‘Millay Research Squad’ Organizes Last File Box During COVE Event


Charles A. Dana Professor of Religion Georgia Frank, along with student volunteers from her course “Death and Afterlife” and Professor of English Michael Coyle’s course “Modernist Poetry,” completed a multi-semester research project on Millay Arts during an event sponsored by Colgate University’s Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE). The Tuesday, April 18 celebration was marked by the sorting of the last box of files.

This culmination of research coincides with Millay Arts’ 50th anniversary. The organization — located about 140 miles from Colgate in Austerlitz, New York — offers temporary residency to artists across a multitude of disciplines to have an opportunity to concentrate solely on their work. Artists include visual artists, poets, writers and composers. The art colony hosts approximately 60 residents each year for their core residency program. This program comes at no cost to the artists; it is fully funded through grants, national endowment funds for the arts and private donations. 

The current group of researchers, dubbed the “Millay Research Squad,” joined with Colgate students from two previous semesters to complete this research project. On Tuesday nights throughout the duration of the project, students looked through physical files of information gathered about artists who resided at Millay Arts, uploading this information to an organized spreadsheet. This spreadsheet contains information concerning the duration of each artist’s stay at Millay, the work they produce and information to contact them currently including their websites and email addresses. 

“My hope is that students take a plunge into discovering research as a way to feed one’s curiosity and to tell stories about fascinating and meaningful people,” Professor Frank said.

As students sifted through the files and uploaded information to the spreadsheet, Millay Arts’ Co-Director Monika Burczyk was available virtually to answer questions from the students and oversee the research process. Burczyk explained that this project was long overdue and that even the staff at Millay did not know what was in the files. Student researchers have found some notable works in the files — including some from playwright James Lapine, who wrote “Into the Woods” during his time at Millay. 

First-year Abby Harn noted that she enjoyed finding unexpected items in the files, such as slides of the artists’ work and photos of the artists. She described how putting these tangible pieces together with information found online creates a complete picture of the artists today.

“It’s sad when you look up a person and can’t find any trace,” Harn said, “to me, this screams that they stopped their practice. I like to see that they continued on and Millay supported their endeavors.”

Junior Joseph LaMuraglia found the research engaging and a nice break from traditional academic coursework. 

“It’s almost like being in an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie,” LaMuraglia said, “The internet comes second. As an anthropology major, most of my experience with research has been online. It’s nice to be able to physically flip through the files to look for information.”

Over the last three semesters, students compiled a digital database of 2,435 artist alumni. While compiling information about the artists, students also found slides, photos, poems and personal notes in the files. Frank emphasized the need for further work to be done with the project.

“As these were some of the most thrilling discoveries for our volunteers, it would be great if Colgate students could be involved in digitizing, further researching, and creating metadata for them,” Frank said. 

Due to her research work with Millay Arts, Frank will be recognized with a Faculty/Staff Engagement award from the COVE in May.