Edward MacDowell Medal
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Edward MacDowell Medal

The Edward MacDowell Medal is an award which has been given since 1960 to one person annually who has made an outstanding contribution to American culture and the arts. It is given by The MacDowell Colony, the first artist residency program in the United States.


The award is named for composer Edward MacDowell, who, with pianist Marian MacDowell, his wife, founded The MacDowell Colony in 1907. The Colony exists to nurture the arts by offering creative individuals of the highest talent an inspiring environment in which to produce enduring works of the imagination.[1] Each year, MacDowell welcomes more than 300[2][3] architects, composers, filmmakers, interdisciplinary artists, theatre artists, visual artists, and writers from across the United States and around the globe[4]

History of the award

Established in 1960 with the first award going to Thornton Wilder, the award is given to one artist each year, from among seven artistic disciplines, "architecture, visual art, music composition, theater, writing, filmmaking and interdisciplinary art."[5]

Composer Aaron Copland was the second recipient of the award in 1961. Copland had been a resident of the artist's colony eight times between 1925 and 1956, and served as the MacDowell Colony's president from 1962 to 1968.[6]

Painter Georgia O'Keeffe received the award in 1972. O'Keeffe, who was then 84 years old, decided not to attend, and asked art historian Lloyd Goodrich to accept the award on her behalf. Goodrich explained that O'Keeffe believed that her paintings were more important than her words. [7]

When writer Mary McCarthy won the award in 1984, The New York Times sent culture reporter Samuel G. Freedman to Peterborough to interview McCarthy and cover the ceremony. McCarthy commented that if she knew that her nemesis, writer Lillian Hellman had won the award in 1976, she would have "probably not" accepted it. [8] McCarthy conceded that the fact that her former husband, writer Edmund Wilson, had received the award in 1964 lent credibility to the honor.

Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein won the award in 1987. Bernstein observed that it was the first award he had received solely for musical composition. Bernard Holland, writing in The New York Times, noted that Bernstein had "made full use of the quiet and solitude of this venerable refuge for artists" three times previously, having been a resident there in 1962, 1970 and 1972.[9]

Award winner and writer William Styron spoke at the 1988 awards ceremony. He said that the group of previous winners "represents the brightest constellation of American talent that could be assembled in the latter half of this century", and that "their work has been of supreme value to the world".[10]

Composer Stephen Sondheim, who won the award in 2013, was the first winner with a background in musical theater.[11]

When California artist Betye Saar won the 2014 award, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times commented that she was "joining an elite roster of honorees."[5]

Jazz composer and musician Gunther Schuller was scheduled to receive the 2015 award on his 90th birthday.[12] However, Schuller died June 21, 2015 before he could receive the award.[13]

Medal Day

The Edward MacDowell Medal[14] has been awarded during a free, public ceremony at The MacDowell Colony grounds in Peterborough, NH, to such figures as Aaron Copland (1961), Robert Frost (1962), Georgia O'Keeffe (1972), Leonard Bernstein (1987),[9]Stephen Sondheim (2013), and Betye Saar (2014). MacDowell Colony Chairman, Fellow, and author Michael Chabon, hosts the ceremony typically held on the second Sunday in August beginning at noon. Following the award ceremony, guests can have picnic lunches before open studio tours, which are hosted by MacDowell artists-in-residence.

List of recipients and speakers

Year Medalist Speaker
1960 Thornton Wilder[15] Edward Weeks
1961 Aaron Copland[15] Irving Kolodin
1962 Robert Frost[15] Aaron Copland
1963 Alexander Calder[15] Meyer Shapiro
1964 Edmund Wilson[15] Aaron Copland
1965 Edgard Varese[15] Milton Babbitt
1966 Edward Hopper[15] Lloyd Goodrich
1967 Marianne Moore[15] Glenn Wescott
1968 Roger Sessions[15] Edward T. Cone
1969 Louise Nevelson[15] John Canaday
1970 Eudora Welty[15] Elizabeth Janeway
1971 William Schuman[15] Aaron Copland
1972 Georgia O'Keeffe[15] Eric Larrabee
1973 Norman Mailer[15] John Leonard
1974 Walter Piston[15] Michael Steinberg
1975 Willem de Kooning[15] Dore Ashton
1976 Lillian Hellman[15] John Hersey
1977 Virgil Thomson[15] Alfred Frankenstein
1978 Richard Diebenkorn[15] John Canaday
1979 John Cheever[15] Elizabeth Hardwick
1980 Samuel Barber[15] Charles Wadsworth
1981 John Updike[15] Wilfred Sheed
1982 Isamu Noguchi[15] William Lieberman
1983 Elliott Carter[15] Michael Steinberg
1984 Mary McCarthy[15] Elizabeth Hardwick
1985 Robert Motherwell[15] Varujan Boghosian
1986 Lee Friedlander[15] John Szarkowski
1987 Leonard Bernstein[15] Ned Rorem
1988 William Styron[15] George Plimpton
1989 Stan Brakhage[15] John Hanhardt
1990 Louise Bourgeois[15] Robert Storr
1991 David Diamond[15] Joseph Polisi
1992 Richard Wilbur[15] Richard Howard
1993 Harry Callahan[15] Anne Tucker
1994 Jasper Johns[15] Kirk Varnedoe
1995 George Crumb[15] Christopher Rouse
1996 Joan Didion[15] Elizabeth Hardwick
1997 Chuck Jones[15] John Canemaker
1998 I. M. Pei[15] J. Carter Brown
1999 Ellsworth Kelly[15] James Cuno
2000 Lou Harrison[15] Dennis Russell Davies
2001 Philip Roth[15] William Styron
2002 Robert Frank[15] Philip Brookman
2003 Merce Cunningham[15] Meredith Monk
2004 Nam June Paik[15] John Hanhardt
2005 Steve Reich[15] David Lang and Richard Serra
2006 Alice Munro[15] Virginia Barber
2007 Les Blank[15] Frederick Wiseman
2008 Thom Mayne[15] Robert Campbell
2009 Kiki Smith[15] Lynne Tillman
2010 Sonny Rollins[15] Gary Giddins
2011 Edward Albee[15] Mike Nichols
2012 Nan Goldin Luc Sante
2013 Stephen Sondheim Frank Rich
2014 Betye Saar Lowery Stokes Sims
2015 Gunther Schuller (posthumous) Yehudi Wyner and Terrance McKnight
2016 Toni Morrison Peter Sellars
2017 David Lynch[16] Kristine McKenna
2018 Art Spiegelman Hillary Chute
2019 Charles Gaines (artist)[17] Thelma Golden


  1. ^ "The MacDowell Colony". ResArtis: worldwide network of artist residencies. ResArtis. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ "Artists Retreat into Solitude at MacDowell Colony". NPR. NPR. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ "Artists and Works Supported by MacDowell". MacDowell Colony. MacDowell Colony. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ "History of MacDowell Colony". MacDowell Colony. MacDowell Colony. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 2015.
  5. ^ a b Boehm, Mike. "L.A. artist Betye Saar wins art colony medal, joining elite club". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015.
  6. ^ Rausch, Robin. "A Century of Creativity: The MacDowell Colony, 1907-2007". Information Bulletin. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ Reily, Nancy Hopkins (2009). Georgia O'Keeffe, a Private Friendship: Walking the Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch land. Sunstone Press. pp. 426-428. ISBN 9780865344525.
  8. ^ Freedman, Samuel G. (August 27, 1984), "McCarthy Is Recipient of MacDowell Medal", The New York Times, retrieved 2015
  9. ^ a b Holland, Bernard. "Bernstein Wins MacDowell Medal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ Styron, William (2015). My Generation: Collected Nonfiction. Random House. ISBN 9780812997064.
  11. ^ "Stephen Sondheim honoured with Edward MacDowell medal". BBC News. August 12, 2013. Retrieved 2015.
  12. ^ Shanahan, Mark (April 14, 2015). "Gunther Schuller to receive prestigious honor at MacDowell Colony". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015.
  13. ^ Schudel, Matt (June 22, 2015). "Gunther Schuller, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who bridged jazz and classical music, dies at 89". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015.
  14. ^ "Medal Day". MacDowell Colony. Archived from the original on 6 November 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az "MacDowell Medal winners -- 1960-2011". The Daily Telegraph. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ "David Lynch to receive medal from MacDowell artist colony". The Seattle Times. 2017-05-14. Retrieved .
  17. ^ Staff. "Artist Charles Gaines to receive 60th MacDowell Medal". Sentinel Source. Retrieved .

External links

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