M. C. Richards

M. C. (Mary Caroline) Richards (1916 – 1999) was a poet, potter, painter, essayist, dancer, translator, and teacher. She was born in Weiser, Idaho, but grew up in Portland, Oregon attending Reed College and receiving a PhD from the University of California in Berkeley, both schools known (even then) for their unorthodox teaching methods. Richards joined the faculty at Black Mountain College in 1945 and was the only woman on the faculty with a terminal degree in the humanities. Richards was immersed in teaching, writing, theater, dance, and pottery; she was also the founder of the influential Black Mountain Review. In 1949, Richards became the chair of the faculty at Black Mountain and devoted herself to the growth and enrichment of the Black Mountain Community as a whole. She played an essential role in maintaining the community’s balance in the wake of Josef and Anni Albers’ resignation in 1949 and before the rise of Charles Olson as the college’s leader in 1953. Also notable, Richards was among those who participated in the 1952 Happening at Black Mountain College titled, Theater Piece No. 1, a multi-media experimental performance conceived by John Cage and David Tudor.

Richard’s investment in Black Mountain led to a lifelong commitment to communal living, Along with Karen Karnes, David Weinrib, David Tudor, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Paul and Vera Williams, Richard left Black Mountain to start the Gate Hill Cooperative, an experiment integrating art, family and community. At Gate Hill, Richards and Karnes shared a pottery studio. From 1968 until her death, Richards taught at the University of Creation Spirituality in California, where faculty included artists, scientists, ecological and social justice activists, religious practitioners from Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Native American, Sufi and Hindu traditions. Richards wrote a number of poetry chapbooks and collection and books on pottery. Her most well known publication is Centering: On Pottery, Poetry and the Person first published in 1964 and reprinted in 1989. The book continues to enjoy a cult following among poets and craftspeople.

Renowned potter, Cynthia Bringle

discusses her relationship with M.C. Richards

 Click here for a letter from MC Richards to John Andrew Rice