THS Quarterly Event, April 20, 2016


Artist Megan Rice is the featured speaker at the Topanga Historical Society’s April 20th program at the Topanga Community House. Her presentation, “Jack and Barbara Rice: Students of Black Mountain College”, will be based on her book Black Mountain College; My Creation Myth which describes the deep and lasting influence Black Mountain College had on her parents.

Founded in 1933, the school was a renowned experimental college that placed inquiry, discussion and experimentation at the center of its artful curriculum. Many well known artists, poets, musicians and dancers taught and performed there.

Those interested in knowing more about the school’s history can visit the Hammer Museum’s current exhibition “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 which is on view now until May 15. The extensive show features many works by Black Mountain College students and teachers including John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Olson and Peter Voulkos.

Even before they had met Jack and Barbara were interested in Black Mountain College which Jack had learned about from a fellow paratrooper and Barbara from a magazine article. In 1948 shortly after their marriage they drove from California to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and enrolled in the school that was near Asheville. They spent two years there until Jack’s G.I. bill ran out, and they returned to Los Angeles. In 1956 they moved to Topanga where they bought a one room cabin with an outhouse, and no water or electricity.

Megan writes “Daddy tore out the walls, put up beams, and scrawled literary quotes on them with carpenter’s chalk.” In time the rustic structure became a distinctive two story craftsman style house where Jack and Barbara raised their four children, Megan, Anthea, Caitlin and Aran, and welcomed their wide circle of friends. Megan recalls sitting at the dinner table with her parents’ guests when the conversation was “Black Mountain this, Black Mountain that” and knew “there was clearly great excitement associated with the stories.”

To support his family Jack turned to stone masonry because it was, Megan writes, “ the closest thing to sculpture.” For the next four decades Jack worked with stone, building magnificent fireplaces which Megan estimates number roughly sixty in Topanga alone. Slides of Jack’s work will be included in the presentation, and Randy Just, Jack’s employee of many years, and an accomplished Topanga craftsman in his own right, will contribute colorful memories and insights.

Barbara too devoted herself to artistic expression. Besides caring for her family, raising goats and chickens and tending her vegetable garden, she wrote poetry, often drawing inspiration during her hikes in Red Rock Canyon. She always carried a pencil and index cards ready to jot down phrases that came to her. Examples of her poetry will be read during the presentation

Come at 7:00 p.m. for our community potluck. Bring your best dish. The presentation starts at 8:00 p.m. Organic coffee, tea and lemon water will be provided. The Community House is located at 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Signed copies of Megan’s book will be available for purchase as will copies of The Topanga Story Expanded Edition. The program is free and everyone is invited. We will pass the hat to defray the new Community House charges.

Posted on: April 16, 2016Topanga Historical Society