Saturday, June 27, 2015

Yaddo is an artists' community located on a 400 acre (1.6 km²) estate in Saratoga Springs, New York. Its mission is "to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment." On March 11, 2013 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

It offers residencies to artists working in choreography, film, literature, musical composition, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and video. Collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won 66 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 61 National Book Awards, 24 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, 49 Whiting Writers' Awards, a Nobel Prize (Saul Bellow, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976), and countless other honors. Yaddo is included in the Union Avenue Historic District.



The estate was purchased in 1881 by the financier Spencer Trask and his wife, the writer Katrina Trask. The first mansion on the property burned down in 1893, and the Trasks then built the current house. Yaddo is a neologism invented by one of the Trask children and was meant to rhyme with "shadow".

Artists' colony

In 1900, after the premature deaths of the Trasks' four children, Spencer Trask decided to turn the estate into an artist's retreat as a gift to his wife. He did this with the financial assistance of philanthropist George Foster Peabody. The first artists moved in 1926. The success of Yaddo encouraged Spencer and Katrina later to donate land for a working women's retreat center as well, known as Wiawaka Holiday House, at the request of Mary Wiltsie Fuller.

Yaddo has hosted more than 6,000 artists, including Hannah Arendt, Newton Arvin, Milton Avery, Dawn Powell James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, John Cheever, Aaron Copland, Sari Dienes, Mary Beth Edelson, Kenneth Fearing, Jonathan Franzen, Daniel Fuchs, Steve Giovinco, Philip Guston, Daron Hagen, Ruth Heller, Patricia Highsmith, Langston Hughes, Ted Hughes, Alfred Kazin, Ulysses Kay, Stanley Kunitz, Jacob Lawrence, Alan Lelchuk, Michael Lenson, Robert Lowell, Flannery O'Connor, Stephen Peles, Sylvia Plath, Katherine Anne Porter, Mario Puzo, Ned Rorem, Henry Roth, Philip Roth, Clyfford Still, Virgil Thomson, Colm Tóibín, Lionel Trilling, Anne Truitt, Byron Vazakas, Joe Draper, and David Foster Wallace.

As happened elsewhere during the McCarthy Era, the peace and quiet cultivated in the place of refuge that was the colony was shattered in 1949 when a news story accused writer Agnes Smedley of spying for the Soviet Union. Smedley had traveled with Mao Zedong to report on the Chinese Communist Revolution. In 1943, she visited Yaddo and remained there for the next five years. Poet Robert Lowell pushed the Board of Directors to oust Yaddo's director, Elizabeth Ames, who was being questioned by the FBI. She was eventually exonerated of all charges, but learned from the investigation that her assistant Mary Townsend was an FBI informant. Ames remained director until her death in 1977, having overseen the Yaddo community since 1926.

In literature

The retreat was the partial setting of Jonathan Ames' book Wake Up Sir! (2004).

Dagger of the Mind (1941), a novel by 1930s Yaddo resident Kenneth Fearing, takes place in Demarest Hall, an art colony modeled after Yaddo.

Recent years

In May 2005, vandals, using paintball guns, damaged two of the Four Seasons statues, the Poet's Bench, a fountain, and pathways with blue paint. Repairs cost $1,400.

Entering its second century, Yaddo accepts contributions to its endowment and underwriting for specific projects to ensure that the artists' community will always be a place of inspiration. During the Centennial Gift Campaign, Yaddo received large contributions from Spencer Trask & Company and Kevin Kimberlin, the firm's current chairman. Novelist Patricia Highsmith bequeathed her entire estate, valued at $3 million, to the community.

Facilities and gardens

Yaddo's gardens are modeled after the classical Italian gardens the Trasks had visited in Europe. The Four Seasons statues were acquired and installed in the garden in 1909. There are many statues and sculptures located within the estate, including a sundial that bears the inscription, "Hours fly, Flowers die, New days, New ways, Pass by, Love stays." While visitors are not admitted to the main mansion or artists' residencies, they may visit the gardens.

See also

  • List of National Historic Landmarks in New York
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Saratoga County, New York



Sources consulted

  • Dobrzynski, Judith H. (May 15, 2000). "An Artists' Retreat Reaches Out: Yaddo Celebrates an Anniversary by Shedding a Bit of Its Mystery". New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 

External links

  • Official website

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