Yaddo is hardly a prison, but it is enclosed the way a prison is. Visitors are allowed at specially appointed times and only with permission. Meals are served at exactly the same time every day. There are quiet hours (although no lights out in deference to those who work the writer’s night shift). The idea is that if you allow creators to create without the impediments of the “real world” (bills, dinner, jobs, other people, traffic), they will be reformed, and they are. The crucible works. These artists stop procrastinating and complaining about how hard it is to create and actually do it. They do what they’re supposed to do: offer gifts to ordinary people, the “other” people Kate’s dad beseeched her to remember, as well as the well-dressed people in the bandstands of the world.
Yaddo itself was born from grief, that great leveler. The colony became a playground for creative minds because Katrina Trask, the matriarch of the mansion and its well-maintained grounds, lost all of her children in infancy or childhood and she needed something to do with her hands, her mind, her heart. She created a place where you can sit in your room and write while listening to someone composing music in the next room. Where you can go for days without speaking to anyone but yourself and the characters that populate your imagination. Where people do your laundry and drive you into town in a little van. Where people bring you a heater if your hands are cold, or a fan if your room is too hot. Where they will adjust the condiments on your sandwich to your liking and where there is always a nice bottle of wine at dinner. A training in silence and concentration, Buddhist-like and private, but also communal in the sense that you never lose sight of all the other people beavering away at their beloved projects in all of the houses and outbuildings. Super-privileged prisoners of artistic ambition.