Constructed thanks to a bequest from Sarah L. Kirby, Kirby Studio was the last new building to be erected during Mrs. MacDowell’s leadership (1907-1951). The load-bearing masonry walls were laid by local mason Augustus Beaulieu atop a fieldstone foundation. A 1995 renovation preserved the brick fireplace with wooden mantel and flanking inglenook benches. In 1995, a mechanical room and half bathroom were added on the north end of the structure, together with an accessibility ramp wrapping the southwest corner of the screened porch.
The studio was re-christened Van Zorn during the 2023 Medal Day weekend in honor of Michael Chabon: novelist, screenwriter, 14-time MacDowell Fellow, and Chairman of MacDowell’s board of directors from 2009 to 2018. An invented character in Chabon’s award-winning novel Wonder Boys (1995), August Van Zorn was actually the pen name of the protagonist’s literature professor, Albert Vetch. The nonexistent critic Leon Chaim Bach wrote that Van Zorn was, “without question, the greatest unknown horror writer of the twentieth century.”