How to “wrap up” a year that has meant so many things to so many people without reducing their stories and concerns? How to wrap up a year like 2017 with a sense of joy and optimism when so many around us are so vulnerable?
Perhaps we can begin by telling you what meant the most to us here at The Millay Colony. Perhaps by bringing you up the winding dirt road that leads from downtown Austerlitz (read: a post office) to our magical campus overlooking the Berkshire foothills. Here, everything feels better. Here, you are in the company of artists of all kinds, from every community, making great work.
2017 on our campus included so many initiatives and programs and happenings and so much community and great work! Let us tell you about it…
Wildlife abounds where we are on the edge of the Berkshires, so we weren’t surprised when this note popped up as a May entry in the colony journal: “Hi Jonathan, Last night a raccoon got into the barn & we tried to chase it out but somehow it slipped into your room because the door was ajar. We didn’t want it to get out so we shut it in there. It may be there still. Sorry!” We didn’t hear a peep about this incident, so our assumption is the raccoon eventually got out and Jonathan got his room back. Another journal entry that same month, “Coyotes interrupting a reading about foxes screaming, not to be outdone.”
The wildlife may have been raucous, but the residents got along with each other famously this year with promises to continue their new friendships at departure time (always a sad event). From October resident, Fiction writer, Kyle Lucia Wu, “I loved it here so much and never wanted to leave. The other residents and I all grew so close, and were matched together so well. It was such a luxury to be cooked and shopped for. The Barn was cozy, the Main house was modern, and I had everything I could want. There was nothing else I missed.”
Many of our alumna had great success this year and we were cheering one and all! National Book Award Shortlist? But of course! Many kudos to our amazing alumni Carmen Maria Machado (finalist in fiction) and Danez Smith (finalist in poetry). MacArthur Genius Award? Check. Felicitations to playwright Annie Baker. And to all our alumni and workshoppers and friends – for your books, your tours, your exhibits and recordings and dances and theater pieces, and for all the grand working and thinking and singing and opining that you do so beautifully – we salute you! You are The Millay Colony at its best, each and every one.
We launched a program of stipends for selected artists, in the hopes of inviting a wider range of artists to our campus, and making their participation as full as possible. The Yasmin Scholarship, for example, offers $1,000 stipends to two women artists of color each year. Scholarship founder and Millay Alumna Seema Yasmin noted, “I’m tired of other people telling our stories. I’m bored of other people repackaging our music. I refuse to keep seeing my world through the (literal) lens of white, male artists. I’m sharing the advance from my first two books with other women of color artists because our music, our stories, our images, our dreams and our art matters. This is my small way of showing support to my fellow creators and encouraging you to apply for the gifts of time, silence and solitude at The Millay Colony for the Arts.”
Our new workshop program, The Sanctuary Series, brings together artists, thinkers, educators in collaborative sessions that ask participants to creatively imagine desired cultural and community outcomes as well as their role within those outcomes. Held at the gorgeous Neighborhood Preservation Center in New York City, we had full classes with teachers including Betsy Fagin and Kavita Das.
We also had two workshop retreats, lead by the amazing Melissa Febos and Colleen Kinder, and a newly inaugurated program, the Master Class Week with Carole Maso and special guests including Samita Sinha.
“If it were up to me, I would do the workshop exactly the same way you did this one each year. It was perfect.” – Mike Hammer, Master Class Week
“I am still in the energy of Millay a week later — writing and feeling relaxed. And I’m still missing the delicious conversation and food at those meals!” – Marcia Blau
In addition to the workshops on campus and in NYC, we have continued our Arts Education with expanded School Programs now in five School Districts! This year not only have we been able to support Visiting Artist Residencies in Albany High School, but we are developing an extensive program for Hudson City High School that focuses on Poetry in Translation. We are particularly excited about this work as Hudson is home to large Bengali- and Spanish-speaking populations. Poet Dave Johnson has worked with the teachers, administrators, and students in Hudson over the course of four years. Out of these relationships we have been able to identify what would be of most help to the community. Hudson English Department Chair Theresa Cipollari says bringing Millay’s programs into the school “has broadened students’ horizons in such creative ways. These programs greatly benefit our students and teachers alike.”
Meanwhile, to mark the centenary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the re-opening of New York State’s oldest surviving theater, Hudson Hall in partnership with The Millay Colony for the Arts commissioned a new production of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s rarely performed opera The Mother of Us All. The Millay Colony coordinated a group of educators from New York City, Bard College and Hudson, to compile study guides for local schools and offer a free community workshop at Hudson-area library – all to accompany the production and discuss the issues it raises (suffragism/abolitionism and more). Our free workshop in Hudson is documented here.
And, finally, 2017 provided a strong call to rededicate ourselves to equity, inclusiveness and anti-oppression work in all its forms. We began with the Alliance Program, a commitment from which we will be curating programs and workshops, welcoming artists, developing staff and board, and simply focusing our energies.
We hope you will join us in the fullest sense of joining – as a visitor, a guest, a fellow traveler and a supporter. We welcome you at The Millay Colony, always. And we hope that some of you will be inspired to support us with a charitable contribution. It means the world to us and everyone we work with.
Good New Year, folks. May it shine brightly, may our creative energies flourish and may we be together in making 2018 a better year for ALL.
xo The Millay Colony
Caroline Crumpacker, Executive Director
Calliope Nicholas, Residency Director
Cara Benson, Program Manager
Hallie Goodman, Marketing and Outreach