Beat Visions and the Counterculture explores the ideas and imagery of the Beat Generation and its influence on 1960s counterculture and beyond. Starting in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Beat movement prized authenticity, spontaneity, spirituality, and, above all, experience. Although not overtly political, the Beats challenged social norms and consistently provoked authority, pushing boundaries in both their lives and their art. In their experimental writings, artworks, and other activities, the Beats sought to transcend conformist society and to attain what was frequently called a “new consciousness”—a liberated sense of self-expression, spiritual insight, and interpersonal connection that would form the basis of the youth culture of the 1960s.

Drawn from the extensive holdings of Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press, Beat Visions features rare and one-of-a-kind items ranging from handwritten notes to personal snapshots to a clipping of Allen Ginsberg’s beard. In addition to the major Beat authors and visual artists associated with the Beats, Beat Visions also examines musicians, artists, and activists from the 1960s—including Bob Dylan and the Beatles—whose personal and artistic ties to the Beats provided the inspiration to open up new spaces for creative freedom and political dissent.

Beat Visions is organized by Guest Curator Stephen Petersen, Ph.D., in consultation with Special Collections and Museums staff.

We would like to acknowledge Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton, DE) and Lead Graffiti (Newark, DE) for their support of "Beat Visions."  Copies of the following two poetry broadsides, printed letterpress at Lead Graffiti, can be obtained by sending an email to  Ted Joans, The Wild Spirit of Kicks: In Memory of Jack Kerouac (2020) and Bob Kaufman, Believe, Believe (2020).

The exhibition will be on view for the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters. It will be closed during the University of Delaware's winter break.