Saratoga Springs’ world renowned artists’ retreat, Yaddo, announced September 10 that it’s appointed new leadership with the election of New York Times bestselling author Janice Y.K. Lee and New York City-based photographer Peter Kayafas as Co-chairs of the corporation. They succeed Co-chairs A. M. Homes and Susan Unterberg (also an author and a photographer) Lee and Kayafas assumed their positions in NYC today (September 12) at the annual meeting of The Corporation of Yaddo.
The change in leadership comes at an important time in Yaddo’s history. It’s in the middle of a major, multimillion-dollar restoration of Yaddo’s central, historic mansion (where most of the artists stay during their visits). This comes on the heels of a 2016 capital campaign that resulted in the opening of five new live-in and work studios on the retreats’ grounds. Yaddo President Elaina Richardson thinks that the timing of the announcement combined with the personalities of the new Co-chairs couldn’t be better. “Peter and Janice are the ideal addition to that line of leaders,” she said. “They are perfectly poised to build on all that past chairs have accomplished, steering Yaddo into a second century with an appreciation of our past and a clear vision of where we go next.”
New Co-chairs Kayafas and Lee have spent a lot of time at Yaddo themselves. Kayafas, photographer, publisher, curator and teacher, as well as the Director of the Eakins Press Foundation, has been a member of Yaddo’s board for 18 years and considers his election to Co-chair a “humbling opportunity.” Lee, a member of Yaddo’s board since 2013, is the author of highly acclaimed novels, The Piano Teacher, and The Expatriates, published in 2016, which will be adapted as a television series next year for Amazon Studios by Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films. Lee, too, is aware of the timeliness of Yaddo’s transition into a new era: “Yaddo’s storied past sets it up brilliantly for an even brighter future and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be part of this great American institution which has supported the arts in such an important and unique fashion,” she says.
Located on 400 mostly forested acres just south of Saratoga Race Course, Yaddo was founded in 1900 by financier Spencer Trask and his wife, Katrina, opening its doors to its first crop of artists in 1926. Since then, Yaddo has played host to a staggering number of awarding-winning artists, writers, musicians and composers, including 74 Pulitzer Prize winners, 68 National book Award winners, 29 MacArthur Fellows and one Nobel Prize winner.