The MacDowell Colony 

Frequently Asked Questions
Edward MacDowell and Marian

What is the mission of the MacDowell Colony?
The mission of the MacDowell Colony is to provide a retreat where highly talented creative artists can find the natural beauty, solitude, freedom from distraction, and companionship among peers that will lead to their finest work.

What kinds of artists are at MacDowell?
Writers, visual artists, composers, filmmakers, interdisciplinary artists, and architects come from all parts of the United States and from many other countries.

When was the MacDowell Colony founded?
The Colony was incorporated as the Edward MacDowell Association in May 1907.

When did the first Colonists come? Who were they?
The first Colonists came in the summer of 1907: Helen and Mary Mears. Helen, a sculptor who had been a student of Augustus St. Gaudens, had made a bas-relief of Edward MacDowell in 1906. Mary was a writer.

How many artists have worked at the MacDowell Colony?
Nearly 4,500 artists have used studios at the Colony. More than 200 arrive each year; of these about half are new and half have been to the Colony.

Who are some of the famous people who have been to the MacDowell Colony?
Colonists have won more than 50 Pulitzer Prizes, 7 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Awards", and 60 Rome Prizes, among hundreds of awards. One should understand that many famous colonists were not recognized when they first came to MacDowell.

What are some of the well-known works that have been created at the MacDowell Colony?
Leonard Bernstein composed Mass, Aaron Copland composed Appalachian Spring; Thornton Wilder wrote Our Town and A Bridge Over San Louis Rey; Dubose & Heyward wrote Porgy & Bess and Virgil Thomson composed the opera The Mother of All of Us.

Who was Edward MacDowell?
Edward MacDowell was the first American composer to be acclaimed by both Europeans and Americans as an outstanding figure in western culture. He was born in New York City, but went to Paris when he was fifteen, and soon afterward to Germany, where he studied, composed, and taught music. In 1884 he married Marian Nevins of Waterford, Connecticut, who had been his piano student. In 1888 they moved to Boston, where they lived until 1896 when Edward, considered the outstanding American composer of the day, was named founding chairman of Columbia University's new Department of Music. They spent winders in New York City and summers in Peterborough, New Hampshire from 1891 to 1906. They bought property in Peterborough in 1896. Edward died in January 1908 after a long illness; he was forty-seven.

Who built the Colony?
Edward and Marian MacDowell founded the Colony. Edward, a founder of the American Academy in Rome, knew that artists from different disciplines enriched each other's artistic life. Edward's productivity in his log cabin studio in Peterborough inspired them to make a community for fellow artists. The first colonists came in 1907 when Edward was still alive. Marian lived almost fifty years after her husband's death and died at the age of ninety-eight. During the first thirty years she oversaw the purchase of the 450 acre property, the establishment of a working farm, and the building of twenty-three studios. To encourage contributions, she performed her husband's work in piano concerts around the country, starting MacDowell Clubs as she traveled. Many Peterborough families were generous supporters. After her retirement in 1946, when the farming enterprises had been given up, eight spacious visual artists' studios were constructed from the sturdy farm buildings. Only one new studio building has been constructed since Mrs. MacDowell's time.

How many studios are there?
Thirty-two, which include twenty-four individual studios, six studios in buildings that were part of the farm, and two private apartments.

What are the studios made of? How big are they?
Construction materials vary from rustic bark siding to clapboard, fieldstone, stucco, brick, and granite --- almost all timbered, gathered, or quarried from Colony property and built by workmen from the local area. Most studios are about 20' square, with fireplaces. Many of the visual arts studios are larger.

Is the Colony open year-round?
The Colony has been open year-round since 1955. Only two studios are not yet winterized. All studios have electricity, heat, plumbing, and furnishings appropriate to New England and to each discipline.

Do Colonists eat and sleep in their studios?
Breakfast and dinner are served family-style in the main dining room. Lunches, packed in picnic baskets, are left on studio doorsteps before noon. Most Colonists have a bedroom in one of three residential houses. A few studios have sleeping quarters.

How long do artists stay?
Artists can request residencies of up to eight weeks. Few stay for less than two weeks; the average stay is five weeks. Almost all Colonists claim they produced far more work at MacDowell than would have been possible at home.

What does it cost? How is it funded?
The MacDowell Colony is a not-for-profit institution funded mostly by contributions. Accepted artists are asked to contribute as much as they can toward the costs of their stay; residency fees are voluntary. An endowment covers one third of operating expenses and the rest of the one million dollar annual budget must be raised each year.

Why is the Colony in Peterborough?
Living in Boston and caught up in a hectic performance schedule, Edward needed a retreat where he could relax and compose. The MacDowells knew of the beauty of southern New Hampshire and chose Peterborough in 1891. They rented accommodations each summer until they purchased an abandoned farm in 1896. Their farmhouse, Hillcrest, remodeled by the MacDowells, doubling its original size, is the resident manager's home. Edward MacDowell had many talents, as an architect and carpenter among others, and enjoyed summers of work and sports in addition to composing music. In 1898 they built a log cabin studio a short distance from the house, where he could have privacy and isolation. His music room in Hillcrest and the log cabin have been maintained much as he left them in 1908.

How does an artist get invited to the Colony?
Talent is the sole criterion for admission. Age, race, nationality and ability to pay for residency are not factors. Applicants send information and work samples for review by a panel of experts in each discipline. There are three application deadlines. Panelists rotate off after a maximum of three years.

Are performances held at the Colony?
No. Artists come to MacDowell to work without pressure to produce or perform. Small presentations for each other are spontaneous: perhaps a collaborative evening in the library with a composer and a poet, or an afternoon reception in a printmaker's studio. These are opportunities to try out new work or share old work with a small, receptive audience, and to enjoy the cross-fertilization of ideas.

What accommodations are there for visual artists?
All visual artist's studios have northern light and plenty of wall and table space. Two studios are equipped with darkrooms for photographers, and one is a fully outfitted printmaking facility. Plans are underway for a studio that will be ideal for sculptors.

Who runs the MacDowell Colony?
There is a board of directors with sixty members including artists, corporate leaders, community volunteers and patrons, with strong representation from New England. Paid management includes an Executive Director, Deputy Director, and a Resident Manager who lives at the Colony.

What is the Edward MacDowell Medal?
The Edward MacDowell Medal is a national award presented each summer at the Colony in Peterborough to an American creative artist whose whole career has made an outstanding contribution to the national culture. Residency at the MacDowell Colony is not a requirement. This non-competitive award rotates between a writer, visual artist and composer. Festivities on Medal Day, the one day of the year when the otherwise isolated retreat welcomes visitors, attract hundreds of people. The ceremony is highlighted by a presentation address given by an outstanding authority in the medalist's field, and the medalist's acceptance. After lunch, most artists in residence welcome visitors to their studios.

What is "The l996 Celebration"?
1996 marks the centenary of the MacDowells' purchase of the Hillcrest property. During the summer and fall of 1996, New Hampshire and MacDowell joined to celebrate MacDowell's pride in New Hampshire and New Hampshire's pride in MacDowell. More than fifty cultural organizations in the state celebrated this alliance in programs that presented works by artists who have been residents at the MacDowell Colony.

What publications does the Colony produce?
The Colony newsletter, published twice a year, tells what recent artists in residence were working on and describes creative activities of past residents, with other news. Other publications include a general brochure, application forms, an annual Report, and two books: The MacDowell Colony: A History of its Architecture and Development, a picture book with considerable Colony history; and Medal Day at the MacDowell Colony, with selections from Edward MacDowell Medal Award speeches. Brochures are available that contain biographies of Edward and Marian MacDowell, a list of Edward's works, a history of Hillcrest, and a chronology of the Colony's development.

How can one get more information?
You can visit the MacDowell Colony on the Web.
By mail:  The MacDowell Colony, 100 High Street, Peterborough, NH 03458
by Telephone 603-924-3886 or by fax 603-924-9142.

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