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The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University recently presented a heritage tour for the board of the MacDowell Colony and some of its principle donors. The MacDowell Colony is the oldest artist colony in the United States, founded in 1906. Writers, painters, composers, choreographers and other artists who become MacDowell Fellows can stay at their facilities in Peterborough New Hampshire while they complete their artistic projects. Notable MacDowell Fellows include Leonard Bernstein, Thornton Wilder, Aaron Copland, Milton Avery, James Baldwin, Spalding Gray, and more recently Alice Walker, Alice Sebold, Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, Suzan-Lori Parks, Meredith Monk, and many more. Three MacDowell Fellows currently live in Mississippi: authors Tom Franklin and Lisa Howorth, and poet Beth Ann Fennelly, all living in Oxford.
The tour began in the Lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and spent two full days in the Delta before moving on to Oxford and the University of Mississippi for a special session of Thacker Mountain Radio that will feature MacDowell recipients. Participants visited local museums and historic sites, including the levee break that produced the great flood of 1927 and the last rural juke joint, Po' Monkey's Lounge. Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly have collaborated on a new novel that is based on the great flood of 1927, and it is scheduled for release this spring. Dr. Luther Brown, Director of the Delta Center, accompanied the tour through the Delta. John Martin, formerly of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and now an employee of the MacDowell Colony, also participated in the tour.