Alice Walker in Irving Fine Studio (Bernice B. Perry photo)
Alice Walker in Irving Fine Studio (Bernice B. Perry photo)

Frequently Asked Questions

To learn more about the Colony, scroll through the questions below. For admissions-related information, go to our Apply page, which also offers FAQs on the application process. If you need further help, please contact the Colony by e-mailing us.

What is the MacDowell Colony?

The MacDowell Colony is the nation’s leading artist colony. The Colony nurtures the arts by offering creative individuals of the highest talent an inspiring environment in which they can produce enduring works of the imagination.

When was The MacDowell Colony founded?

The Colony was founded in 1907 by composer Edward MacDowell and Marian MacDowell, his wife. It was the first artist colony in the United States.

Who is Edward MacDowell?

Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) was the first American composer to be acclaimed by both Europeans and Americans as an outstanding artist. Born in New York City, he went to Paris when he was 15 and soon afterward, to Germany, where he studied, composed, and taught music. In 1884, he married Marian Nevins, who had been his piano student. In 1896, Edward was named founding chairman of Columbia University’s new Department of Music. From 1891 to 1906, Edward and Marian spent winters in New York City and summers in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Edward died in January, 1908, at the age of 47. He was elected to the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

What kind of artists come to MacDowell?

Writers, visual artists, composers, filmmakers, playwrights, interdisciplinary artists, and architects come from all parts of the United States and abroad.

How many artists have worked at the Colony? How many come each year?

More than 7,900 artists have been awarded Fellowships to the Colony. More than 300 artists arrive each year; of these about half are new and half have been to the Colony before.

Who are some of the famous people who have been to MacDowell?

Thornton Wilder, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Barbara Tuchman, Milton Avery, and Virgil Thomson are some of the famous artists who are MacDowell Fellows. More recent Fellows include Michael Chabon, Alice Sebold, Jeffrey Eugenides, Wendy Wasserstein, and Jonathan Franzen, as well as composers Meredith Monk and Ned Rorem, filmmaker Michael Almereyda, and architect Leslie Robertson. MacDowell Colony Fellows have won 83 Pulitzer Prizes, 800 Guggenheim Fellowships, 101 Rome Prizes, 30 National Book Awards, 26 Tony Awards, 28 MacArthur Fellowships, 9 Grammys, 8 Oscars, and 8 National Medals for the Arts!

What are some of the works that have been created at The MacDowell Colony?

While working at MacDowell, Leonard Bernstein composed his Mass; Aaron Copland composed Billy the Kid; Thornton Wilder wrote Our Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey; James Baldwin wrote Giovanni’s Room; Willa Cather wrote Death Comes for the Archbishop; DuBose and Dorothy Heyward wrote Porgy and Bess, and Virgil Thomson composed Mother of Us All. Alice Walker worked on her first novel and Meridian at MacDowell. Michael Chabon wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; Alice Sebold wrote The Lovely Bones, and Jonathan Franzen completed The Corrections.

What does it cost to attend MacDowell? How is it funded?

There are no residency fees at MacDowell. The Colony is a not-for-profit institution funded mostly by contributions. An endowment covers one-third of the operating expenses and the rest of the annual budget is raised each year.

What is the admissions process? Who is eligible to apply?

Applicants submit an online application for review by a panel of experts in each discipline. Panels rotate to ensure objectivity and fairness. There are three application deadlines per year; artists may apply once every 24 months. Talent is the sole criterion for admission. Emerging and established artists are encouraged to apply. The Colony does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, creed, national origin or ancestry, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or disability. Applicants who are enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs as of the date of application are ineligible for a residency and therefore cannot apply. Doctoral candidates who have finished all coursework may apply.

Is the Colony open year-round?

Yes; the Colony has been open year-round since 1955.

How long do artists stay?

Artists may request residencies of up to eight weeks; the average stay is five weeks. Most Colonists cite the formula that one week at MacDowell equals four on the outside in terms of productivity.

How many studios are there?

There are 32 studios, each created for one or more artistic disciplines. Construction materials vary from rustic bark siding to clapboard, fieldstone, stucco, brick, and granite – almost all timbered, gathered, or quarried from Colony property. Studios are equipped with fireplaces, heat, electricity, and running water.

What are your facilities like?

Studios are comfortably furnished with the artists’ needs in mind. Composers’ studios include pianos; visual artists’ studios have ample wall space, natural northern light, and full-spectrum interior lighting. The Colony has a fully-equipped darkroom and a printmaking studio with lithography and plate presses, aquatint equipment, and good ventilation. Writers and architects are provided generous work surfaces. All studios have bathrooms and heat, as well as a bed. For those studios without a shower, bedrooms are provided in three different residence buildings. Linens are provided, and washers and dryers are available for laundry.

Do artists 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. Most Colonists have a bedroom and shared bathroom in one of three residential houses, though about a third of the studios are live-in and have showers. Every studio, however, is available to its assigned artist 24 hours a day.

What is the community like at MacDowell?

The community of artists-in-residence is supportive; professional collaborations and personal friendships are often forged that last far beyond an individual’s residency. Small presentations among the artists are spontaneous, providing opportunities to share work with peers. Some artists volunteer to give presentations for schools or groups in the community.

What is a typical day like?

There isn’t a set schedule at MacDowell. To facilitate flexibility and productivity, artists have 24-hour access to their studios. Some artists work all day, while others work throughout the night. Breakfast and dinner are served communally, but a basket lunch is delivered to the studios and left at the doorstep to minimize workday interruptions.

Is the Colony open to the public?

The main building and the Eugene Coleman Savidge Library, which houses the collected works of MacDowell Fellows in all media, may be visited during office hours with advance notice. Guests may also visit the MacDowell gravesite, now a registered historic marker, just down the road from the Colony. On Medal Day each August the Colony holds an open house, and artists-in-residence open their studios to the public. Those interested in MacDowell may also engage with Fellows through our community outreach programs such as MacDowell Downtown and MacDowell in the Schools. Find information on those programs on this page.

What is the Edward MacDowell Medal? What is Medal Day?

The Edward MacDowell Medal is a national award presented each summer at the Colony to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the national culture. Past recipients include Merce Cunningham, Georgia O’Keefe, Leonard Bernstein, Chuck Jones, Joan Didion, John Updike, and Ellsworth Kelly. This non-competitive award rotates among the disciplines. The ceremony is highlighted by a presentation address given by an outstanding authority in the Medalist’s field and remarks by the Medalist; the ceremony is followed by a picnic lunch on the grounds. In the afternoon, artists welcome visitors to their studios. Both the award ceremony and the open house are free, and open to the public.

How is MacDowell involved in the community?

There are many great ways to interact with MacDowell’s artists-in-residence through seasonal events and community outreach programs. MacDowell Downtown is a series of presentations by Colony Fellows that takes place on the first Friday of the month from March to November in downtown Peterborough. “At MacDowell,” a column in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, details each presentation the week before the event. MacDowell in the Schools is an opportunity for students of all ages to learn more about art and the creative process from Fellows, who share their passion and their work through a variety of programming in classrooms throughout the Monadnock region. Those interested in works of art produced by MacDowell Fellows may also visit the Peterborough Town Library, where an ongoing collection of music, film, books, and other media created and donated by MacDowell Fellows is housed. The Colony also hosts a National and New Hampshire Benefit each year. For more information about MacDowell events, sign up for e-News, a monthly online bulletin sent to your e-mail address.

May I bring my partner or family with me?

Meals and accommodations provided for artists-in-residence are limited to MacDowell artists working on creative projects. There are no provisions for partners or children at the Colony. Day guests are welcome.

May I bring my pet with me?

Pets are not allowed at the Colony, but some artists choose to board their pets in a local kennel while in residence.

Are classes or instructors available?

MacDowell does not provide instruction for artists-in-residence. The intention of the Colony is that artists should be able to work independently while here.

Do you provide supplies?

Artists should bring their own supplies. For artists traveling from a distance, items may be shipped in advance of the residency, or purchased from area stores while in residence. A travel grant is available to assist with shipping costs.

Is MacDowell handicapped accessible?

Yes; the main building, residence halls, and some studios are handicapped accessible.

Do I need a car while I am at the Colony?

No. It is not necessary to have a car while in residence. A staff member is available to drive artists to town on a regular basis. The Colony can provide transportation to the Keene bus station on the day of an artist’s departure. Hired shuttle companies are also available between the Colony and local airports.

Is there a gym or fitness facility in town?

There are two fitness facilities in Peterborough. There are also many opportunities for hiking, running, biking, swimming, and other outdoor activities on the MacDowell property and in the surrounding area.

Is there Internet access in the studios?

In order to preserve the retreat environment of the Colony, there are no phones or Internet connections in the studios. Wireless connections are available in the library, which also houses a computer and printer for artists.

Directions to the Colony

Directions to the Colony can be found here.