story of two couples is Black Mountain College, an experimental institution that from 1933-57 sought to push art and design to the forefront of American education.

A Sparks book and movie focusing on the college will remind the public of how the institution helped transform art and architecture, Alice Sebrell, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center program director, said.

“I think it’s exciting, because it is going to bring the story of Black Mountain College to a whole new audience,” Sebrell said.

The college had two campuses in Black Mountain. School officials rented the Blue Ridge Assembly conference center until 1941 then bought property just north of town. Now Camp Rockmont owns the land, on which some college buildings remain.

In the socially conservative 1940s and ‘50s, the college was a refuge for the American avant-garde, including artists and innovators such as Franz Kline, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, Robert Creeley, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, and M.C. Richards. During World War II, it was a haven for refugee European artists such as designers Josef and Anni Albers, who arrived from Germany.

Highly democratic and faculty-owned, the school considered the creative arts and practical responsibilities as equally important components to intellectual development.

In the Longest Ride, Sparks features two couples, one young and an older husband and wife, who visited the college annually for many years, said Sebrell, who read an advance electronic version of the book.

“They met and befriended some of the artists at the college. This is fictionalized, but it is loosely based on history. And they began buying art from those artists,” she said.

Posted in Poetry News on Friday, August 2nd, 2013 by Harriet Staff.

Author/Illustrator Vera B. Williams talks about her writing process.

Uploaded on Jul 30, 2009

Vera B. Williams discusses her writing process regarding her book, A Chair for my Mother. She also talks about her own mother and family and her influence on her writing.

My first post in this series was on the composer John Cage and my second post was on Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg who were good friend of CageThe third post in this series was on Jorge Fick. Earlier we noted that  Fick was a student at Black Mountain College and an artist that lived in New York and he lent a suit to the famous poet Dylan Thomas and Thomas died in that suit.

The fourth post in this series is on the artist  Xanti Schawinsky and he had a great influence on John Cage who  later taught at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College from 1936-1938 and Cage right after World War II. In the fifth post I discuss David Weinrib and his wife Karen Karnes who were good friends with John Cage and they all lived in the same community. In the 6th post I focus on Vera B. William and she attended Black Mountain College where she met her first husband Paul and they later  co-founded the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Vera served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. John Cage and several others from Black Mountain College also lived in the Community with them during the 1950’s.

John Cage pictured below at Gate Hill Cooperative Community around 1955:

Vera B. Williams Creates Community in Her Books

Vera Baker was born in Hollywood, California, on January 28, 1927. She and her family moved to New York City when she was quite young. Luckily for Vera, they lived near a studio space called Bronx House where she learned painting, writing, acting, and dance. When she was nine-years-old, one of her paintings, called “Yentas,” was put on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. She was filmed there explaining to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt the meaning behind her work. The Movietone film reel ran before the regular features at the movies. This, Vera recalled, made her quite a big shot in the neighborhood!

She attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Black Mountain was a very unusual college, begun by teachers who had fled the Nazis in the 1930s. Looking for a peaceful way to learn and live together, students and faculty studied the arts and practical crafts needed to be self-sufficient. Vera learned to plant corn, make butter, work a printing press, and build her own house. She also graduated with a degree in graphic arts and married a fellow student, Paul Williams. They lived at Gate Hill Cooperative with other graduates of Black Mountain College from 1953 to 1970. Through the years, Vera became involved in politics and demonstrated for non-violence and the rights of women and children.

Vera and her husband raised three children at Gate Hill, and she taught in the community school. After her divorce in 1970, she moved to Canada and lived on a houseboat in Vancouver while working as a teacher and a baker. She loved the Yukon River and took a 500-mile trip down it. Vera later captured much of the joy of her travels in the children’s book, Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe, which combines how-to information with the story of an amazing family adventure. This book won a Parents’ Choice Award for Illustration.

Books about Rosa and Her Family

Cover to A Chair for My MotherWhen Vera was growing up in Brooklyn, she and her family didn’t have a lot of money, especially nothing for any luxuries like nice furniture. A Chair for My Mother is based on the memory of her mother wishing for and wanting a new chair so much that it put the family finances in trouble as they struggled to pay for the chair in installments. In Vera’s book, she changed what happened to make it a warmer story. The mother, so tired from working all day, brings a big empty jar from the restaurant where she works. Over time, the jar fills up with little savings from here and there. When the chair is finally bought outright, Grandma, Rosa, and Mother all enjoy a rest on its plush and comforting cushions.

A Chair for My Mother won the Caldecott Honor in 1983. Vera has taken us back to visit Rosa and her family twice more. InSomething Special for Me, this time around the savings from the big jar will be used for something that Rosa wants. She finds the perfect gift, one that gives joy to herself and others. Music, Music for Everyone finds Rosa using her special gift to help raise money for her family when her grandmother is ill.

Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea

When Stringbean and his older brother take off (with their parents’ permission) on a trip from their home in the Heartland to the California Coast, Stringbean faithfully sends back postcards from all the strange and exciting places they visit along the way. Like Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe, Stringbean’s trip recreates the wonders and hardships of a family trip. Along the way, Stringbean grows up quite a bit and learns important things about his family’s past.

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart

This is another story pulled together from fragments of Vera’s childhood. Unlike her other writings, Vera has the sisters speak to us from simple poems. Plain and short, they carry the feelings and events of two young girls who need to look after each other. As in her Rosa books, the family is living through hard times.

Amber’s and Essie’s father has gone to jail, and their mother must work very hard to support them. Amber, the little sister, cannot really understand what has happened. Neither sister really knows whether or not life will ever be better or how they should feel about their father now. Amber Was Brave… has a lot of artistry to it. With only the barest of words which ring true to the thoughts of the young girls, the author manages to convey a world of hurt, love, and forgiving.


When Elana Rose Rosen and her mother first move to an apartment in New York City, “Lanny” is lonely for her father, her cousin, and her grandparents back in California. But with her beautiful blue and silver scooter, she finds the courage to try to make new friends. This book is written in Lanny’s own words with great honesty, giving full expression to her joy, jealousy, anger, and outrage. Brave and resourceful, Elana Rose Rosen is a terrific kid to get to know.

We own many of Vera B. Williams’ books in our library. Click your CRRL Library Card to reserve a book to pick up at your favorite branch. If you wish, you can contact the author at this address: Vera B. Williams, c/o Author Mail, Greenwillow Books, 105 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

Vera on the Web:


Black Mountain College: An Introduction….
From PBS, a little history behind the famous North Carolina school of the 30s and 40s that focused on liberal arts and communal living.


Vera B. Williams from Biography Resource Center and Who’s Who Database
Use your CRRL library card to access these articles from Contemporary Authors, Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, and St. James Guide to Children’s Writers.


Vera B. Williams

Vera B. Williams, born in 1927, didn’t illustrate her first picture book until 1975. But her path towards an artistic career began much earlier, when she was growing up in New York City in the 1930s and 40s. At the Bronx House, a local community center, she acted, danced, and painted. When Williams was 9 years old, one of her paintings was included in a WPA exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. She later graduated from New York City’s High School of Music and Art, and then graduated from the Black Mountain School in North Carolina with a degree in graphic arts.
Williams has pursued a wide variety of personal and professional interests throughout her life. She raised three children; she helped found an alternative community and school in New York; she ran a bakery in Ontario, canoed down 500 miles of the Yukon River, and has contributed her talents and time to political organization and activism. Williams’ life experiences, love of children, and social conscience shine through her fine collection of books for young readers

Vera Williams

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vera B. Williams
Born January 28, 1927 (age 88)[1]
Hollywood, California, USA[1]
Occupation Writer and illustrator
Nationality American
Period 1975-present
Genre Children’s literature, picture books
Notable works As writer:
It’s a Gingerbread House(1978)
Spouse Paul Williams (-1970)
Children Sarah

Vera B. Williams (born January 28, 1927) is an American children’s writer and illustrator. Her best known work, A Chair for My Mother, has won multiple awards and was featured on the children’s television show Reading Rainbow.[2] For her lifetime contribution as a children’s illustrator she was U.S. nominee in 2004 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest recognition available to creators of children’s books.[3] Additionally, she was awarded the 2009 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.[4]


Early life and education[edit]

Vera Baker was born January 28, 1927 in Hollywood, California. She has one sister, Naomi.[5] As a child, her family moved to the Bronx, New York, where her father was frequently absent during her early childhood. Encouraged by their parents to explore the arts, she studied at The High School of Music & Art[5] and Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she received her BFA in Graphic Art in 1949.[1]

Marriage and children[edit]

While at Black Mountain College, she married fellow student Paul Williams. The couple divorced in 1970. Together they had three children:

  • Sarah Williams
  • Jennifer Williams
  • Merce Williams

She has five grandchildren:

  • Hudson Williams
  • August Williams
  • William Babcock
  • Rebecca Babcock
  • Clare Babcock


Williams was a co-founder of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. She taught at alternative schools in New York and Ontario throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Following her divorce, she emigrated to Canada, where she committed to becoming a children’s author and illustrator. In 1975 she was invited by Remy Charlip to illustrate Hooray For Me, which she did while living on a houseboat in Vancouver.[5] She established a publishing relationship with Greenwillow Books that continues to this day. Today, Ms. Williams lives in New York City and remains active in local issues such as The House of Elder Artists[6] and participated in the 2007 PEN World Voices literary festival.[7]

Philosophical and political views[edit]

Ms. Williams has long supported nonviolent and nuclear disarmament causes. In 1981 she spent a month in Alderson Federal Prison Camp following arrest at a women’s peaceful blockade of the Pentagon.[8] She served on the executive committee of theWar Resisters League from 1984 to 1987.


As author[edit]

  • It’s a Gingerbread House (1978)
  • The Great Watermelon Birthday (1980)
  • Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe (1981)
  • A Chair for My Mother (1982)
  • Something Special for Me (1983)
  • Music, Music for Everyone (1984)
  • My Mother, Leah and George Sand (1986)
  • Cherries and Cherry Pits (1986)
  • Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea with Jennifer Williams (1988)
  • “More More More” Said the Baby (1990)
  • Scooter (1993)
  • Lucky Song (1997)
  • Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart (2001)
  • A Chair for Always (2009)



‘The Longest Ride’: Nicholas Sparks novel becomes a film


Two young lovers with polarized passions and conflicting ideals come across an elderly man, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire them.

Directed by George Tillman Jr., “The Longest Ride” centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke (played by Scott Eastwood), a former champion bull-rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia (Britt Robertson), a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world.

Their world is shaken when they both rescue an elderly widower named Ira (Jack Huston), who has been seriously injured in a crash. They befriend the old man and discover the details about his fascinating life and long marriage.

“The Longest Ride” is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Sparks.


‘The Longest Ride’ is something I’ve never done in film before,” Sparks said. “It’s really two stories in one. [The novel] has an epic quality that applies to both love stories. The love story between Ruth and Ira, which starts before World War II, is contrasted with the entirely different world of professional bull-riding.”

He said that what differentiated this film from the other adaptations of his work was its epic quality and the dual love story, of two stories coming together.

“When you meet the person with whom you fall in love, the feeling’s the same, whether you’re in the 1930s or in the present day,” he said. “Everybody goes through the same emotions. There’s universality to the way we feel, and that’s what I wanted to show. I think the fun of the film is trying to figure out how on earth these two stories are going to come together in the end.”

Sparks did more research for “The Longest Ride” than he had for any of his other novels.

“My explorations covered many areas I didn’t know anything about,” he explains. “I needed to find out what the art world was like in the ’30s and ’40s; what life was like for Jewish people in North Carolina in the 1930s; and the many facets of the Professional Bull Rider’s tour and its riders.”

Black Mountain College

Sparks research for the novel led him to Black Mountain College, which was the center of the modern art movement in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. Black Mountain College was founded in the ’30s as an experimental college, and came to define the Modern Art movement.

“Everyone from De Kooning to Rauschenberg was there,” Sparks said. “Robert De Niro’s father, another noted artist, attended Black Mountain College. There were very famous artists there, and if you look at the American modern art movement in the 1940s and 1950s, there were important intersections there with the great works of this century.”

“The Longest Ride” opens April 15 in cinemas nationwide, from 20th Century Fox, to be distributed by Warner Bros.




Related posts:

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 55 THE BEATLES (Part G, The Beatles and Rebellion) (Feature on artist Wallace Berman )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 54 THE BEATLES (Part F, Sgt Pepper’s & Eastern Religion) (Feature on artist Richard Lindner )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 53 THE BEATLES (Part E, Stg. Pepper’s and John Lennon’s search in 1967 for truth was through drugs, money, laughter, etc & similar to King Solomon’s, LOTS OF PICTURES OF JOHN AND CYNTHIA) (Feature on artist Yoko Ono)

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FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 50 THE BEATLES (Part B, The Psychedelic Music of the Beatles) (Feature on artist Peter Blake )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 49 THE BEATLES (Part A, The Meaning of Stg. Pepper’s Cover) (Feature on artist Mika Tajima)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 48 “BLOW UP” by Michelangelo Antonioni makes Philosophic Statement (Feature on artist Nancy Holt)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 47 Woody Allen and Professor Levy and the death of “Optimistic Humanism” from the movie CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Plus Charles Darwin’s comments too!!! (Feature on artist Rodney Graham)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 46 Friedrich Nietzsche (Featured artist is Thomas Schütte)

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! Part 21 (Dr. Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State, “…most scientists don’t think enough about God…There’s no evidence that we need any supernatural hand of God”)

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! PART 20 (Carolyn Porco, director of CICLOPS, Like Darwin she gave up her Christianity because of Evolution & is obsessed both with the Beatles & the thought that the human race may end!!)

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RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! PART 18 (Brian Harrison, Historian, Oxford University, Charles Darwin also wrestled with the issue of Biblical Archaeology and the accuracy of the Bible)

March 24, 2015 – 12:57 am



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