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  • Writer's pictureArtists in Rise


Updated: Jun 13, 2022

MacDowell is known as the first artist residency in the U.S. Its history begins in 1896, when Marian MacDowell purchased a farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire so her husband, Edward MacDowell, could have quiet place to focus on his art. Edward was an accomplished American composer who was fundamental in the formation of Columbia University’s School of the Arts. The stresses of his professional life weighed upon his creative mind but Hillcrest (the original name of the MacDowell property) provided a retreat where the MacDowell's, and their artistic colleagues, could commune with nature and each other.

Edward and Marian MacDowell. Image courtesy of MacDowell

In 1904, Edward’s health started to rapidly deteriorate after his resignation from Columbia and the MacDowells moved to their beloved farm full time. Edward expressed to Marian that Hillcrest’s stimulating environment of artistic collaboration and freedom should be preserved and offered to artists for as long as possible. In 1907, Marian initiated the process of turning Hillcrest into a full time space where artists were supported and nurtured.

Edward died in 1908. Marian made it her life's work to see her husband's dying wishes become reality. She was able to create a fund whose first donors included Andrew Carnegie, Grover Cleveland, and J. P. Morgan. This fund eventually gave sustainable life to the MacDowell Colony, which was run by Marian for over 25 years.

MacDowell ("colony" was removed from the name in 2020) now has 32 studios (each with its own significant architectural history) and has offered residence to over 8,000 multidisciplinary artists. 86 Pulitzer Prizes, 31 National Book Awards, 30 Tony Awards, 32 MacArthur Fellowships, 15 Grammys, 8 Oscars, 828 Guggenheim Fellowships, and 107 Rome Prizes have come out of MacDowell.


"MacDowell's mission is to nurture the arts by offering talented individuals an inspiring residential environment in which to produce enduring works of the creative imagination."

James Baldwin Library Interior. Image courtesy of MacDowell.

Calderwood Studio. Image courtesy of MacDowell.

Multi-disciplinary residency including:

  • Architecture

  • Film/ Video

  • Interdisciplinary Art

  • Music Composition

  • Theater

  • Visual Arts

Works developed at MacDowell:

  • Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring

  • James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room

  • Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop

  • Leonard Bernstein's Mass

  • Thornton Wilder's Our Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

  • Alice Walker's first novel and Meridian.

  • Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones.

Hillcrest. Image courtesy of MacDowell.

Notable Visual Art Alumni:

Schelling Studio. Image courtesy of MacDowell

Recent AIR Alumni we follow:

Annual Applicants:

Approximately 2,000 artists apply each year to MacDowell. On average, one in every 10 applicants is offered a residency. This varies based on your discipline and the application period for which you have applied.

About 300 artists in seven disciplines are awarded Fellowships each year and the sole criterion for acceptance is artistic excellence. There are no residency fees. Need-based travel grants and stipends are available to open the residency experience to the broadest possible community of artists. Artists with professional standing in their fields, as well as emerging artists, are eligible to apply. MacDowell encourages artists from all backgrounds and all countries in the following disciplines: architecture, film/video arts, interdisciplinary arts, literature, music composition, theatre, and visual arts. Any applicant whose proposed project does not fall clearly within one of these artistic disciplines should contact the admissions department for guidance. We aim to be inclusive, not exclusive in our admissions process.

Watson Studio. Image courtesy of MacDowell.

Financial support:

Stipend: Need-based stipends are available to artists who would not otherwise be able to afford the time away that a Fellowship requires. Stipends may be used to cover rent, utilities, childcare, and other expenses that accrue during a residency. They may also be directed toward equipment costs and to replace lost income.

Travel Grants: Artists apply for travel grants by filling out a brief form itemizing travel costs and attaching all receipts. Reimbursement of travel expenses is based on demonstrated financial need.

Fellowships: MacDowell offers Fellowships covering the cost of a residency to all accepted artists. Named Fellowships have been established to recognize the generous funding from specific donors to support a particular field of work or honor an individual. There is no special application process for Named Fellowships; all artists accepted for residencies are considered for these designations.

Length of Residency:

While artists may request residencies of up to six weeks; the average stay is 30 days. There is no minimum length of stay; however, we recommend no less than a two-week residency, if possible.



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