While a MacDowell Colony residency guarantees artists a quiet place to work undisturbed, it also brings together creative workers who might otherwise never meet.  At any given moment, there is a unique, if fleeting, creative community assembled there.  Relationships formed at MacDowell have resulted in artistic collaborations and deep, lifelong friendships.

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MacDowell Colony Fellows, August 1954

Bernice Perry.  MacDowell Colony Fellows, 1954. Gelatin silver print.  Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (51)
Digital ID # ppmsca-13440
Courtesy of the MacDowell Colony

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MacDowell colony Fellows, August 1954

Back row, left to right: Sol Stein, James Baldwin, writers; Irving Fine, composer; Gregorio Prestopino, Sally Michel, painters; Kent Kennan, Otto Luening, Paul Pisk, Louise Talma, Leland Procter, Felix Labunski, Vladimir Ussachevsky, composers.

First row, left to right: Gordon Binkerd, composer; Virginia Sorensen, writer; Ernst Toch, Esther Williamson Ballou, composers; Peter Viereck, poet; Milton Avery, Paul Burlin, painters; Pauli Murray, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, writers; Elizabeth Dauber, painter; Nikolai Lopatnikoff, composer; Sara Henderson Hay, poet; Gordon Reevey, writer; Lester Trimble, composer.

giovanni's Room - A novel by James Baldwin

Kay Boyle reads on her porch at The MacDowell Colony, ca. 1960.
Gelatin silver print.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. (58)
Digital ID #mc0058
© Clemens Kalischer

Kay Boyle

Kay Boyle (1902–1992) met James Baldwin at The MacDowell Colony in 1960.  Baldwin, a city dweller, did not like the woods after dark, so Boyle walked him back to his studio each evening after dinner.  One night she confessed that she, too, was afraid of the dark.  They laughed about their dilemma and waited for dawn, talking the night away.  Committed social activists, Boyle and Baldwin became close friends.

giovanni's Room - A novel by James Baldwin

Giovanni’s Room.
James Baldwin. 
MacDowell Colony Collection,
New York: Dial Press, 1956. First edition.
Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Library of Congress (92)


In the summer of 1954, James Baldwin (1924–1987) was at The MacDowell Colony with his long-time friend, writer and editor Sol Stein.  Stein convinced Baldwin to publish Notes of a Native Son, which Baldwin was working on that summer.  He was also writing a novel, Giovanni’s Room, the story of a young man coming to terms with his sexual identity.  Critics praised Baldwin for treating the provocative subject with "unusual candor and yet with such dignity and intensity."

'For James Baldwin' by Kay boyle

“For James Baldwin” from Collected Poems of Kay Boyle.
Kay Boyle.
Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1991.
General Collections
Library of Congress (59)
Copyright©1991 by Kay Boyle. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org external link All rights reserved.

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Kay Boyle never forgot James Baldwin at The MacDowell Colony, “dancing about in the snow in his fox-fur hat, laughing, and singing.”  Her poem “For James Baldwin” is a personal portrait of their friendship, and recalls “blizzards in New Hampshire, when you wore a foxskin cap, its tail red as autumn on your shoulder.”

'For James Baldwin' by Kay boyle

“For James Baldwin” from Collected Poems of Kay Boyle. cont'd
Kay Boyle.
Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1991.
General Collections
Library of Congress (59)

Milton Avery's <em>Dancer</em>

Milton Avery 1954.
Woodcut.  Prints and Photographs Division (42)
Digital ID # ppmsca-13436
2007 Milton Avery Trust/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

A Modernist Sensibility

Painter/printmaker Milton Avery (1885–1965) came to the MacDowell Colony in 1953–1954 and again in 1956.  He made this charming image of a dancer when the Abstract Expressionist movement was in full swing.  Though he flirts with abstraction in the simplified forms and broad linear composition of this work, Avery retained the recognizable figure.  First carved into a wood block before being inked and printed on paper, the image has a dimensional, sculptural quality.  The artist further emphasizes the physicality of the wood with his own incised lines, echoing the grain pattern.