“The Calling” by Lisa Diane Wedgeworth

The Calling, new video work produced at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, August 6-19, 2018

~ Guest post and photo by Lisa Diane Wedgeworth

I have been reflecting on home, the land of my family. A calling, a tugging at my spirit to return there, if even for a brief visit to set foot upon the land my  ancestors toiled, built, walked and raised families upon.

Traveling through Alabama with my mother, visiting civil rights monuments and memorials, a deep kinship with those who endured and survived the Domestic Slave Trade stirred within me and the American South felt as much as my home as any of the places my immediate family and ancestors were called to put down their roots (Los Angeles, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, England and Jamaica).

While at the Hermitage, the water of the Gulf of Mexico  – although stained with the stench and destruction of the Red Tide – conjured images within my mind’s eye and whispered new work, The Calling, in my ear.

 

Thoughts from our Guest Blogger: Nerissa Street

We’re turning our blog over to Nerissa Street, a teacher, writer, speaker, and all-around amazingly creative person who will be reading and leading on our beach on Friday, Aug. 7. Nerissa is definitely a STAR at the Hermitage and back at home in Fort Lauderdale. But even though she lives in Florida, she’s never seen sharks’ teeth like we have on Manasota Key. Read all about it here and come meet her Friday.

Novel Playwrights

After Rey Pamatmat finished writing a play it just kept writing itself. More and more story kept appearing. It seemed much longer than a play.

Novelist Kia Corthron with poet Mimi Herman

After Rey Pamatmat finished writing a play it just kept writing itself. More and more story kept appearing. It seemed much longer than a play.

The idea of writing a book felt fun. Then he discovered how different books are than plays. He had been writing plays or 10 years so he knows the components and how to put them together. “But with a book, I don’t know all the parts, and what it needs” he said.

Plays are collaborative. Directors, even actors fill in between the words of the playwright, but with books you have to write everything down. “In the book I have to make decisions about things with no collaborators. I alone have to decide what people are thinking. And it has so many more words!” he said with genuine surprise. “I asked my manager how many words a book has. The answer was 60,000 to 90,000!”

The story came to a stop one-third of the way through the book because he had play commission deadlines and a revision due. He got too busy to work on the book and couldn’t write it as efficiently as he could section up and write plays in shorter patches of time. He needed an expanse of time to work on the book so when the opportunity of the Hermitage came up it seemed perfect.

Rey’s venture into this new genre isn’t the first time a playwright came to the Hermitage to write a book. While walking the beach with Kia Corthron, I listened as she mumbled and nearly stuttered the word “novelist.” “I’m here as a novelist.” Like Rey, she was struggling with her evolution as a writer. Hers wasn’t a struggle of form and components, but of self-image. She knew herself as a playwright, and her whole image had to morph. When she returned a year later, her novel was nearly done and she had no problem pronouncing the word “novelist.”

Writer Susan Yankowitz Draws Crowds

When Hermitage writer Susan Yankowitz talks about the play she’s working on, small crowds gather around her in fascination. I haven’t seen this phenomenon since 2009 when young artists sat on the floor surrounding a chair where Romulus Linney read his entrancing stories. Each story was an encouraging metaphor meant specifically for someone on the floor. But I digress.

Playwright Susan Yankowitz

When Hermitage writer Susan Yankowitz talks about the play she’s working on, small crowds gather around her in fascination. I haven’t seen this phenomenon since 2009 when young artists sat on the floor surrounding a chair where Romulus Linney read his entrancing stories. Each story was an encouraging metaphor meant specifically for someone on the floor. But I digress.

Susan’s play is about animals in the Middle Ages that were placed on trial when they hurt or killed a human. Over a thousand such trials were documented in France, Ireland, the USA and England.

A horse was assigned a defense attorney when he kicked a man. Bees were tried after stinging a woman in 18th century England. But the bees didn’t show up for the trial. Animals were almost always found guilty but there was an occasional appeal. The main character in the play is a sow, a 400-pound mother pig, who ate a human baby, which apparently was quite common in those days.

Many trials were on bestiality, which always involved a man and a female animal “paramour” who were put on trial together. The most famous was in New Haven. In the 17th Century a man and a Jewish woman went on trial for bestiality because Jews were not considered human.

In fact there are so many of these cases that Susan is faced with the problem of which fascinating stories to cut from the script.

The play is narrated by the first attorney to defend animals, when in 1521 he represented a group of rats who ate crops, causing famine. The rats won on a technicality.

The play asks the question “What kind of justice do we give to those whom society sees as lesser creatures?” Could this pertain to Abu Ghraib, blacks, the poor?

How do you define suffering? Does a fish suffer? as a Swedish animal rights attorney asserted after a fisherman was tried for showing off his catch flailing on the hook? Where do we draw the lines, personally and societally?

Even God makes an appearance in this play. And why shouldn’t he, since most of the defense and the prosecution use the Bible as argument?

Susan’s subject reminds me of when I first read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and had the revelation that justice changes with the decades. Susan’s play magnifies that revelation using centuries. What was seen as just in the 1500s is laughable today. And how will we look back at justice in 2013? Will we laugh or be appalled?

That question can be found deep within Hermitage Fellow Rey Pamatmat’s play based on the trial of Trayvon Martin. But that’s for another blog….

Laura Kaminsky – Meet Our Board

The Hermitage is thrilled to welcome Laura Kaminsky, Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York City and an accomplished and award-winning composer, to our Board of Trustees. Laura is the first Hermitage Fellow to serve on our Board. “No one can better represent the insider’s point of view – that of the Hermitage fellow – than someone who has that title. And no one can represent the national point of view from outside this community better than someone living in a distant cultural center. As a Hermitage fellow in music, living in New York City, Laura meets both those qualifications,” said Executive Director Bruce Rodgers.

The Hermitage is thrilled to welcome Laura Kaminsky, Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York City and an accomplished and award-winning composer, to our Board of Trustees. Laura is the first Hermitage Fellow to serve on our Board. “No one can better represent the insider’s point of view – that of the Hermitage fellow – than someone who has that title. And no one can represent the national point of view from outside this community better than someone living in a distant cultural center. As a Hermitage fellow in music, living in New York City, Laura meets both those qualifications,” said Executive Director Bruce Rodgers.

It took less than a minute for the Hermitage to cast a spell on Kaminsky, who came for her first residency with her partner Rebecca Allan, a painter. The two were collaborating on Horizon Lines, a multi-media work. “Driving up the narrow road and seeing the wooden structures and the dunes glowing under the midday sun was confirmation before ever stepping foot on the ground that this was a special place to nurture one’s creativity,” writes Kaminsky. “I could tell that there was going to be the space to be reflective and therefore productive.”

Kaminsky says that the Hermitage meant “everything” to her as an artist. “Time. Quiet. The stimulating conversation among the artist fellows. The closeness to nature. The sound of the waves. The light. All of this created a perfect environment in which to let loose and to reel in, both of which are necessary to making art.”

And she hasn’t wasted any time in making a difference. Inspired by a conversation with Rodgers, Kaminsky conceived the idea for NOVEMBER 21, 1963: THE DAY BEFORE, a multi-media one-night-only performance that will feature contributions from more than 60 Hermitage composers, writers, filmmakers, and visual artists to contribute original work around the theme of life on the eve of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. “Laura’s deep commitment to the Hermitage was obvious from the beginning. The exciting partnership the Hermitage has with Symphony Space, for whom she is artistic director, is an obvious example of this commitment,” said Rodgers.

The performance, taking place at Symphony Space on November 8, 2013, has already attracted tremendous media attention, has sold out and will be a highpoint of the upcoming Hermitage Artist Tour of New York City. “The outpouring of interesting responses to the challenge from the hermitage fellows has been exceptional and I know we have a great evening in store”, said Kaminsky.

As an artist and Fellow, Kaminsky believes she can bring a unique perspective to the Hermitage Board. “Having lived the artist’s life there I hope I can speak directly to the board from the perspective of one who has benefited from a residency in ways that can lead and inspire the board to continue its good work.”

Laura Kaminsky’s works are frequently performed across the U.S. and abroad; Kaminsky has received numerous commissions, fellowships, and awards. She has received four ASCAP- Chamber Music America Awards for Adventuresome. She currently serves as a member of the board of directors of Chamber Music America and has been a board member of the American Music Center and a member of the Artistic Advisory Council of the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York City. From 2004-2008, she served as dean of the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College/SUNY, where she is currently professor of music and faculty-at-large for the School of the Arts

After 10 Days of Hard Work at the Hermitage, Suddenly, the Play Wrote Itself!

In February 2011, the directors of the theater production company Phantom Limb, Jessica Grindstaff and husband Erik Sanko, came to the Hermitage exhausted after their successful run of 69° South at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Their work has been described as a series of dynamic tableaux vivants, narrative installations in motion that meld theatrical performance, puppetry, photography and film with unconventional original music. 69° South was a collaboration with the Kronos Quartet inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition.

Jessica and Freya at the Hermitage

In February 2011, the directors of the theater production company Phantom Limb, Jessica Grindstaff and husband Erik Sanko, came to the Hermitage exhausted after their successful run of 69° South at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Their work has been described as a series of dynamic tableaux vivants, narrative installations in motion that meld theatrical performance, puppetry, photography and film with unconventional original music. 69° South was a collaboration with the Kronos Quartet inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition.

Three months later at a sunset dinner on the beach to welcome them back for the second part of their residency, they surprised us with a bottle of champagne and an announcement. We had the privilege to be the first to hear their news (even before they told their own parents). Jessica was three months pregnant. Now they are back again with their daughter Freya, a true daughter of the Hermitage, as part of the Hermitage’s new family residency program.

While here for the third time they are writing the second of a trilogy that started with 69° South. The piece, Memory Rings, uses the oldest living tree in the world as the center of its narrative.

“The trilogy is united by the theme of ecology and the human relationship with nature through poetry and image. We are exploring the psychology of a collective future using history, legacy, and cultural memory,” said Erik.

They returned to the Hermitage following a residence at Harvard with global warming expert Dan Schrag, head of the Harvard Center for the Environment. Dr. Schrag had been impressed by their work because it moves people into the topic in a way they aren’t used to. Their plays touch audiences at an emotional level with a refreshing absence of the usual didactic lecturing.

Erik described audience reactions as unconscious at first. Then the slow burn of realization sets in. He and Jessica see attitudes change when they tour places like the Midwest where people are not yet convinced to take action on global warming. “Art has the ability to help people see the long arc of 40 to 80 years it may take to recover from climate change,” he explained.

They each have beautiful studios in New York City but they say their work benefits from the open mindedness and wide horizons that come with a place like the Hermitage where there are no expectations, no obligations, and the only distractions are the sea and nature (which is what their play is about).

Jessica said “After 10 days of hard work on Memory Rings at the Hermitage, suddenly, the play wrote itself!”

69° South

Learn more about PhantomLimbCompany.com

First the Storm then the Shells

Tropical Storm Andrea hit Manasota Key last week, and as named storms go, she was noisy and a bit persistent, but aside from tearing a screen and relocating a couple of deck chairs, Andrea mainly served as nature’s entertainment for our artists in residence.

Tropical Storm Andrea hit Manasota Key last week, and as named storms go, she was noisy and a bit persistent, but aside from tearing a screen and relocating a couple of deck chairs, Andrea mainly served as nature’s entertainment for our artists in residence.

For us, Andrea served another purpose. This is the time of year when our National Advisory Committee chooses the artists they want to invite for a residency. They give us the names and we send the invitations, which the artists aren’t expecting, always with a single, perfect shell from our beach, which they really aren’t expecting.

Part of my job is to scour the beach for those shells. I know, life is tough.

Lately the shells have been scarce, and the perfect ones that fit into our clear round box, even more so. But the day after Andrea hit – Shellapalooza!! Right in front of the Hermitage. At lunch time I threw off my sandals, grabbed my beach pail and hit the beach. Then I got to “work” (Hey it’s an assignment) and started sifting through the layers to find as many perfect shells as I could.

After a few years, I’ve gotten pretty good at sizing up the shells but I bring a sample box with me to make sure they fit. From the looks I get, I can tell my fellow shell seekers think it’s a bit odd that I make my finds pass a test before I toss them in my pail.

I left the beach after, well I’m not sure how long I was there, with about 60 “artist shells” and one extra cool, “I should keep it for myself but I won’t” shell.

Usually I decide where the shells end up since I put the mailing together. In order to make the process more entertaining, I’ll say, choose a more interesting shell to send to a writer in the Midwest because, I figure they don’t get to see that many (until they come here of course). If I notice on an artist’s website that they use a lot of color, I’ll pop them a more colorful shell. And sometimes I just shut my eyes and leave it up to shell destiny.

So, if you’re reading this and you get a shell in the mail in the next, let’s say 2-4 weeks, or if you are a Hermitage Fellow and still have your perfect shell in the box (and I hope you do), now you know how it got there. And if you are on this year’s list of Fellows and your name happens to be Andrea, have I got a shell for you!

Hermitage Work Touches the World

Work created at the Hermitage is being produced, performed, published, and exhibited at major venues around the world.

Gogol by Lera Auerbach

Work created at the Hermitage is being produced, performed, published, and exhibited at major venues around the world. Here are a few examples of what our Fellows are doing:

  • Lera Auerbach’s opera Gogol saw a major production at the Theatre An Du Wein in Vienna, Austria last November.
  • Christopher Merrill’s latest non-fiction book The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War was published in 2012.
  • Anna Clyne, Resident Composer for Ricardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony performed Prince Of Clouds in Chicago on December 13, 2012 (It will be performed at a total of five cities around America in 2012/2013).
  • Craig Lucas’ play The Lying Lesson will premiere at the Atlantic Theatre in New York City in March, 2013.
  • Craig’s opera, Two Boys, written with Hermitage composer Nico Muhly, premiered in London at the English National Opera and opens December 12, 2013 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
  • Pulitzer-winning composer Bernard Rands wrote a piano concerto that will see its premiere with the Boston Symphony in April 2014.
  • The Hermitage commissioned visual artist Sanford Biggers for a installation through awarding him the 2010 Greenfield Prize. That installation was exhibited at the Ringling Museum of Art for almost seven months, seen by tens of thousands, and now we are seriously exploring a national tour where it will be seen by many thousands more.

All this work was created at the Hermitage yet this is still just a sampling of the work and level of artistry that is being created every day on our campus by artists from all over the world. It’s not only our privilege to serve these wonderful creators, it’s our work. The impact, in the end, touches audiences, viewers, readers by the thousands. Of this, we couldn’t be more proud.

September is for R&R (Repair and Renovation) or (Rust and Rot)

Maintaining historic structures in southwestern Florida and mere feet from the Gulf of Mexico is a challenge. Mother Nature wants this property back, and she uses all her tools of wind, rain, salt, and sun to deteriorate man-made structures. To top it off, she sends her best, most powerful storms in to complete the job. Since September/October is the most active part of the hurricane season, September seems to be the very best time to schedule maintenance and repair and to keep artists from far-flung destinations away from Manasota Key.

Pump House Music Studio
Pump House Music Studio

Maintaining historic structures in southwestern Florida and mere feet from the Gulf of Mexico is a challenge. Mother Nature wants this property back, and she uses all her tools of wind, rain, salt, and sun to deteriorate man-made structures. To top it off, she sends her best, most powerful storms in to complete the job. Since September/October is the most active part of the hurricane season, September seems to be the very best time to schedule maintenance and repair and to keep artists from far-flung destinations away from Manasota Key.

In addition to maintenance, September is the time when we look at the feedback from our artists (each resident completes an evaluation including suggested facility improvements) and decide what facility-related projects to undertake that would improve the artist experience.

We are guided in this work by our wonderful volunteer facilities committee chaired by architect Doug Driscoll and including architect Jonathan Parks, contractor Pat Ball, builder Hitch Baer, volunteer and donor Tom Dignam, and trustees Larry Bold and Caroline Andrus.

This year we received a generous grant of $60,000 from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation targeted to repairs and renovations. The priorities this year will be to significantly improve the acoustical separation between the two Whitney studios, repair and paint the Whitney House exterior, install a Gulf-side picture window in the composer’s studio (Pump House), and repair windows in the Hermitage. Thanks to the generosity of the patrons of last year’s Artful Lobster, we raised enough money to start making screens (and they have to be made individually) for the Hermitage House. And thanks to the generosity of our supporter, Margaret Pennington, we will be installing a new air conditioning unit in the upstairs suite in the Hermitage House, and a new outdoor shower as well.

All of this work has had to pass through an approval process including the County Historic Preservation Board, and the Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Department. Sarasota County has been and continues to be wonderful partners in this incredible venture that we call the Hermitage Artist Retreat, and we are very grateful for all their cooperation.

We will be reserving this time of year, every year, for challenge of keeping ahead of mother nature. As you can imagine, it’s no easy task. After all she has all the time in the world and we only have 4-6 weeks.

Whitney Front Writer's Studio
Whitney Front Writer's Studio

Meet The Hermitage STARs

The Hermitage Artist Retreat will hold open studios on Friday, August 12 to present the work of its first STAR (State Teachers Artist Residency) artists-in-residence. The event takes place from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm on the Retreat campus which is located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood. The five STARS will participate in open studios, readings and a musical performance. The event is free and open to the public.



The Hermitage Artist Retreat will hold open studios on Friday, August 12 to present the work of its first STAR (State Teachers Artist Residency) artists-in-residence. The event takes place from 6:00 pm to9:00 pm on the Retreat campus which is located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood. The five STARS will participate in open studios, readings and a musical performance. The event is free and open to the public.

This open studio event marks the culmination of our first residencies for Florida arts teachers. When we devised this program, we suspected that with all the demands placed on artists who choose a careerin public education, there is hardly time left over for pursuing their own artistry. We are pleased to be able to offer this gift of time and space and we now know that our inclination was correct. These teachers leave us fulfilled, enthused and excited about what has happened here and what’s to come.

The evening’s schedule is as follows:

6:00-7:15 – Open studios of Andrea Huffman, Broward County and Patricia Cummins, Miami-Dade County

7:15-8:00 – Beach readings by Alan Sincic, Osceola County and Melissa Pranke, Orange County. Musical performance by Tim Ostrow and accompanying musician, Charlotte County

8:09 – Sunset

The Artists Speak:

“My fellowship at the Hermitage has been a most generous gift of time to create and rejuvenate in a spectacular environment. I have been inspired to fill stacks of notebooks with words and stories; but tomy surprise, I have realized my greatest gain from this experience has been a rekindling of respect and passion for myself, as an artist and a teacher. The Hermitage, where creativity and compassion are paramount, is a rare gift and should be protected and cherished.”
– Melissa Pranke, writer, Winter Park High School, Orange County

(Read comments from all of the year’s STAR artists by clicking here)

This is the first group of STARs. Open to all Florida arts teachers, the STAR program is a partnership with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE). Each spring, Florida arts teachers can apply forthe residency through FAAE, which also selects the winners. Five are selected: one in music, two in visual arts and two in creative writing.

We look forward to sharing the work of these artists/educators with you. True they won the competition but another win is for the children of Florida who will now benefit by teachers who have been renewed and valued for their artistic talent. We hope this program grows over time to include more opportunities for educators with a passion and talent for the arts.

The Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE) is a statewide service organization that works to ensure that all Florida students have a complete education that includes the arts. For more information on the application process or the organization, contact Susan Burke, at the Florida Alliance for Arts Education by calling 407-488-9951 or online at www.faae.org.