In 1899, our co-founder Katrina Trask envisioned Yaddo as a place intended for “men and women—creating, creating, creating!” Some 26 years later, the first group of guests arrived at Yaddo, with men and women artists equally represented.
Inclusion has long been integral to our credo and, this year we’re delighted to partner with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women’s constitutional right to vote.
On Wednesday, August 26th, Yaddo will be participating in the Forward into Light Campaign, a nationwide public art project encouraging artists to express themselves in the official suffrage colors of purple and gold. Many arts organizations and other landmark buildings are participating, including the Library of Congress, National Archives and the National Park Service.
We’ll soon be unveiling our historic Yaddo Mansion awash in purple and gold on all our digital platforms. Post your own “light art” tagging @WomensVote100 and Yaddo—@yaddocommunity on Facebook or @yaddotoday on Instagram & Twitter—with the hashtags #ForwardIntoLight or #PurpleAndGold, and we’ll share your posts.
Let’s pay homage to all the women who came before us!
We in the Yaddo community believe in the power of art to bridge cultural and political barriers, remind us of our shared humanity, and catalyze change. We have witnessed with horror (as has anyone with a conscience) the latest atrocities in a long chain of anti-Black violence in our country. Our solidarity and concern lie particularly with African-Americans at this moment, and also extend to all communities of color that have long endured systemic racism, particularly Native American and Latinx people. Our colleagues, artists, administrators, and supporters condemn the discrimination and brutality that continues to be perpetrated against Black lives. Furthermore, we are appalled by the disproportionate suffering caused by the mismanagement of COVID-19 care in communities of color and by repeated acts of hatred and callousness.
Yaddo is committed to equality in our words and our actions. As an institution, it is our mission to be actively anti-racist; to continuously prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in the composition of our residents, staff, funders and board.
We are aware of our critical responsibility as a supporter of our country’s leading artistic voices, and we will continue to use that platform to help bring about a more just and equitable world.
Our thanks to all those who are ahead of us, on the front lines of this struggle. We are with you.
Here’s some oxygen for your week: A team of Pulitzer Prize winners, including librettist Mark Campbell and Yaddo composer Paul Moravec produced this virtuosic performance of “Light Shall Lift Us.”
The soaring rendition has gone viral, with more than a million views across several sites in only a few days, inspiring strength, hope, joy, solace, and reminding us all why we turn to artists, especially during times of crisis.
With talent to burn, many artists who work in the gig economy have been especially hard-hit in the economic implosion of the global pandemic. This world premiere video, developed by Opera America, gathers some 107 opera singers and issues a galvanizing rally for the opera community and the arts in general while calling on each of us to support the artists and organizations whose work enriches our lives.
“In this pandemic, everything has changed and yet nothing has changed,” Moravec said. “These eminent artists are still just as crucial as they were when this ordeal began, and they will be even more essential when we emerge together on the other side.”
Opera companies, individual artists and arts organizations need guardian angels to sustain our “cathedral for art” (to quote another Yaddo composer, Kala Pierson). Dig out those wings and join us in supporting an artist in any way that is within your means.
Recent events—namely the global pandemic and state-mandated closure of businesses deemed “non-essential”—beg some questions: Is Yaddo essential? Is art necessary? What happens to artists in a time of global crisis, and how can we help?
In her brilliant essay collection, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency (forthcoming in May), Olivia Laing profiles several writers and artists (many of them her fellow Yaddo alums), diving into how they handled trying times. She published the introductory essay in The Guardian, positing that creative work offers clarity, nourishment, solace, hope and “a restoration of faith,” she wrote. “It’s easy to give into despair. There’s so much that’s frightening, so much wrong. But if this virus shows us anything, it’s that we’re interconnected… We keep each other afloat, even when we can’t touch. Art is a place where that can happen, where ideas and people are made welcome. It’s a zone of enchantment as well as resistance, and it’s open even now.”
In a word, yes. Yaddo is the zone! We are your community. Further, Yaddo is you, the artists who have long been at the forefront of creating work with global impact. And that’s especially true at this moment, with so many of you on the front line.
Luba Drozd, an installation artist who came to Yaddo in February, has been in the news lately for using her 3D printer to make protective face shields for healthcare workers. She switched from engineering complex sound components to making life-saving medical gear in her Brooklyn apartment. In many arenas, large and small, our illustrious artists take on leadership roles that far exceed their creative callings.
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and President of PEN America Jennifer Egan announced recently that PEN won the first round in their lawsuit against President Trump for retaliating against journalists (media is considered an “essential business”). A federal court denied a motion to dismiss the case. “[We are] profoundly grateful for the court’s timely decision,” Egan said in a press statement. “The Trump administration’s punitive stance toward the press has continued unabated, with corrosive results for truth, fact, our democracy, and—most recently—public health.”
Mentioned earlier, Olivia Laing came to her hard-won conclusions on art in emergencies by revisiting the AIDS epidemic, among other atrocities, with some of her Yaddo pals such as writer and activist Sarah Schulman. Laing also looked into the historical context of works like the Klan paintings of Philip Guston, who found respite at Yaddo in 1969 amid his shift from abstract expressionism to exploring the tumult of his era. Laing writes: “Guston wasn’t looking from afar. This time, he was inside the frame. Someone, some bozo, was underneath the hood, peering out at the world through the slits in cloth. You have to bear witness, Guston kept saying, but he meant more than merely watching events unfold.”
As galvanizing as the work of other artists can be, most of us are not out saving the world, rather we’re relishing solitude, sleep, books, maybe hoarding ice cream and watching Netflix. Oddly enough, in a time when so many are deemed “non-essential” workers, artists have become the go-to source for coping with quarantine. Books are oxygen. Films are queued. Poetry is blooming, and the digital space is filled with impromptu interviews with artists. It’s enough to create art for its own sake, even when doing so seems impossible.
“In times when people are suffering, a constant everywhere on the globe, I question the importance of art,” painter Josh Dorman told Koplin Del Rio. “But it’s also in these moments when I’m reminded of the simple healing power of making things with one’s hands, and the capability of imagination to create an escape—an alternate world.”
Alternate worlds figure into Laing’s eloquent argument that emergencies require art. “That’s the thing about utopias, they keep you going,” she wrote. “Hope has a bad press in our cynical age, but it doesn’t necessarily mean being disengaged, a Pollyanna blind to the state things are in or uninterested in how they got that way. Hope is the precursor to change. Without it, no better world is possible.”
Deep down, we suspect, most artists believe that, as Terry Adkins said, “Art can be a force for change.” In the meantime, lots of shelter dogs are finding homes, small farms in upstate New York are more successful and the air is cleaner.
Plus, we still have what matters most: “People. Staying connected and staying open. Supporting when and where it’s possible,” Elisabeth Condon told Art Spiel. “When I remember to stay open it combats nihilism. It also firms my resolve to paint…with a free and open perspective, to create a space in which others can open as well.”
While the physical location of Yaddo is closed, our hearts are open. Let Yaddo be your bridge to a better world—we’ll see you on the other side.
In this difficult and isolating time, let Yaddo be your window to the world. We’ve collected music, books, visual art, poems and wonderful moments among friends to brighten your day. Sample the extraordinary work of Yaddo artists, and keep in (virtual) touch!
A moment of stillness, a zing of recognition, a window opened on the soul— these are among the rewards of poetry, each of them sorely needed right now. Join us for our specially curated series, Poems for These Days.
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.
This is a challenging time for many in our community, as artists and writers cope with cancelled work, lost income, and medical uncertainty. Yaddo has compiled the following list of online resources for artists affected by the pandemic, and will continue to expand the list in the coming weeks as opportunities become available.
You would think this strange period of social distancing would be a no-brainer for those of us at Yaddo. After all, we’re a retreat—a place consciously designed to allow for quiet, for deep-thinking, reflection and solitude. But as we closed our program this week with the heaviest of hearts, knowing that we won’t be re-enlivened with the bustle of guests before June at the soonest, I found myself thinking a lot about the other side of the retreat coin: community. As we all know from our own lives—whether from meditation or prayer, solitary walks or an unplugged phone—the point of retreat is to gather strength and then advance. For Yaddo’s artists, the form that re-entry takes is a lucky one for each of us—it’s the thousands of books, films, symphonies and artworks that delight, challenge and comfort us throughout the years. It turns out that Yaddo is not just a collection of buildings and truly beautiful grounds, it’s connection through friendships, the exchange of ideas, and the drawing together of us all.
And so, with the modest hope that we can be of some use to our artists and to all of you during these fretful days, we’re springing into action to enhance community and share a few pleasures. We’ve set up a Yaddo Authors Bookshop, which features recently-published titles from our writers; we’ll be posting frequent updates on resources for artists; and we invite you to join us via social media each day for #CheersAtFive, a moment to clink a virtual glass and enjoy a poem, or story, or an image of surpassing beauty.
We may be inside, but we are not
alone. Let’s come together to explore the cultural landscape Yaddo helps create
and all of you support and nurture. I think we’ll find there are many paths to
wander down and a lot of laughs and insights to be had along the way.
Sending love and good wishes to you all. Stay well.
The Corporation of Yaddo, the artist residency based in Saratoga Springs, New York, announced it would close temporarily due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “In accordance with recommendations from public health officials and the CDC, the Yaddo Executive Committee made this difficult decision to keep our visiting artists, staff, and community safe,” said President Elaina Richardson. “At this time we have no confirmed cases of coronavirus at Yaddo, but we are taking preemptive action in order to play our part in slowing the transmission of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable populations.”
Yaddo welcomes nearly 300 artists per year from around the world in its mission to provide artists the opportunity to work without interruption in a supportive environment. Currently the closure affects only artists in residence at Yaddo now and those due to arrive in April and May. Artists currently at Yaddo will be assisted with early departures and guests due to arrive will be rescheduled if at all possible after the crisis has lessened.
“We have been closely monitoring the developing situation and have been in touch with state and local health officials, as well as our colleagues at other residency programs,” added Ms. Richardson. “While Yaddo has never seen an interruption of this length in its nearly 100 years of service to artists, it has now become apparent that closing altogether is the responsible course of action from a public health standpoint. As always, the well-being of our artists is at the forefront of our decision making. We will also work with our community to see what we might do to help offset financial hardship caused to artists by the shutdown.”
All immediately upcoming Yaddo public and private events are currently cancelled. More information will be shared as it becomes available.
Yaddo will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and make a decision about reopening the residency program as the situation evolves. Further details will be shared with our community via email, social media, and on our website at yaddo.org. Please follow us on Facebook @yaddocommunity, Twitter @yaddotoday, and Instagram @yaddotoday for the latest updates as well as news from our artist community.
Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts, children of the arts—we did it! Yaddo is reborn again, and we offer a galactic thank you for all your support in helping us restore our historic Mansion—the architectural jewel, public face, creative hub, artistic sanctuary, refuge for the world’s leading minds, and yes, the soul of Yaddo.
It wasn’t easy: It took an unprecedented $7.6 million investment, 18 months of Mansion closure and construction; a carapace of specially engineered scaffolding; rehabbing all fixtures, including our iconic weathervane; fixing 756 window sashes in 338 windows; sealing our exterior envelope with 15 tons of mortar; a new roof; stabilizing the porte cochère—a magical feat of modern engineering; adding six new bathrooms; and upgrading our entire electrical and HVAC system, among other triumphs.
What else? We’ve given Yaddo a sustainable future; now it will be here for another century. Plus, with our other updated facilities and new live-work studios, we stand to increase the number of artists we host annually by about 25 percent, up to 270 guests each year.
In June, we welcomed the public back to the Mansion for our annual Yaddo Summer Benefit. More than 375 guests celebrated the party of the season with special guest Mike Doughty; together we raised just shy of $190,000 for our residency program. The celebration will continue at our Yaddo Gala in New York City on October 3.
With this big facilities lift behind us, we’re now focused on a matter of equal urgency—access to Yaddo. We know the need for space, quiet and community is more important than ever and we are working hard to make sure that writers and artists who are invited here can actually take us up on that gift. Thanks to an inspired gift from Musa and Tom Mayer, along with others, we will offer more Access Grants to help defray such expenses as travel, childcare, lost income and supplies, and do all we can to ensure that a diverse range of the world’s most exceptional artists have a seat at our table.
Now… reporting live: Our summer season is in full swing, with poets, sculptors, composers, filmmakers, painters, writers, graphic novelists, performers and more, all here to “augment the sacred fire within,” as Spencer and Katrina Trask put it in 1900.
Artists have returned in full force to the Mansion!
Here at Yaddo, we are delighted to be partnering with The Maurice Sendak Foundation, which has given us a grant to underwrite a new residency. The Sendak/Glynn Narrative Illustration Residency—designated for artists whose primary media is work on paper through the use of non-digital tools—will provide a $1,000 financial aid stipend to one artist as well as cover the costs of hosting that artist in residence at Yaddo.
“The Maurice Sendak Foundation is very pleased to be represented at Yaddo,” says Lynn Caponera, President of The Maurice Sendak Foundation. “Maurice, throughout his lifetime, was a student of all the arts, and we are delighted to be able to give illustrators the opportunity to enhance their craft by enabling them to work among other Yaddo residents.”
We concur! Gathering around the storied Yaddo dinner table in our historic Mansion with diverse artists from varied disciplines such as dance, literature, film and video, music composition, performance, visual art and theater is one of the great joys of Yaddo. Emerging artists encounter their heroes, and creative breakthroughs are born from sharing with other visionary talents.
Let the storytelling begin—with sincere thanks to The Maurice Sendak Foundation for making this possible. “We’re grateful to The Maurice Sendak Foundation for the opportunity to expand Yaddo’s burgeoning community of narrative artists,” says Yaddo President Elaina Richardson. “The funding will help to support work that is, in Maurice Sendak’s words, ‘not vapid or stupid, but original; work that excites and incites.’ We welcome this chance to extend Sendak’s legacy to a new generation while underscoring Yaddo’s rich tradition of support to artists at all stages of their work and creative life.”
ABOUT THE MAURICE SENDAK FOUNDATION: The Maurice Sendak Foundation, a not-for-profit charitable organization, is devoted to promoting greater public interest in and understanding of the literary, illustrative, and theatrical arts. The Foundation supports the artistic legacy of Maurice Sendak and nurtures emerging as well as established artists in the fields of children’s literature and theater design. The Foundation also promotes the rights and well-being of children and animals by supporting children’s literacy and animal welfare. The Maurice Sendak Foundation each year supports other not-for-profit organizations whose activities fall within its stated mission. For more information, please see www.sendakfoundation.org.
The Yaddo Mansion covers 29,000 sq. ft. and is the architectural centerpiece of our 400-acre property. The home holds 55 rooms and was built in 1893 by Yaddo founders Spencer and Katrina Trask.
The scope of planned restoration is comprehensive—structural repairs, abatement, window repair and replacement; gutter and roof repairs, HVAC installation—and will include extensive work to the exterior as well as to systems that will enhance the interior livability and comfort of the Mansion.
We are bringing in all new three-phase power to upgrade the heating (and add air conditioning) in the dining room, among other common areas—as well as laying the groundwork for future upgrades.
Talented artisans from local businesses are refurbishing the Mansion’s decorative fixtures, including all the metal work.
Windows will be removed and replaced or repaired, if needed, with spring-loaded brass weatherstripping added. With some 550 window sashes in the Mansion, this project will happen in phases, with specialists on site.
Roofing from the tower—the highest point on the Mansion—will be removed, with a protective rubber membrane added. New copper and slate tiles will replace the old roof.
The exterior frieze-panels will be fully restored. Brand new molds are cast from the original panels so that more weather resistant models can replace them.
Regional craftsmen, such as Allegrone Construction Mason David Bishop, will bring their skills to bear.
Masonry: seams will be repointed to seal the Mansion’s exterior envelope.
Prior to closing the Mansion for restoration, we built five new live-work studios to house artists who continue to be in residence during construction and to broaden the diversity and range of experiences offered to artists.
This is the dawn of a new era for our historic Mansion. We anticipate welcoming artists back into the building next summer.
Here we are—ready for the final big lift to honor and preserve our past while building a sustainable future for the next generation of artists and writers as well as our community, from our neighbors in Saratoga Springs to our varied artists and arts professionals around the globe.
Now is the pivotal moment, as we launch a multimillion-dollar stabilization and restoration of the public face of Yaddo–our historic Mansion, which serves both as refuge for individual artists and as creative common ground, where the world’s leading minds gather to share ideas, energy and imagination. Guided by our mission to provide sanctuary for artists, plans for our renewed Mansion will also allow us to host programming that brings together our artists with the general public, offering resources and access to one of the Capital Region’s cultural jewels.
Of course, change requires hard work and thoughtful preparation, especially for Yaddo, which has served artists for more than a century. We’ve thought long and hard about this magical place, about how to embrace this transformational moment, about the kind of neighbor we want to be in our thriving, rapidly evolving upstate community.
We began in 2012 with a Strategic Plan, the culmination of many listen-and-learn sessions, consultations with experts, and several conversations with our board, artists and community. In June of 2013, we commissioned a comprehensive Facilities Master Plan, which spotlighted the structural integrity of the Mansion, calling for stabilization of the building as key to the survival of Yaddo.
Soon after, we kicked off a Capital Campaign to raise funds for the work. With a goal of raising $10 million and with almost $7 million already committed, we signed a contract last year to begin preparations. First focusing on architectural investigation and life-safety issues, preparation work proceeded slowly through this harsh winter. With warmer weather came scaffolding (foundation to roof!) and the necessary stabilization of some areas before work could begin. With our plans engineered, stamped and certified, we are now ready to charge forward to renew Yaddo for future generations.
The time is now to protect Yaddo, to ensure that all it has meant to individual artists and to American culture is honored, and to go beyond that to build a version of Yaddo that is invigorated, burnished and fully prepared for our second century.
Realizing this grand vision requires an unprecedented level of support. As Yaddo Artist Elizabeth Strout said recently in her remarks for our Summer Benefit, “Places like Yaddo don’t just happen by magic. You put your trust and your resources into those whose work may not show up for years, or may never show up. But you do it anyway. Because you know that a society must value the arts. And what you are doing is an act of faith.”
Please join us in bringing this extraordinary act of faith to fruition with an earmarked contribution.