Transcript: Executive Director Chiwoniso Kaitano addresses the crowd at her first Medal Day, July 23, 2023
Thank you to all of you who have made your way here. A warm welcome to Alanis Obomsawin and our other special guest Jesse Wente, we are honored to have you here. MacDowell is a place that one of our artists in residence, the writer Vu Tran, calls a place of “serene magic.” Serene, yes. Magical? Well, ask the Fellows you meet today. Magic is conjured here in so many ways.
I should share that my parents are here today. They flew 10,000 miles from their home in Harare, Zimbabwe.
There are two reasons why one might make that long journey: ONE, to visit MacDowell – and TWO, let’s be real: to visit their grandchildren.
It is a distinct privilege and an honor to be welcomed into this community. We know of MacDowell’s storied past, the nearly 9,000 Fellows, a 116-year history. We know that our Fellows have won all the accolades: The Guggenheims, the MacArthurs, 101 Pulitzers as of this past May, they’ve won Academy Awards, even Grammys. But … what do the next 100 years look like for MacDowell?
That may be impossible to foretell, but there are things we can do to ensure we, as an organization and a community of art makers and art lovers, remain on course. As organizations and communities do not exist in a vacuum, they cannot navigate successfully without adjusting to the changes that lately seem to come from all points of the compass. The wider tides of a shifting culture have affected us all in innumerable ways these last few years. How will MacDowell sustain and amplify its venerable legacy in an age of such tremendous transformation?
Clear-eyed navigation. I take as my charge keeping MacDowell focused, with unwavering resolve, on its true north: Providing a growing community of artists with the freedom to create, but to do so in a way that honors our legacy but with eyes, arms, and hearts open to a future of limitless possibility.
A few weeks ago, I joined our artists in residence for dinner and I was lucky enough to sit next to a young writer from Cape Town, South Africa. We had a lovely conversation and afterwards in reflecting on it, I was wondering if, 116 years ago, our founder Marian MacDowell would have envisioned us two women from Southern Africa, one an artist and the other a passionate advocate for the arts, both far from home but VERY MUCH at home in the place she built in bucolic New Hampshire. And I like to think that the answer is a resounding YES. That this is exactly what she envisioned.
The future is always a promise and in the case of MacDowell my vision for our future is to that we all dream the biggest dream for this community of artists, that we not only exist one hundred years, two hundred years from now, but that tens of thousands more artists have come through our doors, and that those thousands contain multitudes, multiplicities, representing the beauty and the bounty of artistic convergence, creating art that is vital, thriving, and enduring.
While the world recalibrates, MacDowell, our Fellows, and their art endures. Thank you.
And now, I would like to introduce you to the beating heart of MacDowell. A man who has made MacDowell his life’s work: My colleague and my friend, Resident Director David Macy.