A Letter from Our Co-Chairs

April 20, 2020

As the world struggles to get ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, we here at Yaddo are working to make the best decisions to put us on the optimal path going forward, one that will allow us to recover from this time and sustain our mission for decades to come. After much thoughtful discussion on the part of the board, we decided the soundest course of action was to close the Program for the remainder of the year, and we wanted to explain Yaddo’s thinking to you. 

Why is this necessary? For Yaddo to reopen there needs to be a global all clear—we don’t have the ability to set up a monitoring system to ensure no one enters our community from an area that still has active cases. Epidemiologists agree that the apex of this pandemic will occur in rolling waves around the world and may well return in the fall after a dormant period. Sadly, this means we must reschedule all those who were on the calendar for a residency. The Yaddo staff has worked diligently to communicate that our decision to continue the closure through 2020 was made in order to avoid the harmful effects of rolling cancellations. Not only are they disruptive and disheartening, but they can put artists on unsteady ground. We all understand the many sacrifices made to come to Yaddo such as subletting housing, canceling work plans, childcare/caregiving, and lost income, to name a few. Notifying now hopefully brings clarity to our artists rather than making things worse by a late-cancellation notice.

At the same time, our endowment has suffered as the global economy fell, with a current loss of over 17% and no clear “bottom” for the markets. We have canceled fundraising events at least through the first 6 months of this year, suffering a loss of over $600,000 in revenue. It costs about $330,000 a month to run Yaddo, so the economic stress is real.

In light of these numbers and aware that strong Federal support has become available (Yaddo has successfully applied for aid under the CARES Act), we acted quickly to be both fiscally prudent and to protect our staff as best could be. For example, Yaddo has agreed to pick up all health insurance costs, including the employee portion should someone be furloughed—an extraordinary measure for a not-for-profit to take, but one that the full Executive Committee supported. In addition, some senior staff are taking significant pay cuts—20% in the case of the President.

Nothing would please us more than to find that we have been unduly pessimistic in taking these steps. If so, we will quickly reverse course and reopen our doors to guests. We’re doing all we can to secure emergency funding and to carefully manage our resources. The plan is for all of us to come out the other side of this with resilience, to have Yaddo remain a leader in the field, and to return to “regular life” when it is safe to do so. We will stay in touch with everyone and let you know, instantly, when the “return” decision is made. 

We’ve appreciated hearing from many of you and know there’s a strong desire to help at this moment. Here are a few ideas for what you might do:

  • If you’re in a position to offer financial support, please do so as generously as you can. Perhaps your Annual Gift could be sent early? Or if you would have supported Variations or the Summer Benefit, might you give that support? We need you more than ever. 
  • Join us to enjoy Virtual Yaddo projects. 
  • Have patience as we all adjust to reduced numbers and sometimes inadequate home technology. 

We hope you and your circle of loved ones stay safe during this challenging time.

Janice Y.K. Lee and Peter Kayafas