Thursday, August 13, 2009

Medal Day at MacDowell Colony

by Katy Brown of muchacha K handmade

I received a mysterious invitation from a friend the other day. "Are you headed to MacDowell tomorrow or do you want to join our caravan for a picnic lunch?"...a random invitation to a famous artist colony that normally does not allow visitors? Hell yeah!

But why were they open to the public this past weekend? It was Medal Day and the recipient of this year's award was Kiki Smith. My instructions were to "pack a lunch and wear walking shoes" and so I did...
MacDowell Colony, located in Peterborough, NH, is the oldest artist colony in the United States, founded in 1907 by the wife of composer Edward MacDowell, at her ill husband's request. Peterborough is a beautiful town located in lush, green countryside; it's easy to see why they chose it as the home for their colony. Artists apply for residencies that last several weeks and spend their time at MacDowell in a small private cabin in the woods where no other human is allowed without their permission--lunch is delivered to the door. Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation.
The Medal Ceremony was surprisingly entertaining and both MacDowell representatives and recipient Kiki Smith herself spoke. One of the recurring themes in the speeches given was the importance of the bravery of artists, and of supporting the development of art and culture even in the face of violence or political turmoil. I was moved.
After the ceremony we ate our picnic lunches in a big green field and then headed off into the woods to make the most of the one day per year where the studios are open to the public. We were welcomed into the worlds of composers, painters, photographers, far more conceptual artists, novelists, poets, playwrights and more, and all were gracious and very giving of their time and work. What a luxury, both for them to enjoy the usual solitude, and for the rest of us to be able to share it for just an afternoon.
I rode home in the car overwhelmed by all of the ideas they shared, and inspired to return to my own work.
(Sketches by visual artist Nick Lama...)


  1. Oh lucky girl...I am envious! Thanks for the sneak peek!

  2. What a wonderful day that must have been! I am envious as well. I'd love to take a day trip for next years Medal!

  3. A day trip would be super cool.

    I seriously felt like I needed time to digest each studio before visiting the next one, so much to take in all at once.


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