Virtual MacDowell: Connection through Conversation will begin with eight artists whose residencies were cancelled as a result of COVID-19 concerns
Eight artists originally slated to travel to Peterborough in April and May will be the first to take part in Virtual MacDowell, a fully online program aimed at supporting artists and fostering a sense of community and meaningful connection during this time of isolation.
Virtual MacDowell will not attempt to replicate the on-site MacDowell experience, but rather aim to complement the program’s legacy that has benefited more than 8,500 artists since 1907. The first iteration of this experiment will consist of eight online gatherings over a four-week period, a reimagined version of opportunities MacDowell Fellows have long discovered on-site during shared meals, open studios, and myriad forms of small group interactions. This first group of Virtual MacDowell Fellows will be digital pioneers and among the first to be offered actual on-site residencies when it is deemed safe to resume Peterborough operations.
“Time spent alone in one’s studio is vital to the creative process, but equally important are the connections made through artists’ engagement with one another and exchange of ideas,” said Admissions Director Courtney Bethel. “The goal of Virtual MacDowell is to connect Fellows with each other and to MacDowell, and through that participation, mold and expand this experience based on Fellows’ interests.”
The first group of Fellows includes architect Jeffrey Halstead, composer Steven Kazuo Takasugi (89), filmmaker William E. Jones, interdisciplinary artist Leslie Cuyjet, playwright C. A. Johnson, visual artist Phoebe Adams, poet Brenda Shaughnessy (98, 05, 07, 08, 10), and writer Jacob Guajardo.
Each Virtual Fellow will be awarded a $1,000 stipend to help free up time needed to take a “day off” on each of the gathering days. At the beginning of the program, each artist will receive a picnic basket just like those used to serve lunch to Fellows in the 32 studios in the woods of New Hampshire. One gathering will be structured around a shared dinner complete with take-out food from each artist’s preferred local restaurant. Preparations have been made to offer online access to the James Baldwin Library together with a digital archive where participating artists can share current or past work in a private online space. The program will connect Virtual Fellows to Peterborough’s sense of place through a film night hosted by the resident director and a virtual tour of Baldwin Library. After the artists have established a rapport with one another, they’ll have the option of crafting a podcast to cap their experience.
“We hope this virtual residency creates a new dimension of the MacDowell experience,” says Executive Director Philip Himberg. “It’s possible that it could be valuable to MacDowell’s future by supporting talented artists who, for whatever reason, cannot travel to New Hampshire or are otherwise not able to access the program. Our aim has always been to support artists, and if this extends that support for some, then we’ll keep doing it even after artists come back to Peterborough.”
The group of eight artists in seven creative disciplines will include two alumnus Fellows to help infuse the proceedings with MacDowell with minimal staff involvement. At the last online session, the group will dine together and share feedback to inform future Virtual MacDowell programming. The group was selected as part of the last winter and spring Fellows contingent selected by panels of their peers, according to MacDowell’s system of basing choices on their talent and vision, as evidenced by a work sample and project description. Members of this contingent were then interviewed as to availability and individual desires to be part of our first virtual program.
MacDowell, having temporarily shuttered its program in March, offers residencies of two to eight weeks via an open application process judged by peer panel review. The sole criterion for acceptance is artistic excellence; there are no residency fees and grants and stipends are available to offset lost income and the cost of roundtrip travel to New Hampshire. For more information, please visit www.macdowell.org. more info: contact Admissions Director Courtney Bethel.