Torches lit the meandering path into the 400-acre estate at Yaddo one summer evening, where a magical night unfolded at the artist colony’s annual Summer Benefit.
Set in a wooded glen behind the storied mansion, Under the Pines featured a reading with renowned author Terry McMillan against a backdrop of young deer flitting between cars as dragonflies skated across a pond.
It couldn’t have been a finer celebration of the vitality of art and literature.
In past years, the benefit has taken place in Yaddo’s 124-year-old mansion. Built in 1893, the stunning home has been the physical, aesthetic and for many, even the emotional anchor for the entire enterprise. The mansion is undergoing a multi-phased reconstruction, and reopening is targeted for summer 2019.
So, this year, Yaddo took its moveable feast to a wooded glen behind the mansion.
McMillan offered up the saucy, sometimes acerbic, always warm humor that defines her best-selling books, including Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. But as a four-time Yaddo resident, she was quick to emphasize the unique place Yaddo holds for artists in America.
“Here, unlike the real world, we have an opportunity to really dig deep into our creative process,” she said. “You can walk through the woods and feel what you feel, be still, be quiet and allow things to come in that should come in. We cherish coming to Yaddo.”
As McMillan read from her chart-topping I Almost Forgot About You, a meditation on longing, friendship, love and ambition, she held the audience spellbound.
Yaddo President Elaina Richardson sounded a charge to artists and those who support them.
“In these challenging times, the power of art and literature to help us make sense of our world has never been more evident or more urgently in need of support,” she said. “The work that Yaddo has helped produce has shaped American culture and made us feel more connected to the global world.”
Yaddo, established in 1926 as a community to nurture artists, has hosted more than 6,500 residents who together have won a Nobel Prize, three Academy Awards, 74 Pulitzer Prizes and 500 Guggenheim Fellowships.
Notable guests included Jay Rogoff and his wife, Penny Jolly; event chairwoman and board member Stacie Arpey; board members Lynn Freed, Mary-Beth Hughes and Peter Cameron; chairs Patricia Friesen and Michael and Marci Phinney; Evan and Mara deJonghe; Tom and Beth Flynn; Thomas Conboy; Madeline Chudy; and almost 300 others.
The tent was arrayed with stunning flower arrangements from Lisa Kirkpatrick Clark and Brendan Flanigan, two well-stocked bars and a buffet overflowing with sweet and savory delights provided by Salt and Char, 15 Church, Osteria Danny and many others.
Proceeds of almost $160,000 ensure that the residency program will continue to flourish – and that we will continue to feel the sweet gift of the hush of a summer evening.