Hermitage January 2022 Programs Feature Tony Award Winner Gavin Creel and Pulitzer Prize Winner Michael R. Jackson

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces new community programs in January with acclaimed theater artists and Hermitage Fellows Gavin Creel and Michael R. Jackson.

On Friday, January 14th at 5pm on the Hermitage Beach, Tony and Olivier Award-winning performer Gavin Creel (Hello, Dolly!, The Book of Mormon, Hair) will share excerpts from his latest passion project. “Walk on Through” is a work in progress inspired by a commission from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Limor Tomer, General Manager of Live Arts). This new piece, still in development, features Creel’s original songs inspired by the sights, sounds, and sense of wonder experienced at the Met.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer-composer Michael R. Jackson (A Strange Loop, White Girl in Danger) returns to the Hermitage following his beachfront program last season. This time, Jackson puts his unique twist on the popular Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens series with “The Work,” offering candid conversation and samplings of his latest work. This event will be on Friday, January 21st at 5:30pm, presented at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus.

“We are incredibly excited to be welcoming these two extraordinary theater artists to share their works in progress with our community,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. Sandberg was a producer of the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair, for which Creel received a Tony nomination as Best Lead Actor. “Many know Gavin as one of the great performers of our generation, and he is here at the Hermitage as a writer and creator, developing an exciting new piece inspired by a commission from our friends at the Met. And for those who don’t know the incredible Michael R. Jackson, he is truly one of the most exciting voices in the American theater today, and we’re looking forward to welcoming him back to the Gulf Coast!”

These outdoor programs are free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee. Due to capacity limitations and social distancing, registration is required at


The Hermitage Raises More Than $225,000 at 2021 Artful Lobster – A Record-Breaking Celebration!

The Hermitage Artist Retreat raised more than $225,000 at the 2021 Artful Lobster luncheon on November 13. Now in its thirteenth year, the Artful Lobster raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s renowned artist residency program and community programming initiatives. Amidst limited capacity and added safety precautions, 200 guests attended the sold-out event, which took place outdoors beneath a large tent on the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus and was co-chaired by Charlie Huisking and Charlotte Perret, with Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg as master of ceremonies. Michael’s On East served a plentiful barbecue and much-heralded lobster feast.

Dorothy Lawson, a Hermitage Fellow and founding cellist and artistic director of the genre-bending string quartet ETHEL, headlined the event and riveted the audience with her virtuosic cello performance and tales of her time at the Hermitage. She was introduced by popular radio personality Terrance McKnight, evening host of WQXR New York Public Radio and a member of the Hermitage National Curatorial Council. Lawson played an original song from a full-length musical experience that she and her fellow ETHEL musicians created during their Hermitage residency. To celebrate the Hermitage’s free community programs and collaborations, Raleigh Mosely II, a friend of the Hermitage and frequent performer with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, powerfully delivered an original song written by musical theater composer and Hermitage Fellow Rona Siddiqui. Following lunch, Lawson returned to the stage to perform her interpretation of a piece by Bach, which she dedicated to the memory of the late Susan Brainerd, a recent Hermitage trustee who sponsored Lawson’s last visit to the Hermitage earlier this year.

“When Bach composed his cello suites, nobody was writing that kind of music – it was brand new,” said Terrance McKnight as he introduced Lawson and shared his perspective on the role of the Hermitage. “Legendary artists like Bach composed some of the music we have today because of a benefactor. This is such an important conversation to have today because the work that you all are doing by supporting the Hermitage is inspiring these artists.”

“Great music, great art, great theater, great literature, great television – none of this happens without great artists,” added Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Sandberg. “We are thankful to all who attended or supported this year’s festivities. The generous outpouring of support for the work we are doing at the Hermitage is a demonstration of our community’s extraordinary commitment to the arts and the creative process.”

Sponsors and partners for the 2021 Artful Lobster include Gulf Coast Community Foundation, CHUBB, Key Agency, Herald-Tribune/LOCALiQ, and Sarasota Magazine. A full list of this year’s sponsors, benefactors, and partners can be found at

Hermitage receives $50,000 grant from Community Foundation of Sarasota County

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has awarded the Hermitage Artist Retreat a $50,000 Strategic Partnership Grant to support the Hermitage’s nationally renowned artist residency program and, for the fifth consecutive season, to serve as “Grand Sponsor” of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner and Celebration in April of 2022.

The Hermitage Greenfield Prize is a groundbreaking partnership between the Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Greenfield Foundation. This prestigious national prize seeks to bring into the world works of art that will have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic landscape. 2022 will mark the fourteenth year of this annual jury-selected award, with the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner scheduled for Sunday, April 10, at Michael’s On East in Sarasota.

The Hermitage Greenfield Prize includes a six-week Hermitage residency and a $30,000 commission to create an original work. The distinguished honor rotates annually among music, theater, and visual art. The 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize was awarded to playwright Aleshea Harris, with her commission set to premiere in 2023. The 2022 prize will be awarded to an artist in the discipline of music.

In addition, the Community Foundation’s sponsorship will help to support the Hermitage’s artist residency program. Each year, the Hermitage invites accomplished and diverse artists across multiple disciplines for residencies on its beachfront campus. Hermitage Fellows include fourteen Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur ‘Genius’ and Guggenheim Fellows, Poets Laureate, and dozens of Tony, Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar winners and nominees. Works created and developed at the Hermitage have been presented at renowned theaters, concert halls, and galleries throughout the world. Artists are nominated for residencies by the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council, which is comprised of artistic leaders from some of the most highly regarded cultural institutions across the globe.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for their continued support and generosity,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “This is now the Community Foundation’s fifth consecutive year as ‘Grand Sponsor’ of the Prize Dinner and the surrounding events celebrating this recognition. Their continued partnership makes a tremendous difference as the Hermitage Greenfield Prize seeks to bring together Sarasota residents for a unique opportunity to see the creation of a visionary new work – born right here on Manasota Key – before it goes on to future life throughout the world. We are also honored that, with this grant, the Community Foundation continues to champion our core artist residency program, recognizing the Hermitage’s commitment to supporting artists in their creative process, and believing in the power of the arts to make a difference.”

Hermitage and Booker High School launch new partnership & artist series

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and Booker High School are teaming up to connect leading Hermitage Fellows from around the world with students and families, as well as members of the Sarasota community. This new “Hermitage @ Booker” series, a collaboration between the Hermitage Artist Retreat and Booker High School’s Visual & Performing Arts (VPA) program, launches with “The Edge of Music,” a public event on Friday, December 17, featuring Hermitage Fellow, jazz bassist, and composer Luke Stewart. Hailed by Downbeat Magazine as one of the “25 most influential jazz artists” of his generation, the DC/NYC-based musician is known for his bold experimentation on the cutting edge of musicianship. He will share an improvisational selection of his work, lead a “jam session” with local artists and students, discuss his creative process, and talk about forging a career in the music industry. “The Edge of Music” begins at 5:30pm ET in the outdoor courtyard at Booker High on Friday, December 17 (3201 North Orange Ave, Sarasota, FL 34234; free with a $5/person registration fee; click here to register).

The Hermitage has shared the gift of education with Booker High School and Booker Middle School students for many years, as well as other schools throughout the region, bringing leading artists from across the country into the classrooms, building bridges with students and teachers alike. As the Hermitage continues to expand its partnership with Booker High School, the organization will continue to present classroom programs and teacher workshops, as well as introducing new mentorship opportunities connecting aspiring young artists with the Hermitage’s extraordinary visiting musicians, playwrights, visual artists, dancers, and more. New support for this expanded community engagement is provided this season by the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, as well as additional support for teaching artist residencies provided by the Koski Family Foundation.

“As we seek to embolden our students to soar to new heights, we are thrilled to have Hermitage Fellows work with our students and present their process to the community,” says Booker High School Principal Dr. Rachel Shelley. “The Hermitage partnership is an extraordinary opportunity for the Booker High School VPA Magnet Program to connect student learning with the experiences of acclaimed professionals working in the visual and performing arts.”

Hermitage Fellow Luke Stewart is a DC/NYC-based musician and organizer of important musical presentations, with a strong presence in the national and international Improvised Music community. He is noted in Downbeat Magazine in 2020 as one of “25 most influential jazz artists” of his generation. He was profiled in The Washington Post in early 2017 as “holding down the jazz scene,” selected as “Best Musical Omnivore” in the Washington City Paper’s 2017 “Best of DC,” chosen as “Jazz Artist of the Year” for 2017 in District Now, and in the 2014 People Issue of the Washington City Paper as a “Jazz Revolutionary,” citing his multifaceted cultural activities throughout DC. In New York City, Stewart collaborated with Arts for Art in hosting the first ever “Free Jazz Convention” to share resources and strategies among the community. As a scholar/performer, he has performed and lectured at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Medgar Evers College, George Mason University, Wayne State University, University of Montana, New Mexico State University, and the University of South Carolina. He holds a BA in International Studies and a BA in Audio Production from American University, and an MA in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship from the New School. In 2019, Stewart was also a finalist for the Johnson Fellowship, citing his work in changing the musical fabric of Washington, DC.

Acclaimed ETHEL cellist Dorothy Lawson to headline 2021 Artful Lobster

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that Dorothy Lawson, a Hermitage Fellow, acclaimed cellist, and artistic director of the genre-bending string quartet ETHEL, will headline the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s signature fall fundraising event, “The Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration!” on November 13 from 11:30am to 2pm at the Hermitage campus on Manasota Key (Sarasota County, Florida).

Now in its 13th year, the Artful Lobster raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s nationally renowned artist residency program, supporting the creative process of artists from around the world in the fields of music, theater, visual art, literature, and more. This popular event takes place outdoors beneath a large tent on the Hermitage’s beachfront campus. 

A Juilliard-trained cellist and composer, Lawson is a founding member and artistic director of ETHEL, one of America’s most adventurous string quartets. She has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the White Oak Dance Project, Philharmonia Virtuosi, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and numerous new music ensembles.

“We are incredibly excited to have Dorothy Lawson returning to the Hermitage to perform at this year’s Artful Lobster,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “Dorothy is an extraordinary performer with an innovative and radiant spirit – not to mention a great friend to the Hermitage. The audience at this year’s Artful Lobster is in for a real treat!”

Though this year’s Artful Lobster is now sold out, waitlist inquiries can be made by contacting Amy Wallace at (941) 475-2098, Ext. 2.

The co-chairs for the 2021 Artful Lobster are Charlie Huisking and Charlotte Perret. This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of Susan M. Brainerd, a beloved Hermitage trustee who passed away earlier this year. Brainerd generously served as the sponsor of Dorothy Lawson’s most recent Hermitage residency, which culminated with performances at Selby Gardens Downtown and Historic Spanish Point.

Hermitage and The Bay Park announce new series

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and The Bay Park are joining forces to bring the Hermitage’s unique and innovative artist programming to one of Sarasota’s most exciting and ambitious public park projects through a new community program, “Hermitage at The Bay.”

“We are excited to partner with the esteemed Hermitage Artist Retreat to bring innovative events to The Bay,” says Jeannie Perales, Chief Experience Officer at The Bay Park Conservancy. “We know that attendees will delight in the Hermitage’s unique approach to audience engagement, and we’re proud to offer these programs to the community free of cost as a part of our effort to create a park that is open and accessible, free and welcoming to all.”

The first program — “Hermitage at The Bay: Sound and Color” on Thursday, November 18 at 5pm — features two Hermitage Fellows, composer Jared Miller and visual artist Iva Gueorguieva, who will share their latest work and speak about their creative process. Miller’s contemporary classical compositions range from the fast-paced rhythms of basketball in Buzzer Beater to the seismic shifts all around us in Under Sea, Above Sky. Gueorguieva’s art has been described as “the optical equivalent of surround sound” with a “perpetual suddenness” (LA Times). (Iva Gueorguieva’s Hermitage Residency generously sponsored by Gerald & Sondra Biller). Free with a $5 per person registration fee. Registration is required. The Bay’s Civic Green (on the north side of the Municipal Auditorium), 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236

On Sunday, December 12 at 2pm, “Hermitage at The Bay: Muse(ic) and Poetry” will feature two Hermitage Fellows, poets Francine J. Harris and Mae Yway (pictured). Harris is an Audre Lorde Award and Lambda Award winner, who will share selections from her latest work Here is the Sweet Hand, inspired by classic compositions. Renowned international poet Mae Yway from Burma (Myanmar) is an International Writing Program participant who presents work both in her native tongue and in translation. Free with a $5 per person registration fee. Registration is required. The Bay’s Civic Green (on the north side of the Municipal Building), 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236

New beach program with Tony Award nominee Bess Wohl

The Hermitage Artist Retreat presents a conversation with 2020 Tony Award-nominated playwright and 2021 Hermitage Fellow Bess Wohl. “The Next Horizon: The Latest from Playwright Bess Wohl” is Thursday, November 4, 5:30 p.m. (ET), via Zoom. This program is presented in partnership with the Asolo Repertory Theatre, which will host the regional premiere of Wohl’s play Grand Horizons starting in January of 2022. 

Following its Broadway run, Wohl’s comedy Grand Horizons received a 2020 Tony Award nomination for Best Play. The story takes an intimate look at the unpredictable and enduring nature of love after 50 years of marriage. The regional premiere is at the Asolo Repertory Theatre on January 19, 2022.

Also, as part of the Hermitage’s partnership with the Asolo Rep, FSU/Asolo Conservatory will present its production of Much Ado About Nothing on the Hermitage Beach. This event, on Monday, November 1, 5:30 p.m., is part of the “BardWired” community touring series.

Both events are free with a $5 per person registration fee. Registration for all live and virtual Hermitage events is required at

Hermitage receives $43,598 Tourist Development Cultural/Arts grant

The Sarasota County Commission awarded the Hermitage Artist Retreat a $43,598 Tourist Development Cultural/Arts grant to help fund its 2021-2022 community arts and cultural programs. The award-winning creators across all artistic disciplines who stay at the Hermitage provide free public programs that attract thousands of residents and tourists every year. These programs take place at the Hermitage and throughout the region in collaboration with leading arts, cultural, and educational institutions. 

The Hermitage recently announced that its 2021-2022 programming would continue with an expansion of popular live outdoor events, all with socially distanced seating, as well as added virtual offerings. 

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage, explains that these cultural gatherings exist to give both residents and visitors the rare opportunity to interact with celebrated authors, musicians, poets, playwrights, visual artists, composers, and performers from around the world. 

“The artists creating work at the Hermitage are shaping the artistic and cultural landscape of the future,” says Sandberg. “The Hermitage has been the birthplace and incubator for works that have gone on to leading theaters, museums, galleries, and concert halls around the world.” He adds that audiences attending Hermitage programs often have the rare opportunity to see a brilliant new work in progress, or to take part in conversations with artists who are truly at the top of their respective fields.

“We are honored that the Tourist Development Commission continues to recognize the Hermitage as a vital artistic leader in our region,” Sandberg adds. “These funds make it possible for us to share the talents and experiences of our extraordinary Hermitage Fellows with tourists and residents throughout our region. Moreover, at a time when arts organizations are facing ongoing challenges due to COVID-19, we are grateful that the arts continue to be recognized as essential to our culture and community here in Sarasota, and that we can continue to find a safe way to move forward with live outdoor and virtual programming.”

Hermitage “doubles down” on safe, expanded outdoor programming for 2021-22

The Hermitage Artist Retreat has been one of the nation’s earliest and most successful adapters to offer a safe new model for live events and performance over the past year. Today, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg announced that its live and virtual programs in theater, music, visual art, literature, and more will continue to be held entirely outdoors and socially distanced throughout the 2021-2022 season, at venues across Sarasota County including, but not limited to, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, The Bay Sarasota, The Ringling Museum, Asolo Rep, and the Hermitage Beach.

“All of us at the Hermitage are incredibly excited for the season ahead,” notes Andy Sandberg, now entering his second full season as Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage, following his appointment in December of 2019. “Our programs are designed to offer audiences a unique and authentic look into our extraordinary artists’ creative process. This does not require us to be indoors, so as we push into the 2021-2022 season, we are doubling down on our commitment to safe and inspiring outdoor programming, as well as expanded virtual access to reach audiences and communities we might not otherwise be able to engage.”

“We are in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with so many extraordinary outdoor venues and partners,” adds Sandberg. “Artists and audiences come to the Gulf Coast to experience the rich arts and cultural scene, but also to enjoy the beautiful sunsets – our programs offer both at once.” 

Until further notice, all Hermitage programs will continue to be outside or online. Moreover, as concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19 continue in our region, these outdoor arts and cultural experiences provide a level of comfort to artists and audiences alike. “Anyone who has attended a Hermitage program in the past twelve months knows how seriously we take the health and wellbeing of everyone in attendance,” says Sandberg. “Our incredible staff, crew, and volunteers work tirelessly to ensure these events are safe and enjoyable for all.” At every outdoor Hermitage event – each approximately an hour in length – audiences are socially distanced, with clear signage and ropes to delineate seating blocks. All guests are encouraged to wear masks (provided for anyone who needs one), individual hand sanitizers are distributed to each member of the audience, and artists use separate microphones. “In addition to the health and safety of our audiences, we have to factor in the concerns of our artists who are coming to the Hermitage from different states and countries,” adds Sandberg. “For many, this is their first or only time performing in a live setting in over a year, so they rely on us to ensure a safe and worry-free experience,” adds Sandberg. 

The Hermitage recently announced the 2021-2022 dates for its popular “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” series, which had its debut on August 27. Virtual programming continues with “UnScripted,” a collaboration with the Van Wezel Foundation, as well as the newly announced “Artists and Thinkers: A National Conversation Series,” featuring candid conversations between members of the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council and accomplished alumni artists from across the United States. New offerings this season will include collaborations with Art Center Sarasota, The Bay Sarasota, Booker High School, and Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, among others, as well as continuing longstanding partnerships with Asolo Rep, Bookstore1, Florida Studio Theatre, New Music New College, Ringling College of Art & Design, The Ringling Museum, Sarasota Art Museum, Selby Gardens, Urbanite Theatre, The Van Wezel, West Coast Black Theatre Troupe, and more to be announced.

Sarasota Scene Spotlight: Artists Blossom at the Hermitage

by Wendy Lyons Sunshine, Sarasota Scene Magazine, September 2021

Earlier this summer, 80 creative artists around the country received a package in the mail. Inside were a handful of sharks’ teeth, a small conch shell, and an invitation.

Getting this package was akin to winning the lottery. Just as each shell and fossil had been chosen from a wide universe of seaside treasures, those who received them were chosen from a wide sea of artistic talent, explains Andy Sandberg, artistic director and chief executive officer at the Hermitage Artist Retreat.

The lucky recipients are gifted with a rare opportunity—a fully paid artists’ residency at the Hermitage’s historic Manasota Key campus in Englewood, a time to relax away from daily responsibilities, recharge creative batteries, and advance their craft in a beautiful coastal setting. 

Unique Opportunity

“Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of that first visit to the grounds,” says flutist and composer Claire Chase. “I was completely blown away by the setting, by the ethos of the organization, and by the wonderful warmth of everyone I met. There’s truly no place like it in the world.”