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Creative Colonists

Imagine a place where words and music, art and poetry collide. It's a place of serene beauty and inspiration. Creativity just drips from its edifices. No, we're not talking about the Library of Congress, although it is just as exceptional. In this case, we're referring to The MacDowell Colony, an artists' community located Peterborough, N.H., founded in 1907 by American composer Edward MacDowell and his wife Marian. Distinguished alumni include Leonard Bernstein, Willa Cather, Aaron Copland and Thornton Wilder.

MacDowell Colony Fellows and staff form a peace circle on September 11, 2001 Scene from "Porgy and Bess," Theater Guild production. 1935-1936

Marking a "century of creativity," the Library's online exhibition on The MacDowell Colony traces the history of the artists' residency program and offers a glimpse of America during a time when many artists were finding a distinct national voice. To date, more than 6,000 writers, visual artists, composers, playwrights, filmmakers, architects and interdisciplinary artists have roamed its 450 wooded acres seeking inspiration and friendship, with both ultimately leading to profound and acclaimed works.

One such work was a play written by Dorothy and Dubose Heyward. In fact, the two met while on fellowship at the colony in 1922 and married a year later. While in residence together in 1924, Dubose finished his novel "Porgy" despite criticism from his fellow colonists. Convinced the novel had "drama" written all over it, Dorothy encouraged Dubose to adapt it to the stage, and the play debuted on Broadway in 1927. Thanks to a little help from George and Ira Gershwin, the American classic "Porgy and Bess" was born a few years later, and Dubose's lyrics to songs like "Summertime" have become some of the most enduring pieces of American musical theater.

The Library of Congress is home to the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, housed in the Music Division, which includes the music (including orchestrations, piano-vocal scores and sketches), lyric sheets, librettos, correspondence, photographs, paintings and drawings, legal and financial papers, scrapbooks, programs, posters, scores from George's music library and scripts for radio broadcasts. The first item Ira gave to the Library was George's sketch for "The Crapshooter's Song" from "Porgy and Bess," along with the promise that he would "dig up something more satisfactory."

A. MacDowell Colony Fellows and staff form a peace circle on September 11, 2001.  Brendan Tapley. Courtesy of The MacDowell Colony. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.

B. Scene from "Porgy and Bess," Theater Guild production. 1935-1936. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USW33-054917-C (b&w film neg.); Call No.: LC-USW33- 054917-C [P&P]