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gilsoltz |

December 2023

 

Dear Partners,

Your continued support is the lifeblood of our creative culture at Yefe Nof. For us to become a vital organism in the next decade of our existence – to continue to honor writing, research, and design as a way of life and a way of making a living – we need new programmatic, organizational, and financial modeling. And we need you. The individual and collective you. 

2023 was an exceptional year. Though the weather dealt us a harsh hand – the record winter snow and intense summer heat had an impact on residency highs and lows – during the course of 2023 we had eight residents that helped us answer some of the questions we asked at the end of last year.  

 

1 – What are we doing and are we doing what we say we are doing? 

Our overarching mission is to support the research, incubation and cultivation of ideas to help creative people remain creative. Our residencies are designed to shift market forces so that purpose and profit equally drive ambition. So we have always planned to be more than just a rent-free place to fulfill creative pursuits, and we are emphatically not in the housing business. But we can’t yet say that we are a place that helps establish creative careers, which is the direction we want to take.

At this time, Yefe Nof is growing its capacity to reach the most serious candidates. Excellent partners like the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) give us higher brand visibility, more recognition, and greater outside investments. With your help our organization funded the inaugural year of the Translation Residency, and this year LARB committed resources to expanding the program. In addition to a publication in the LARB Quarterly, this year’s resident was granted a stipend and will have the opportunity to present their published translation at the Center for the Art of Translation in May. 

 

2 – Is Yefe Nof a community with a dialogue, or is it just one home on a street full of homes? If it is a community, do writers, researchers, and designers want this community? Do supporters of this community want community? If it is a dialogue, who is aware that it is a dialogue? 

In the name of visibility we’ve been long-aiming to diversify our fundraising to include institutional funding so that we can better attain answers to these questions. There is no doubt that residents are happy to have the time to finish their work. And many of you who have consistently been generous supporters seem to appreciate what we do. At the same time, we need a larger organizational structure – an executive committee and an advisory council, and at least one grant writer – to become a community; to turn the private sense of belonging from a typical household into the pluralistic sense of belonging that comes from productivity, well-being, and connection. 

This year, as in previous years, to more efficiently achieve our overarching mission, we envision continuing to build a bigger, more impactful network that includes a multi-faceted, synergistic, networked ecosystem of gathering inspiration, focus on craft, and pushing work to completion. To that end we came up with these ideas which primarily impact financial planning and organizational development: 

  1. Define Yefe Nof by focusing on quality residents and quality partnerships.
  2. Develop our capacity as an arts production enterprise. 
  3. Create a marketplace of fees for commercial services.
  4. Build a network with other residencies. 
  5. Follow up with former residents for a substantive impact on their arts production.
  6. Improve the state of the house so that we can have paid residencies that subsidize the unpaid ones. 

 

3 – Do aspiring Yefe Nof applicants, who should be aware of our dialogue (and community), want anything more than the time and space we offer? 

This is Yefe Nof’s existential crisis. Narrowing the net we cast has helped us imagine what aspiring applicants want, but it doesn’t seem that they come to us for anything more than time and space. We urgently need to develop financial and administrative stability to plan for the next few years and ask some hard searching questions. That should start with revisiting our program objectives by studying user needs and behaviors. We built a track record by projecting target users. Having a more concrete understanding of the actual Yefe Nof users will enable us to better define our creative community and the role we will play in it. 

At present it is our belief that to truly make a measurable impact in the lives of people, helping push ideas to completion is not enough. We believe we can revitalize by becoming an engine of significant change. If going to the Yefe Nof comes with more than just a personal experience in the mountains – if the value of belonging to a greater network and community could be part of the benefit – then the residency is going to thrive, not just survive.

 

Our criterion for acceptance to our programs remains consistent to our foundations. Our values remain the same. The first step is for us to engage residents beyond their time on the mountain to support their work to completion after residency. We perceive a core driver of the creative is to find a new cultural hub – a paradise for creatives. We need to develop elite qualities (join the ranks of tastemakers and gatekeepers) to correlate success with the Yefe Nof space. We need to focus scarce resources on demonstrating our efficacy (eg. invest in a better website and higher stake competitions). In the future we want to entice publishing houses, production companies, etc. to partner for royalty deals etc. Commercial interests measure in hard numbers, we need to better measure the power of ideas. We need to partner/consolidate with organizations that have hype, distribution, and sales teams who exist to put ideas in the marketplace and get them into households.

So what’s new programmatically and organizationally at this year’s end is a step in the right direction. We’ve got a select group of California literary agents judging the 2024 California Writing Residency along with our annual selection committee. I already mentioned the Translation Residency earlier in this letter. To steer the Redesign Residency, on September 22, I asked Facebook, “What are the most ill of social ills affecting us today” and the response was strong. It included: disengagement, loneliness, lack of critical thinking skills, greed, the attention economy, protecting democracy, and social inequalities. Needless to say, those responses could differ from month-to-month. I asked this again on December 7 and got next to no responses. Our task at hand is to identify a subject area and raise money for research and design that will have an impact on developing solutions. 

So, what is there for you to do in all of this? 

Please make a tax-deductible contribution to our program which will allow us to pursue a strategic path to vitality.

If you made it this far into the letter, I appreciate the time and energy you have given to understand what motivates me. It’s because you stand behind what we are doing and you want to help us make a positive impact on the individual and society that I can surface from the esoteric and get down to business. It may be that you had already decided to make a contribution, or maybe I convinced you that it would be worth you pre-tax dollars; either way, we thank you profusely and want to show you our appreciation. This year, once you make a contribution you will automatically be invited to ALL LIT UP #4 – our annual benefit that takes place on Zoom and is managed by my own Moontown Walking Travel. For the past few years we have seen the holiday lights together in Paris on December 26, but this year I changed the venue to shift the narrative. So whether or not you have ever been to Vienna, this is our chance to be there together – for me to thank you personally and for us to celebrate the holidays and new year. 

This season, I wish for love, peace, and harmony in this world, for all of us.

Sincerely,

Gil