It’s hard to imagine being happier to type those words. We reopened our doors on February 16th to a small group of writers and artists who had self-selected to be at Yaddo with pandemic policies in place. What policies? Well, we implemented many of the steps we’ve all become used to in this frightening period and some that are specific to a residency: Covid test before traveling to Yaddo, another test on arrival, weekly testing for all staff, no leaving the grounds (though we do have 400 acres to explore!), no rolling admissions, extra cleaning. The first group was almost giddy to be Pod 1, and Pod 2 sailed along with equal verve, productivity and companionship.
Before the world folded inwards, you might have surmised that a period of social distancing would be a no-brainer for Yaddo. After all, we’re a retreat—a place consciously designed to allow for hush, for deep-thinking, reflection and solitude. One of our core traditions is quiet hours, held each day from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and again after 10 p.m. – what could be more interior leaning than that? But as we shuttered our program with the heaviest of hearts, not knowing when we would be re- enlivened with the bustle of guests, we focused a lot on 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 delighted, challenged and comforted us through this anxiety-laden year. And so, even as we welcomed artists back into “the bubble” we worked imaginatively, and with some urgency, to help in the recovery of the creative economy as a whole and to open access to the great work Yaddo artists are doing.
Since reopening, these tentacles from Yaddo out into the world have included a live concert, from Mike Doughty’s living room, no less, and the premiere of a terrific new one-hour show called Hora! (hosted by the mega-talented Catherine Maria “Cat” Rodriguez) which aims to surprise and delight. What else? We’ve continued our Artist Forums, launched a film and conversation series—The Fight for Rights—which to date has featured Lisa Cortes and Victor LaValle discussing All In: the Fight for Democracy and Bennett Singer and Jacki Lyden previewing Cured. And of course, there’s our podcast Shadow//Yaddo, which continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Every other Thursday, an episode drops and the lineup of talent (voices of hope, resistance, humor and wisdom) explore a myriad of topics.
We’re not out of the woods yet, but the silver linings are piling up. For one thing, we’ve all realized how important the arts and artists are to us. That’s what we turned to in those shut-in days—to books, films, storytellers, music and art. As the year goes on, we’ll welcome back more and more of the artists whose 2020 residency had to be postponed, and we’ll look outward to bringing fresh work, vital topics, and good company (virtual and “for real”) to our larger community. The arts saved us, and we at Yaddo are grateful for every step that aids in their revival and the forging of an innovative path back from the pandemic.
— From Yaddo News Spring/Summer 2021. Read the full newsletter here.