Life at Byrdcliffe Colony

Life at Byrdcliffe Colony

It is a good walk to the shops, ideally a car is needed. There is a once weekly run to the shops and you can walk to the town of Woodstock, it might take a little while and it depends on the weather. There is a lovely smoothie/ ice-cream bar in town which is good motivation for a walk! If it gets hot, it gets really hot in upstate New York. I was there during two heatwaves of 40 degrees°C. The place is not winterized-uninsulated; so it gains and looses heat a great deal. 40°C is just really hot! Equally in the cooler weather it can feel really chilly.

Most of all beware of Lyme's disease, it is a real issue in these areas. There are a lot of deer and even some bear and the deer carry ticks and will wander through the property. So use whatever the locals use. I personally dislike DEET as it is a known carcinogen but I would rather not get Lyme's disease so I spray the stuff on like everyone else and check for beasties every night. The forests are so stunningly beautiful and deeply shaded that it is worth the experience. Try to climb to the top of as many hills/mountains as possible, the views are really worth it from the top and they are extraordinary. The tree-line from the colony has grown up so much since it was built there is no longer a view except of trees, which is already beautiful.

The colony has a good atmosphere: we all live in separate rooms in one building so it becomes rather like boarding school. The studios are spread separately over the grounds. The main building desperately needs maintenance- paint and a thorough clean etc but it is a perfect environment to make art in. If you are lucky there will be good cooks amongst the group and then the occasional communal meals are a huge success. There is a once a month open studio at the end of the residency. It is then you will meet the locals otherwise it does feel rather like a "them and us" situation and you will spend lots of time walking past huge properties with swimming pools and that might make you feel a little envious in the heat! Most people are very friendly and will greet you as you walk past. 

When I was there, there was no computer connection in the colony, you need to go to Woodstock library and sign in for a brief session there. The library is well-stocked and worth spending time in. For those of us with websites and regular email communication it is a bit of an issue but the idea of a colony is to be far away from the normal daily routine and this is part of it. So it is very refreshing to be without email for a while.

Lilian Cooper, 2005