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Last modified: Monday, November 10, 2008

IUPUI informatics prof produces podcasts for renowned artists' retreat

Work showcased by the New York Public Library

Nov. 10, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS -- Richard Edwards may never have imagined making an important cultural contribution to the New York Public Library. Nor could he and collaborator Shannon Clute have predicted that a shared love of film noir and their podcast series about the iconic movie genre would lead them to Yaddo, an artists' retreat in upstate New York, widely recognized as one of the most prestigious in the U.S.

But Edwards, assistant professor in the Media Arts and Science Program in the School of Informatics at IUPUI, and Clute, a freelance writer and editor in Atlanta, are hard at work helping this heretofore cloistered American institution take its first steps into the digital age.

Richard Edwards

Richard Edwards

Print-Quality Photo

After hearing a lecture by Edwards and Clute about their podcast series "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir," Yaddo administrators invited the pair to New York to discuss collaborating on a similar project. Yaddo wanted the duo to create a series of podcasts featuring the many established artists who have visited this retreat dedicated to creativity.

"What Yaddo found most appealing about our noir podcasts is that while scholarly, they also are entertaining," explained Edwards. "They felt we would bring the same mix to their project."

Yaddo commissioned Edwards and Clute to produce a podcast series to coincide with The New York Public Library's recently unveiled exhibition, "Yaddo: Making American Culture." The exhibition is a retrospective about the retreat's history of artistic support, focusing on the years between 1926 and 1980.

Entitled Yaddocast, the podcast series features digital stories about famous and influential Yaddo artist guests and their works. The Yaddocasts are available on the retreat's Web site, at the Apple iTunes store, and as a featured online resource for the New York Public Library exhibition.

"Essentially we are telling the history of Yaddo -- an important, but less well known story in the world of arts and letters that can be shared with a worldwide audience," said Edwards. "Yaddo sees the project as a long-overdue move into the public consciousness via digital technology."

First established in 1900 and reorganized to its present form in 1926, Yaddo supports artistic creativity by providing writers, composers, sculptors, poets and other artists with room and board, quiet hours, and secluded spaces for creative endeavors on a 400 acre wooded retreat in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Since its inception, Yaddo has hosted more than 5,500 artists. Among the brightest stars in its constellation of famous artists are Sylvia Plath, Saul Bellow, Aaron Copland, Mario Puzo, Truman Capote, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Philip Guston and Martin Puryear. Collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won 63 Pulitzer Prizes, 25 MacArthur Fellowships, 58 National Book Awards, 22 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, 45 Whiting Writers' Awards, a Nobel Prize and countless other honors.

Yaddo reflects the unique sensibilities of Spencer and Katrina Trask, who originally purchased the Saratoga Springs estate in the 1880s. Spencer Trask was an early financial backer of inventor Thomas Edison, and in the 1890s rescued the financially troubled New York Times. The new home was named, Yaddo, an evocation of the word "shadow."

"Yaddo was, and remains today, an artistic experiment without parallel in America," said Edwards. "Spencer Trask was a serial experimentalist who would enthusiastically embrace Yaddo's new direction."

Edwards and Clute recently attended the unveiling of "Yaddo: Making American Culture" in New York City where they interviewed artists who had been in residency at Yaddo, capturing their thoughts and reflections on the continuing importance of Yaddo in the 21st century.

"This project has a very strong public intellectualism," said Edwards. "Yaddocast is conceived as an educational podcasting effort. And, Yaddo is a still-thriving artists' retreat that continues to make very important contributions to American culture."

Leana Kruska, a graduating senior in the Media Arts and Science program, is helping Edwards develop vodcasts of the programs by adding relevant video images that complement the audio content.

"This shows that IU Informatics is not a regional school. We are working in the heart of New York City on a project that wasn't handed over to a New York university," Edwards emphasized. "We are practicing one of the school's core elements -- digital storytelling -- by putting theory into practice."

For information about Yaddo visit For information about Richard Edwards and the IU School of Informatics visit