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NEA Grant Supports 10 MacDowell Artists from Diverse Backgrounds

Press Release - March 13, 2017

Type: Press Releases, Fellowships

When composer Travis Alford came to The MacDowell Colony for the first time last year, a number of life changes were complicating his work. He had recently finished his Ph.D., and he had moved from Boston to rural North Carolina for his academic career. On top of that, he was a new father. Of all those things he was juggling, he didn’t realize until MacDowell that it was artistic community he needed most.

“To spend two weeks surrounded by other artists – to both revel in and commiserate with our common experiences – was immensely therapeutic,” Alford says.

That opportunity to connect and forge ahead with his music was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which supported fellowships for first time MacDowell residencies last year.

NEA support is critical to MacDowell’s efforts to cultivate the most vibrant, diverse artist community possible. A new NEA grant of $25,000, to be matched by private funding, will enable 10 more artists from across the United States to work at the Colony for the first time in 2017.

These awards come as the future of the NEA is beholden to a new president and a new Congress in Washington. NEA Chairman Jane Chu has announced MacDowell as one of hundreds of nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Art Works grant. In all, more than $30 million was awarded nationwide.

“The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as The MacDowell Colony, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”

On average each year, more than two-thirds of MacDowell Fellows come to the Colony for the first time. NEA support helps MacDowell include these new voices and leverage additional support from private donors. Cheryl A. Young, MacDowell’s executive director, says fellowships for first-time residencies help support new work by outstanding artists, a legacy that keeps the U.S. at the forefront of artmaking across the globe.

“MacDowell believes that a healthy culture lifts all voices,” Young said. “To encourage a diverse artistic community, MacDowell distributes more than $150,000 in financial aid annually to remove economic barriers and ensure that the residency experience is accessible to all. Our vision is a working artist population that mirrors the general population and nurtures talent.”

The 2017 grant will help MacDowell fund fellowships that cover all residency costs for artists. These fellowships provide use of a private studio building, all meals and accommodations, and opportunities to exchange ideas with other talented artists of various disciplines. Panels of experts in each discipline select applicants based on talent demonstrated by recent work samples. MacDowell provides residencies to more than 275 artists each year. In addition to fellowship support, nearly 40 percent of those artists receive needs-based financial aid to help defray the costs of travel and taking time off during the residency.

The Art Works category of grants, of which MacDowell’s was one, focuses on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at and follow #NEAFall16.