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MacDowell Champions Vital, Essential Art Makers – Including Voices on the Perimeters

- August 10, 2021

Type: Events

Phillip Himberg speaking at the podium during the Medal Day Ceremony. Nell Painter and Roseanne Cash sit in chairs behind him

Executive Director Philip Himberg addresses a packed Bond Hall at MacDowell, in Peterborough, NH.

Transcript: MacDowell Executive Director Philip Himberg opens the ceremony honoring Rosanne Cash on July 1 – Medal Day 2021.

The music you were listening to just before we began is an abbreviated sampling by composers on which we have bestowed the Edward MacDowell Medal in Composition since 1960. The first composer to receive the MacDowell Medal in Music was Aaron Copland in 1961.

So, 60 years later, it is my special pleasure, to honor and celebrate Rosanne Cash, the first woman to be awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal in Composition.


This particular Medal Day, this gathering has been long in coming, for reasons we all know too well. And amid this liminal space between what has been and what awaits us, we have — in partnership with New Hampshire PBS — created what I hope will be a bit of cultural alchemy.

Last week, an essay in The New York Times described the ancient Japanese art of mending shattered pottery, an art called Kintsugi, where broken shards are glued back together, and then the exposed cracks are dusted with silver and gold. So now, the seams that ensure the integrity of this new vessel — actually gleam and radiate a new kind of exquisiteness.

Kintsugi has also not surprisingly become a philosophy of living: bad things shatter us, but we do not hide our wounds. We wear them. Our broken places are not only visible — but become a mark of beauty in an imperfect life.

March 2020 was like a rupture, yet with these fractures comes an opportunity for real transformation, open space for something new. And here we are, on a cloudy summer's day, to celebrate together — at MacDowell — America's first artist residency. A place which for many — possesses a kind of rare vortex of creative energy, a power that has drawn over 8,000 artists to its heart for 114 years.

And as you know, we were hopeful that this event would take place outside in the historic MacDowell amphitheater, the sky as our ceiling, and from where we would view Mount Monadnock in the distance. But alas, unsettled weather caused us some troubles. But as the great Persian poet Rumi says, "The moment you accept what troubles you've been given, The Door Will Open." And so it has. The portals of historic Bond Hall have received us and have given us refuge from the uncertain elements.

We are here in a space that has sheltered and nurtured MacDowell artists for many decades, and we are here for a warm celebration of inspiration and accomplishment. An acknowledgement of the triumph of art. In recognition of today's honoree, Rosanne Cash, we have made a theatre here — sanctified by our collective presence. For what is theater or music but sitting among friends and strangers ... To witness … To listen and to watch a story unfold. And today we will hear a story.

In fact, there are many stories being made at MacDowell right now. Stories that are conceived and crafted by writers on pages, by painters on canvases, by composers on keyboards. There are stories made of clay and metal, designs composed with mechanical pencils, on digital machines, with found objects.

This is what MacDowell has believed in and championed since 1907: That artists are in fact, indispensable vital workers — essential — for without them we truly are bereft of spirit.

We are profoundly grateful to our supporters, to New Hampshire PBS, to our wonderful board of directors, our absolutely heroic staff who not only assured our resilience over the last year, but allowed us to flourish. (applause) And of course our Fellows, our artists-in-residence, who define us.

Special thanks to Andy Senchak, our board president, Nell Painter, our esteemed madam chairman, David Macy, our resident director. (applause) All of you lead with courage and with grace.

I've been thinking a lot lately about boundaries and perimeters and how artists by definition, defy the edges. The most extraordinary artists have always worked at the margins, because by their nature, art makers are exploring the precipices of our universe. That's what artists do. Like Inventors, artists render visible what has not been visible. Marian MacDowell also imagined something that never was — and brought it into being.

As we look ahead to our coming chapters, we look to embrace the largest range of voices at MacDowell, ever, including voices on the perimeters, those voices that have not always been heard. We look at artists across all spectrums — including and especially historically marginalized communities, because when artists in a society have been overlooked, those unimagined vital stories that have the power to change us, are forever lost.

One of our recent MacDowell Fellows, filmmaker Isabel Sandoval, likens this junction of time we now inhabit as the indentation at the beginning of a brand-new paragraph.

Isabel says: "The indentation at the start of a new paragraph marks the beginning of a new train of thought. We are right now at that precarious moment of beginning. And artists and art institutions like MacDowell must step up to what the moment demands, fully and passionately."

We promise, you, Isabel, that we will.

Edward MacDowell, considered America's first classical composer, described MacDowell as "A house of dreams." A house of dreams. MacDowell is this, still. And today we are excited to be here to honor an American artist who personifies the passionate dreamer.

In honoring Ms. Cash today, we honor our past, but most of all we honor what lies ahead — for Rosanne — and for all the yet-to-be-discovered and shared untold stories — by writers, architects, musicians, playwrights, filmmakers, visual artists. Art that will in fact, repair our shattered souls, and like the re-imagined shattered pottery, will make us humans glisten and shimmer once more, and in fact, change our very world. Thank you.


Read Cheryl Savageau’s land acknowledgement offered on Medal Day 2021

Read Board Chair Nell Painter’s welcome to the audience in Bond Hall on July 1, 2021

Read Kurt Andersen’s remarks introducing Rosanne Cash as the 61st Edward MacDowell Medalist

Read Rosanne Cash’s acceptance speech for the Edward MacDowell Medal in Composition