Medal Day at MacDowell
This August, The MacDowell Colony, the nation's leading artist residency program, celebrated 50 years of Medal Day. Medal Day at MacDowell honors an artist for lifetime achievement and in the past has brought such luminaries as Georgia O'Keeffe, John Updike, Merce Cunningham, and Aaron Copland to its community of 6,000 in the hills of New Hampshire. Since the first Medal Day in 1960, the August day has become a cultural destination for those who regard and honor freedom of expression as one of the most sacred values in our country and in our daily lives. This year, more than 1,500 people attended Medal Day, and the occasion was made even more memorable with a public art project that involved teenagers, kids, grandparents, moms and dads, students, artists, and art appreciators from all walks of life. Created and overseen by two MacDowell artists, participants were given string to weave around a framework. Over several days, the string became a symbolic network of individual expression and the commonalty of creative purpose. It was a sight to see and further enriched the day that, this year, honored acclaimed visual artist Kiki Smith as the 50th Medalist. In addition to the Medal ceremony and the art project, guests were invited to tour the studios of the 32 artists currently in residence at MacDowell. These artists opened their worlds and their creative processes to all, demonstrating how the work that goes on to be published, screened, and performed around the world often first sees the light in the solitary lab of a MacDowell studio. Since 1907, when MacDowell was founded, there have been more than 6,500 artists who have created in its woods. Those artists have included Alice Walker, Leonard Bernstein, Thornton Wilder, Alice Sebold, Benny Andrews, to name just a few. By opening the Colony doors every summer, Medal Day provides its community and the larger culture with an annual, inspirational, and important reminder: Creative expression is at the very cornerstone of our evolution as a civilization and the means by which we confront and understand the profound questions affecting our time and ourselves.
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