Board of Directors of 113-year-old artist residency program votes unanimously to remove terminology with oppressive overtones after staff petitions for move.
The MacDowell Board of Directors voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt an official name change from The MacDowell Colony to, simply, MacDowell. This action was the result of an effort initiated by a staff petition in response to feedback from Fellows and the larger artist community, and was quickly codified by MacDowell’s stakeholders and Board.
“This name change is at once a significant step and a natural evolution consistent with how the organization is widely known,” said MacDowell Board Chair Nell Painter. “While the decision to make this change now aligns with the calls for social justice and reform that are sweeping the country, it is in keeping with the organization’s longstanding commitment to eliminate financial, geographic, cultural, and accessibility barriers to participation.”
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Painter “acknowledged that the word 'colony' can mean a country or given location under the control of an outside power or, as would apply to MacDowell, a community of like-minded people. But she said both definitions carry a sense of exclusion and hierarchy, and that the first definition was far more prevalent.”
For more than 20 years, MacDowell has acted to remove structural barriers, expand awareness of the residency program to underrepresented communities, and diversify its peer panel review admissions process. MacDowell leadership view removing the word “colony” from its name as one step among other commitments to come that will have significant impact on the program as well as in staffing and governance.
In January, consultant Lisa Yancey began working with MacDowell’s board of directors and staff, kicking off a yearlong contract centered on diversity, equity, inclusion, and access strategies and competencies to make the entire institution more just. MacDowell leadership has pledged to take actionable steps to fully embrace that work.
Anyone may apply for a MacDowell residency. The sole criterion for acceptance is artistic excellence, there are no residency fees, and funds are available to artists in the form of stipends and travel grants. For more information, please visit www.macdowell.org.