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MacDowell Colony dedicates James Baldwin Library 

  • The MacDowell Colony dedicated the James Baldwin Library in Peterborough on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • MacDowell Colony fellow Florence Ladd speaks at the dedication of the Colony’s newly renovated library in Peterborough on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough dedicated The James Baldwin Library in a ceremony on Sunday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, November 06, 2018 10:56AM

“Viva Jimmy!” declared Florence Ladd, standing in front of the newly dedicated James Baldwin Library at Peterborough’s MacDowell Colony on Sunday.

The colony honored Baldwin, who was one of the first African American residents of the artist’s retreat in 1954, and returned to the MacDowell Colony twice more, to work on his publications, “Giovanni’s Room”, “Notes of a Native Son”, “Another Country” and his seminal essay, “Nobody Knows My Name”.

According to Baldwin’s biographer, David Leeming, Baldwin called the MacDowell Colony “his favorite writing sanctuary.”

The library houses 15,000 books, recordings, scores, films and art donated by past MacDowell fellows. The library was re-dedicated on Sunday, after an extensive expansion to the original 1926 structure.

The library spills in light from tall windows, giving plenty of illumination to multiple small nooks for browsers to explore or settle in to read the library’s stock of materials. On the wall hangs art from previous MacDowell fellows, and a photograph of the fellows of 1954, Baldwin among them. Just inside the front door is a painting of Baldwin done by artist Beauford Delaney, and donated to the MacDowell Colony by the Baldwin estate.

This is the first time a national arts association has named a building in Baldwin’s name.

Cheryl Young, a member of the MacDowell Colony Board of Directors, said during Sunday’s dedication that Baldwin’s voice, ideals and vision are still strikingly relevant.

“Now, in these days, we need someone like James Baldwin more than ever. He’s invoked constantly if you listen for it,” Cheryl Young said. 

Ladd another MacDowell fellow, who met Baldwin in 1962 while teaching in Istanbul, agreed interest in Baldwin’s works is re-surging to and “all-time high” – a fact made particularly poignant by the fact that in his own lifetime, his popularity waxed and waned.

The last time she saw Baldwin, Ladd said, was in 1987, shortly before his death from cancer. 

“His health was declining and his reputation was declining,” Ladd said. “He felt no one knew his name at that time.” 

Ladd said she wished Baldwin could have been present today, to see how his works and his name have endured.

“This library bears his name and carries his reputation,” she said. 

In addition to dedicating the library in his name, the MacDowell Colony will also be awarding Baldwin fellowships. While artists are not charged for their residencies, Baldwin fellowships will offer financial assistance to reimburse travel expenses and make up for income lost because of time away. Artists 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.