The 2023 MacDowell National Benefit

October 16, 2023

A woman on stage with a screen reading "Fairfax Dorn" behind her, in front of a seated crowd.

Fairfax Dorn accepts the 4th Annual Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award (Beowulf Sheehan photo)

More than 350 Fellows, board members, and guests joined us at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City for our annual MacDowell National Benefit. Featuring performances (see videos below) and work by MacDowell Fellows, the festive evening also included the presentation of the fourth annual Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award to Fairfax Dorn, co-founder and artistic director of Ballroom Marfa. Special guest and conceptual artist Adam Pendleton presented Dorn with the award and spoke about her life-long commitment to supporting and centering artists’ needs. During an evening that celebrated Dorn for her significant support of artists, guests raised more than $750,000 in funds to provide critical operating support for the 300 artists that come to MacDowell each year from all corners of the globe.   

Hosted by Tony Award-nominated actor, writer, and producer Sharon Washington, the benefit also included performances by Fellows of original works, including a kanun performance by Firas Zreik (23), an excerpt from Daniel and Patrick Lazour’s (18) musical We Live in Cairo, and a duet from James Brandon Lewis (22) and Kirk Knuffke. MacDowell Executive Director Chiwoniso Kaitano and Benefit Committee Co-chair and board member Katie Firth both spoke about the unique and powerful effect MacDowell has had on our culture, and the essential space MacDowell provides for artists to come to make work and build community. The celebration included a cocktail hour, dinner, and a paddle raise as well as closing remarks by board member, Fellow, and author Elliott Holt (14, 17).

This year’s Benefit also featured artwork by MacDowell Fellow Torkwase Dyson (16) and postcard prints of Erin Shirreff’s (09) Surface Capital. As guests exited at the end of the evening, they browsed several bookcase walls filled with books by MacDowell Fellows, which they were encouraged to take home and enjoy.

For more information about the Benefit or to become a sponsor of next year's event, please e-mail

About our Honoree

Fairfax Dorn is the co-founder and artistic director of Ballroom Marfa, a non-profit contemporary art museum and residency space dedicated to boundary-pushing and site-inspired work spanning visual art, film, music, and performance. In partnership with Ballroom Marfa’s co-founder Virginia Lebermann and Executive Director Daisy Nam, she oversees the creative vision of the organization. Dorn helped conceptualize the organization’s residency program, Ballroom Sessions — The Farther Place, which formally launched in 2020 as a response to the needs of artists. The program encourages cross-disciplinary processes, allows artists to explore nascent ideas, and often culminates in newly commissioned work. In 2017, Dorn established Fairfax Dorn Projects, a design collective synthesizing art and interiors. Dorn is a board member of Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, TX; co-chair of the Judd Foundation, Marfa, TX and New York, NY; the African Environmental Film Foundation, Kenya and New York, NY; Calder Gardens, Philadelphia, PA; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. Dorn received E. William Doty Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Texas in February of 2022 and ArtTable’s 25th Future Women Leadership Award in April of 2005. Dorn holds a bachelor of arts and fine arts degree from the University of Texas in Austin. Dorn is currently working on a publication of Ballroom Marfa’s 20-year history with Monacelli Press.

Portrait of Fairfax Dorn, she is wearing a emerald green blouse and smiling softly

(Ashton Do photo)

Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award

The Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award was created to honor those who profoundly and uniquely support artists, aligning with our founder Marian MacDowell’s legacy and her championship of artists as they create bold new works that spark our imagination, illuminate our world, and celebrate our humanity.

In 2020, the inaugural award was presented to Ava DuVernay and ARRAY, a multi-platform media company and arts collective based in Los Angeles that amplifies independent films by Black artists, people of color, and women filmmakers globally. In 2021, the award was presented to Mahogany L. Browne and Urban Word NYC, one of the oldest and most comprehensive youth literary arts organizations in the country. In 2022, MacDowell Fellow and founder of Anonymous Was A Woman, Susan Unterberg, was presented with the award for her advocacy and philanthropy around gender equity in the arts.

Watch the full program recorded at the Ziegfeld Ballroom.
Watch the full program recorded at the Ziegfeld Ballroom.
Firas Zreik performs "Field of Figs" at the MacDowell National Benefit.
James Brandon Lewis and Kirk Knuffke play "For Mahalia, With Love" at the MacDowell National Benefit
Adam Pendleton Presents Fairfax Dorn with the fourth annual Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award.
The Lazours Perform "Tahrir is Now" at the MacDowell National Benefit.

Benefit Committee Co-Chairs

Katie Firth and Jonathan Bank
Christine and Todd Fisher
Darrell and Robin Harvey

Amy Davidson Sorkin and David Sorkin

Host Committee

Michael Almereyda*
Winsome and Claude Arpels
David Baum and Terry Reeves
Sofia A. Blanchard
Eleanor Briggs
Rosanne Cash*
Liz Cohen*
Hernan Diaz
Amelia Dunlop and Andrew Krivak
Andrea Elliot
Elizabeth and Russell Gaudreau
Gerald and Teresa Gartner
Jeannie Suk Gersen
* and Jacob Gersen
Marc Glimcher
Andrew Sean Greer*
Lauren Groff
John Hargraves and Nancy Newcomb
Sky Hopinka*

Lewis Hyde
Rashid Johnson
Starlee Kine
Virginia Lebermann
Min Jin Lee
Kalup Linzy
Monica and Michael Lehner
Robert and Stephanie Olmsted
David Remnick
Deb Seager
Andrew and Barbara Senchak
Arabelle Sicardi
* and Wendy Fok*
Julius Tapper and Enzo Gouedar
Peter and Catherine Wirth

*notes MacDowell Fellow or Medalist
**all lists as of 08/30/2023

Thank You to Our Corporate Sponsors

Penguin Random House logo
FL Putnam logo

Past National Benefits


In 2022, Rosanne Cash presented the third annual Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award to Anonymous Was A Woman (AWAW) and its visionary founder, Susan Unterberg, at a festive celebration at Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York.

2022 National Benefit


In 2021, MacDowell celebrated the creative collaborations between MacDowell Fellows and honored Urban Word NYC with the second annual Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award.

2021 National Benefit 2021


In 2020, MacDowell hosted our first-ever virtual National Benefit and awarded the inaugural Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award to ARRAY.

2020 Virtual National Benefit


The national benefit at Gotham Hall in New York City in 2019 raised more than half a million dollars for our residency program.

2019 National Benefit


The national benefit at MacDowell's NYC space at 521 West 23rd Street in 2018 raised more than $620,000 for critical operating support.

2018 National Benefit