Two Exhibitions of Hermitage Artists to Premiere at Sarasota Art Museum

The Hermitage Artist Retreat is pleased to announce two exhibitions opening at the Sarasota Art Museum in the spring of 2024, featuring a collective twelve Hermitage Fellows, including two past winners of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize. Impact: Contemporary Artists at the Hermitage Artist Retreat (March 10 to July 7, 2024) is curated by former Hermitage National Curatorial Council member Dan Cameron and features the work of ten award-winning Hermitage visual artistsThe Truth of the Night Sky (April 21 to September 29, 2024) is the result of a collaboration that sparked on Manasota Key between two celebrated Hermitage Fellows – visual artist Anne Patterson and composer Patrick Harlin. These two Hermitage artist exhibitions will be running concurrently at SAM from April 21 through July 7, 2024.

Impact: Contemporary Artists at the Hermitage Artist Retreat opens on March 10, 2024, and will be on display to the public through July 7, 2024. This exhibition will feature work from ten nationally and internationally renowned Hermitage alumni artists: Diana Al-HadidSanford Biggers (2010 Hermitage Greenfield Prize winner), Chitra GaneshTodd GrayTrenton Doyle Hancock (2013 Hermitage Greenfield Prize winner), Michelle LopezTed Riederer, the late John SimsKukuli Velarde, and William Villalongo. A key factor these ten artists have in common is that over the past two decades, each has been a Fellow at the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key — a unique experience that contributed to each of their creative processes in a variety of ways. Overseen by guest curator and former Hermitage Curatorial Council member Dan Cameron, Impact represents the first major exhibition in collaboration between the Hermitage and Sarasota Art Museum. The exhibit will feature work across a range of media, including sculpture, painting, installation, video, photography, printmaking, ceramics, textiles, and social practice. Sanford Biggers, a distinguished Hermitage alumnus and internationally renowned artist, is also now a member of the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council and was a featured guest speaker at the 2023 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner.

“Being the inaugural recipient of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize in Visual Art could not have come at a more crucial moment in my artistic journey,” said Biggers. “The Codex and Code Switch projects that I’m so proud of – and still exploring – were born because of my time at the Hermitage providing me the space to experiment and forge connections while I was there. I’m very glad to now be on the National Curatorial Council. I have been the beneficiary of such kindness and I take the opportunity to pay it forward very seriously and introduce new artists to this remarkable place.”

“We are excited to be partnering with Sarasota Art Museum to share the work of these ten extraordinary Hermitage artists with our community,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “These are some of the leading contemporary artists of this generation, and we are proud that the Hermitage has played a role in shaping and supporting each of their unique practices. Now, thanks to this world-class exhibition at Sarasota Art Museum, the Gulf Coast will get to experience more fully realized work from these visionary creators – including the work of past Hermitage Greenfield Prize winners Sanford Biggers and Trenton Doyle Hancock – under the expert curatorial hand of Dan Cameron. These ten artists present creative ideas that trace their roots and inspiration back to their time here on Manasota Key.”

“The opportunity to work on a curatorial project that brings a vital part of the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s story to the Sarasota Art Museum, while giving me the chance to collaborate with some incredible Hermitage Fellows in the field of visual art is pretty much a dream come true,” added Dan Cameron.

The Truth of the Night Sky, a Hermitage collaboration, is the second exhibition of Hermitage alumni premiering at Sarasota Art Museum this spring – opening on April 21, 2024 and remaining on display through September 29, 2024. After meeting while in residence at the Hermitage Artist Retreat ten years ago and building on their friendship and collaboration, multidisciplinary visual artist Anne Patterson and composer / soundscape artist Patrick Harlin have joined forces to develop this one-of-a-kind immersive experience. Patterson, who is familiar to Sarasota audiences from previous exhibitions at The Ringling Museum and whose “Divine Pathways” is currently represented in New York at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, is widely celebrated for her grand environments that immerse the viewer and surround the senses. A distinguished Hermitage alumna with an impressive background in immersive exhibitions and theatrical design, Anne Patterson has frequently collaborated with musicians, including fellow Hermitage alum Patrick Harlin, to design mesmerizing environments. For this collaborative project, Patterson and Harlin are expanding upon Harlin’s original composition Earthrise (2022), an orchestral piece inspired by the eponymous photograph (1968) taken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders on humanity’s first-ever trip around the moon. The original composition by Patrick Harlin, who was also the very first recipient of the Hermitage Prize in Composition at the Aspen Music Festival, will play as visitors pass through the galleries. The exhibition will feature several works by Patterson, as well as a suspended tree and her signature satin ribbon installation work. With each step, visitors will travel imaginatively through space and time. Of their time at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Patterson and Harlin are fond of saying that their experience was invaluable to their craft and their collaboration, allowing them to achieve new heights, find a unique environmental inspiration, and explore new possibilities in their work.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to present a new body of work on Florida’s Gulf Coast through this inspired collaboration between the Hermitage and Sarasota Art Museum,” said Anne Patterson. “Receiving both space to create and space to present from these two institutions is indeed a wonderful gift.” 

Located on Manasota Key, many artists who are invited to make work on the Hermitage’s historic campus note the immediacy of the vibrant night sky around them, augmented by the crashing waves only steps away to create a primal and inspirational connection to nature. The Truth of the Night Sky conveys the sense of collectiveawe and wonderment we may feel under the dome of the stars or in the vibrating air of a concert hall, and it thus channels a message of hope and unity. 

“The Hermitage is an amazing place to create,” said Patrick Harlin. “Winning the Hermitage Prize in Composition and meeting Anne has sparked a number of collaborations which would not have occurred otherwise. Every night we would talk about how nature inspires our work and  what we were making. It’s  amazing to realize, years later, how much new work is created at the Hermitage, ours and others, that is now out in the world.” 

“Anne Patterson and Patrick Harlin are both extraordinary talents whose passion for collaboration and ‘big’ ideas embody the mission and spirit of the Hermitage,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “It is thrilling to be able to see a creative partnership take shape, and then to witness these two brilliant minds melding as their concepts evolve from the earliest stages to a fully realized immersive exhibition. We’re excited for Sarasota audiences to experience Anne and Patrick’s vision coming to life at the Sarasota Art Museum, and it’s particularly exciting that audiences can experience this alongside SAM’s concurrent exhibit, “Impact: Contemporary Artists at the Hermitage Artist Retreat.”

Anne Patterson and Patrick Harlin have also been collaborating separately on a new oratorio based on Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, alongside two additional Hermitage alumni who they met during their residency – Grammy Award-winning contemporary classical composer Christopher Theofanidis and celebrated poet Melissa Studdard.

The Hermitage frequently offers Sarasota audiences a first glimpse into live performances from artists working in music, theater, dance, and more. This collaboration with Sarasota Art Museum will provide Gulf Coast audiences the opportunity to experience more fully realized works of visual art created by acclaimed Hermitage artists.

“The Hermitage has nurtured and supported hundreds of artists since its inception,” said Sarasota Art Museum Executive Director Virginia Shearer. “It is an honor to highlight the important role the Hermitage plays in advancing creative practice and building a rich network of artists who continue to impact and inform the cultural life of our city, and beyond.”

“We are honored to be partnering with Sarasota Art Museum as they showcase and celebrate the work of so many extraordinary Hermitage artists,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “While all Hermitage Fellows offer our community a ‘sneak peek’ into their work and creative process, these world-class exhibitions will offer Sarasota audiences a more complete look at the expansive talent of these diverse and accomplished visual artists, whose creations often take years to complete.” 

New March Program Features ABT Principal Dancer James Whiteside

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces a new program featuring returning Hermitage Fellow and American Ballet Theatre principal dancer James Whiteside. Whiteside will offer a special hour-long program at the Hermitage Palm House Studio on Monday, March 4th at 5:30pm, where he will share a candid and entertaining look at his life as a celebrated dancer, choreographer, playwright, and entertainment impresario.

Whiteside defies genre classification and is redefining the meaning of multihyphenate as a principal dancer and choreographer for American Ballet Theatre, pop music performer, podcast host, and author of Center Center, which he adapted into the play Dead Center during a previous visit to the Hermitage. He began his ballet training at age nine and was a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet until 2012. Since 2013, Whiteside has been principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, where he has danced principal roles in Swan LakeThe NutcrackerRomeo & JulietGiselle, and more. Whiteside has choreographed for pop stars Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, and more. He performs pop music under the stage name JdDubs. In addition to writing and producing his own music, Whiteside also choreographs digital performances and music videos, which have viewership in the millions. 

“We are incredibly excited to welcome James Whiteside back to the Hermitage,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “In addition to being one of the nation’s premier dancers, he has taken the entertainment and media world by storm with his many talents and irresistible personality. This promises to be an unpredictable and unforgettable program that Gulf Coast audiences will not want to miss.”

Whiteside’s talents extend well beyond the world of dance, with growing celebrity as a playwright, podcast host, and brilliant performer who has captured and energized millions online with his dynamic and hilarious content. Whiteside will engage with Hermitage audiences for a creative exploration and candid conversation about wearing his many glamorous hats, arts entrepreneurship, and the transcendent power of dance.  

“Dancing through Life with James Whiteside” will be presented at the Hermitage on Monday, March 4th at 5:30pm. This program is free and open to the public (with a $5/person registration fee). Registration is required at HermitageArtistRetreat.orgCapacity will be limited, and registration is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Early registration is strongly encouraged.

UK Playwright and Lyricist Chris Bush Fourth Winner of Hermitage Major Theater Award

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, announced today that UK-based playwright and Olivier Award-winning lyricist Chris Bush has been selected as the fourth recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA). This jury-selected prize, established by the Hermitage in 2021 with generous support from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest nonprofit theater commissions in the United States, and now adds the United Kingdom to its expanding international footprint. Bush will receive a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a residency at the Hermitage (Sarasota County, Florida) and a developmental workshop in a major arts capital – which for this commission will be London in late 2025. 

Chris Bush is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, and theater maker based in the United Kingdom. Her comprehensive body of work includes Standing at the Sky’s Edge, which won her an Olivier Award and a UK Theatre Award for Best Musical. Following sold-out runs at the National Theatre and Sheffield Theatres, the acclaimed production is opening this month on the West End and has been described as “the most exciting new British musical in years” by WhatsOnStage and heralded by The Times as “a moving and resonant piece of popular entertainment — magnificent and meaningful.” Bush received a UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children & Young People for her production Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World and a UK Theatre Award for Best Musical for Assassination of Katie Hopkins, heralded by The Guardian as “an intelligent, thoughtful, and often wryly enjoyable look at the polarization of public debate in the age of social media.” Raised in Sheffield, England, Chris Bush currently lives in London.

“I’m delighted — and still a little surprised — to be the recipient of this year’s Hermitage Major Theater Award,” said 2024 HMTA winner Chris Bush upon receiving the news. “Having spent a lot of my career writing specifically about northern England, I’m excited to shift my gaze across the Atlantic and dive into a new landscape. I’m very grateful to the Hermitage and Flora Major for this opportunity. I hear the weather in Florida is a little better too.” 

“This is the first time a Hermitage commission has been presented to an artist in the United Kingdom,” added Andy Sandberg. “With a goal of bringing this initiative to London, we deliberately selected a committee of preeminent arts leaders in the U.K. who identified four outstanding playwrights among a wealth of worthy theatrical talent, broadening the international reach and impact of the Hermitage and this initiative.”

The Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA) was established in 2021 to recognize a playwright or theater artist with a $35,000 commission to create a new, original, and impactful piece of theater. Three distinguished finalists for the fourth Hermitage Major Theater Award include Natasha Gordon,an Olivier Award-nominated British playwright and actor of Jamaican descent, whose play Nine Night enjoyed a sold-out run at the National Theatre in 2018 before transferring to Trafalgar Studios in 2019; Beth Steel, an award-winning playwright whose new play Till the Stars Come Down is currently running at the National Theatre; and Sam Steiner,an accomplished playwright and screenwriter whose play Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons has been performed all over the world and made its West End debut in 2023. Each finalist has been awarded a Hermitage residency and Fellowship, in addition to a cash prize of $1,500.

HMTA winners and finalists are nominated and selected by a jury of visionary and forward-thinking artistic leaders. The 2024 HMTA Award Committee included Michael Grandage, Tony and Olivier-Award winning director of stage and screen, former Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, and current Artistic Director of the Michael Grandage Company; Tessa Ross, CBE and BAFTA Award-winningCo-CEO of House Productions; and Indhu Rubasingham,an Olivier Award-winning director, longtime Artistic Director of the Kiln Theatre, and newly announced as the incoming Director of the National Theatre.

“The Hermitage Major Theater Award is an incredible opportunity for an artist to develop their craft,” said Michael Grandage, “and Chris Bush is a hugely talented playwright who has already demonstrated that big ideas can change the world. I’m delighted this award will afford her an opportunity to continue to evolve in a fully supported environment.” 

We were thrilled by Chris Bush’s proposal – by its ambition and articulacy and by its relevance to our world,” added Tessa Ross. “Here is an exciting, brave writer, and we feel very proud to be able to support the next stage of Chris’ journey with this wonderful award.” 

“Chris Bush is an artist the theater world cannot ignore, and this award from the Hermitage offers her the opportunity to make a work that is deeply personal,” said Indhu Rubasingham. “I know that Chris will make a really powerful play that I can’t wait to see. Truly, all four finalists are talented and interesting artists worthy of this commission and great success.” 

“Amidst four extraordinary and deserving finalists, Chris Bush confirmed herself to be a passionate theater artist who impressed us all with her compelling and inspiring proposal,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We are honored to support Chris as she creates this ambitious and inventive new play. I must thank our brilliant and dedicated Award Committee – Michael Grandage, Tessa Ross, and Indhu Rubasingham – for their passion, intelligence, and care throughout this process. I also want to congratulate Natasha Gordon, Beth Steel, and Sam Steiner, each of whom are exceptional playwrights with bold voices and thrilling ideas.”

In addition to the $35,000 commission, the recipient of the annual HMTA will receive six weeks of residency at the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus to develop the new theatrical work, as well as a reading or workshop in a leading arts and cultural center. Chris Bush’s commission is expected to receive its first presentation in autumn of 2025 in London.

In describing her intended HMTA commission, currently titled Orlando (FL), Bush shares: “This original play will be a story of transformation, translation, and self-determination. The play follows Lana, a trans woman living in Orlando, Florida, whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of a fantastical stranger. Lana is stuck in a rut; her friendship circle is dwindling, her acting career is going nowhere fast, and she’s ejected from her Doomsday cult for being too unreliable. The world outside is too terrifying for her to deal with, so she opts to self-medicate and disassociate. Then crashing into her life headfirst comes Orlando, the freewheeling, gender-switching protagonist of Virginia Woolf’s iconic novel. Orlando is sexy, confident, unguarded — when Lana is with them, anything seems possible. Together, maybe they could take on the world. Orlando (FL) aspires to be a queer fantasia set against a backdrop of rising hate; a gloriously funny, angry, and defiant testament to the power of literature and the resilience of LGBTQ+ communities.”

In the spirit of the Hermitage’s commitment to the arts across multiple disciplines, recipients of the Hermitage Major Theater Award are encouraged to create a commission that directly or indirectly represents the role and impact of art – musical, literary, theatrical, visual, dance, or otherwise – in our culture and society. As to how this will infuse Bush’s commission, she explains that “Orlando (FL) takes Virginia Woolf’s classic novel as a jumping off point to explore contemporary queer identities. This piece is all about the power of fiction,” notes Bush. “Art can offer us a means of escape, but also become a tool for our own liberation.”

This distinguished Hermitage Major Theater Award recognition is not an award for an existing work, but rather it is designed as a commission that shall serve as a catalyst and inspiration to a theater artist to create a new, original, and impactful piece of theater. Further, the prize is intended to bridge the connection between the Hermitage in Sarasota County, Florida – where the commission is born – and other leading arts and culture centers around the world, including New York, London, Chicago, and other notable arts capitals where great theater is frequently developed and presented. Previous recipients of the HMTA have included acclaimed playwright and “Only Murders in the Building” writer Madeleine George; The New Group’s Director of Artistic Projects, theater-maker, and director Shariffa Ali; and award-winning composer and theater artist Imani Uzuri. George and Ali had their first readings at New York’s MCC Theater in November of 2023. George’s The Sore Loser is a Faustian comedy reimagining the patriarchy through a small-town bowling tournament, and Ali’s play Hero chronicles a South African village faced with an opportunity for national glory through a singling competition.

“This award is designed to be transformational for its recipients, providing not only significant funds and recognition, but also invaluable time, space, and inspiration at the Hermitage, plus an opportunity for these innovative theater artists to workshop and develop their original ideas,” said Andy Sandberg. An acclaimed director, writer, and Tony Award-winning producer who recently directed the U.K. premiere of Operation Epsilon, Sandberg took the helm as Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage in early 2020. “In addition to introducing a new work of theater to the world each year, this is a meaningful way for the Hermitage to take a further step in supporting the artistic process, offering developmental resources to these extraordinary artists and their new commissions.”  

The Hermitage Major Theater Award is made possible with a generous multi-year gift to the Hermitage from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation. In the aftermath of the pandemic and recognizing the difficult challenges facing theater artists, the Hermitage and Major awarded three HMTA commissions in the inaugural twelve months of this initiative. Moving forward, the recipient will be selected annually and will have two years to complete their commissions. 

Third Annual Concert in the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Sarasota County, Florida) is pleased to announce the third annual concert in the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage, featuring award-winning composer and pianist Conrad Tao. This event will take place on Thursday, March 28th at 7pm at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. This alumni music initiative was launched in 2022 to a full-capacity crowd at Selby Gardens with “Soulful Strings: An Evening of Harp Music,” featuring celebrated harpist and Hermitage alumna Ashley Jackson. Last year’s concert, “The Pop-Folk World of Zoe Sarnak,” featured award-winning New York City-based Hermitage alum Zoe Sarnak,withSarasota-based vocalists and musicians performing Sarnak’s original songs at Nathan Benderson Park.

This year, the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage returns to classical music with world-renowned pianist, composer, and Hermitage Fellow Conrad Tao. Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer – including acclaimed performances with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, and more. He has been dubbed “the kind of musician who is shaping the future of classical music” by New York Magazine and an artist of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times.

The Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage offers the opportunity for a distinguished Hermitage alumni composer or musician to return for additional residency time and a special community concert. This initiative is made possible by a generous multi-year gift from the Ruby E. and Carole Crosby Family Foundation. Current Hermitage Board President Carole Crosby initiated this gift as a special tribute to her mother Ruby, who helped to inspire her own deep love of music. A musician herself, Carole Crosby graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music and played the harp in both the Atlanta Symphony and Detroit Symphony.

“The Hermitage brings some of the most impressive performers in the world to our community,” said Crosby. “Music was always incredibly important to me and to my mother, so it’s an honor to celebrate her memory with this initiative spotlighting and supporting some truly extraordinary composers and musicians. I am continually inspired by the Hermitage’s commitment to these artists and the impact these magnificent talents are having in our region.”

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Conrad Tao back to Sarasota to share his talents with our growing Hermitage audience,” added Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “Anyone who has seen Conrad perform knows that is one of the most extraordinary and innovative pianists of his generation. As we continue to reengage with and provide more opportunities for Hermitage alumni, this generous gift from Carole Crosby in honor of her mother allows us to celebrate some of the groundbreaking musical talents who have come to know Sarasota through their time at the Hermitage and to share their latest work with the members of our community.”

Hermitage Fellow Conrad Tao captures and energizes the essence of popular classical music through his undeniably gifted lens of improvisation and imaginative composition to elevate the future of music. He has amassed a steady stream of awards and critical acclaim for his performances, compositions, and recordings with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and symphonies around the world. A returning Hermitage Fellow, Tao is the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and was named a Gilmore Young Artist – an honor awarded only once every two years to highlight the most promising American pianists of the new generation.

“Piano Classics Remade” will be presented outdoors at Selby Gardens (Downtown Sarasota) on Thursday, March 28th at 7pm. This program is free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee. Registration is required at HermitageArtistRetreat.orgCapacity will be limited, and registration is available on a first-come, first-served basis, at which time registration will shift to a waitlist. Early registration is strongly encouraged.

Playwright Deepa Purohit Receives 2024 Hermitage Greenfield Prize

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO), in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation, has selected playwright Deepa Purohit as the winner of the 2024 Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP). Purohit is an award-winning playwright who made her Off-Broadway debut in the Atlantic Theater Company’s 2022-23 season with the world premiere of her play Elyria (2023 Drama League Award Nominee for Outstanding Production of a Play, 2017 NEA Commission, and 2019 Jerome Foundation support with Ma-Yi Theater Company).

The Hermitage Greenfield Prize is awarded annually, rotating between the fields of theater, music, and visual art. Purohit will receive a six-week Hermitage Fellowship and a $35,000 commission to create a new work of theater, which will have its first public presentation in Sarasota in 2026. This year, the Greenfield Foundation and the Hermitage decided to increase the cash component of the award from $30,000 to $35,000. Purohit will be the first recipient of the HGP to receive this newly increased commission prize.

Purohit was selected by a distinguished jury that included Obie Award-winning playwright Rajiv Joseph, Tony Award winner and Artistic Director of A.R.T. Diane Paulus, and Tony Award-winning actor, director, and writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson.Past winners of this distinguished honor in the discipline of theater include Aleshea Harris (2021), Martyna Majok (2018), Nilo Cruz (2014), John Guare (2011), and Craig Lucas (2009). 

“Amidst a truly extraordinary field of finalists, this remarkable jury faced an incredibly difficult task to select a single recipient. Deepa Purohit emerged as an ambitious and original theatrical voice who impressed the jury with her inspiring vision,” says Hermitage Artistic Director Andy Sandberg. “Her dedication to innovative storytelling embodies the mission of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize — to bring into the world works of art that have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic culture of our society. We thank our distinguished jurors for their dedication, and we congratulate all four brilliant finalists, whom we look forward to welcoming at the Hermitage. We’re excited to host Deepa in Florida for the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner in April, and subsequently as a Hermitage Fellow in anticipation of the first public presentation of her new commission in Sarasota in 2026.” 

Deepa Purohit was featured last year in the Atlantic Theater Company’s season with the Off-Broadway production of her play Elyria, earning Purohit a 2023 Drama League Award nomination for Outstanding Production of a Play. She co-founded and ran Rising Circle Theater Collective, a theater company centered on the stories of people of color. Deepa was recently announced as the Director of New Works at People’s Light Theatre. Based in Brooklyn, she studied acting at the Harlem Theatre Company in New York City. Her acting credits include Sex and The City 2 and The Sopranos. Prior to focusing on playwriting, Purohit had a career in education as a Baltimore City middle school teacher, and she is an alumna of the Teach For America program.

Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients and finalists are nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders. The 2024 jury in theater included Rajiv Joseph, an Obie Award-winning playwright, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and member of the Hermitage National Curatorial Council; Diane Paulus, a Tony Award-winning Broadway director and Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University; and Ruben Santiago-Hudson, a Tony and Obie Award-winning actor, director, and writer.

Three finalists for the 2024 Hermitage Greenfield Prize include Zora Howard, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, writer, performer, and Hermitage alumna whose plays include StewHang TimeThe Master’s ToolsBust, and Good FaithDaniel & Patrick Lazour, brothers and musical theater writers who created the original musical We Live in Cairoand Britton Smith, a writer, performer, and co-founder of the Tony Award-winning organization Broadway Advocacy Coalition. All three will receive a Hermitage residency, in addition to a prize of $1,000.

“Deepa Purohit had a brilliant play at the Atlantic last season, and she has shown that she has the ambition and the talent as a playwright to be a real serious voice in the theater,” says Rajiv Joseph. “Deepa is definitely someone I look forward to seeing more from.”

“The experience of being a juror for the Hermitage Greenfield Prize was deeply inspiring, as we heard very engaging and innovative proposals from an incredible roster of finalists,” says Diane Paulus. “The winner, Deepa Purohit, is an artist whom I know will make a major contribution to the theater world, and through her project, to our understanding of the existential questions of how we live and die with dignity and care for our elders.” 

“What an honor to be a member of the jury for the 2024 Hermitage Greenfield Prize,” added Ruben Santiago-Hudson. “Listening to the ideas bursting from the minds and hearts of four of the most dynamic theater artists of our time was a revelation. This whole process was a wonderful confirmation that our theater is in great hands and the future is indeed very bright. That the Hermitage is here to support these exceptional artists is truly a gift. It gives me the greatest pleasure to say congratulations to all four finalists – Zora Howard, Daniel & Patrick Lazour, Deepa Purohit, and Britton Smith – all champions of this extraordinary life that has chosen us called the theater. We look forward to witnessing their fierce, brave, and beautiful stories unfold.”

“I’m humbled and deeply grateful to receive the incredibly generous Hermitage Greenfield Prize at this moment in my life. I’m honestly blown away,” says Purohit. “The support of the prize and the residency will provide me with the much needed space, time, and resources that I’ve been craving to not only create a new work, but also to grow and experiment in my craft in ways I hope will contribute to American theater and the cultural fabric of our society.”

Centering the stories of South Asian women, Purohit plans to explore a question we all must encounter in our lives — how does one die with dignity in a society that values a sophisticated medical system centered on a key tenet: to prolong life? Purohit aims to bring all her skills as a playwright and theatrical polymath to this new commission, blending various forms of theatrical expression including multimedia, installation performance art, and immersive theatrical happenings. Growing up with a father who immigrated to Ohio and built his career as a surgeon in the American medical system, and a mother who spent many years at the end of her lift navigating the complex system as a patient, Purohit brings deep personal connections and insight to the story. In the face of an immense, multi-billion dollar medical and elder care industry, Purohit explores what she believes to be one of the most complicated and meaningful issues of our time — how to die with dignity. 

Purohit will be celebrated at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on Sunday, April 14 at 6pm at Michael’s On East in Sarasota, Florida. Capacity will be limited, so early reservations are strongly recommended. 

In addition to the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on April 14, the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration will include programs and talks with current and past HGP winners from April 12 to 15, 2024. These events will be presented on the Hermitage Beach and throughout Sarasota County with some also available online. Additional details about these programs will be announced at a later date. The Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration is presented in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation, with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serving as the Lead Community Sponsor.

Hermitage Announces New February and March Programs 

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Sarasota County, Florida) announces new programs extending into February and March. Continuing its commitment to innovative year-round arts programming, these events will be presented throughout the Gulf Coast region, from the Hermitage’s beautiful beachfront campus on Manasota Key to the heart of Sarasota’s vibrant downtown arts scene in collaboration with Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, The Ringling Museum, Nathan Benderson Park, The Town of Longboat Key, and more. Hermitage programs introduce world-renowned artists to Florida’s Gulf Coast community and invite audiences across the country to experience candid and engaging conversations, open studios, music performances, play readings, film screenings, and more.

Newly announced February programs include Hermitage Fellow Nambi E. Kelly, a celebrated theater writer, performer, and producer who recently worked on Peacock’s hit series “Bel-Air.” On Friday, February 9 at 5:30pm at Booker High School, hear insights and excerpts of new works from this accomplished storyteller and rising star of the theater, television, and film world. 

On Friday, February 23 at 5pm in Sarasota, Hermitage National Curatorial Council Member Limor Tomer, founder of the Live Arts Department at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, will share the unique challenges and opportunities of transforming the hallowed halls of museums into community gathering spaces for performance. She is joined by The Ringling’s own Curator of Performance, Elizabeth Doud, who is responsible for the internationally-sourced “Art of Performance” series. Their insights into this growing field and its unique place in the artistic landscape will take place under the banyans on the grounds of The Ringling Museum.

2023 Hermitage Greenfield Prize finalist Maura Brewer and returning Hermitage Fellow David “Doc” Wallace will present a two-part program at the Hermitage Beach on Friday, March 1 at 5:30pm. A visual and multimedia artist, Brewer uses video and images to explore and uncover stories about our world, while Wallace expertly blends sounds and music to engage in the present like only a gifted musician can. Hear from both artists and engage with selections of their work.

Hermitage Fellow and acclaimed author Mesha Maren joins the Creative Writing Department at Ringling College as a part of the Visiting Writers Forum to inspire students and community members alike for the first installment of “Hermitage Writes @ Ringling College.” Maren’s work has been described by The New York Times as “bold,” “forceful,” and providing a “much needed refresh.”  Hear selections of her work and gain insights into her process during this conversation series at the Ringling College of Art and Design on Tuesday March 12 at 7pm. 

On Thursday, March 14 at 6:30pm, the popular “Hermitage Sunsets @ Nathan Benderson Park” series continues with “More Than Music,” featuring 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize finalist and Guggenheim Fellow Etienne Charles, along with returning Hermitage alumna Kamala Sankaram (pictured). These two Hermitage Fellows make more than excellent music; they create experiences that can make you feel the rhythm as quickly as they make you think. Join these two talented artists for a sunset experience of music and conversation by the lake at Nathan Benderson Park.  

On Friday, March 22 at 12pm, Hermitage Fellow Elisa Bocanegra gives the keynote address to the Venice Writers Festival at the William H. Jervey, Jr. Venice Library. Following the success of last year’s participation from Hermitage Fellow and poet Rigoberto Gonzalez, the Hermitage is pleased to partner once more with this excellent forum of community writers. Bocanegra, a recipient of the 2022-2023 Fulbright as well as the TCG Leadership U Grant, will speak about the intersection of writing, performance, and community building through her work on projects such as Nuestro Planeta, which aims to educate audiences about environmental justice in the Americas.

Returning Hermitage Fellow and multi-talented author and poet Brandel France de Bravo will marry the worlds of creative poetry and public health policy in an in-depth conversation about the craft and the future of the creative writing field. Join the Hermitage at Ringling College of Art and Design on Tuesday, March 26 at 7pm for the second installment of “Hermitage Writes @ Ringling College,” part of the college’s Creative Writing Department. 

All of these Hermitage programs are free and open to the public (with a $5/person registration fee), offering Gulf Coast audiences a rare chance to engage and interact with some of the world’s leading talent. Due to capacity limitations, registration is required.

Hermitage Announces Special January Program in Advance of Two Word-Class Exhibitions 

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced a newly added program on Friday, January 5th at 5pm on the Hermitage Beach on Manasota Key. This exciting new program will offer a glimpse into the creative process of three distinguished Hermitage Fellows in the midst of creating new work. Multidisciplinary visual artist Anne Patterson and composer Patrick Harlin will share insight into work they’ve developed at the Hermitage, as well as a “sneak preview” into their process for creating their new collaborative immersive exhibition, The Truth of the Night Sky, premiering in April of 2024 at the Ringling College of Art and Design’s Sarasota Art Museum. Before the conversation, visual and multidisciplinary artist Anthony Hawley will open his studio and share in-process works as well as selections from past creations.  

After meeting while in residence at the Hermitage and continuing their collaboration, multidisciplinary visual artist Anne Patterson and composer Patrick Harlin have joined forces to develop the upcoming exhibition at the Sarasota Art Museum: The Truth of the Night Sky. Patterson, who is familiar to Sarasota audiences from previous exhibitions at The Ringling Museum and whose “Divine Pathways” is currently represented in New York at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, is widely celebrated for her grand environments that immerse the viewer and surround the senses. This original experience opening in Sarasota this spring is augmented by Harlin’s composition “Earthrise,” inspired by the revolutionary photograph taken of the Earth on humanity’s first turn around the moon in 1968. This exhibition will be on display at the Sarasota Art Museum from April 21, 2024 through September 29, 2024. 

Multidisciplinary artist Anne Patterson, a celebrated Hermitage alumna with an impressive background in immersive exhibitions and theatrical design, has frequently collaborated with musicians, including fellow Hermitage alum Patrick Harlin, to design mesmerizing environments. For this collaborative project, Patterson and Harlin, who met and began working together as a result of their time at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, are expanding upon Harlin’s original composition Earthrise (2022), an orchestral piece inspired by the eponymous photograph (1968) taken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders on humanity’s first-ever trip around the moon. The original composition by Patrick Harlin, who was also the very first recipient of the Hermitage Prize in Composition at the Aspen Music Festival, will play as visitors pass through the galleries. The exhibition will feature several works by Anne Patterson, as well as a suspended tree and her signature satin ribbon installation work. With each step, visitors will travel imaginatively through space and time.

Of their time at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Patterson and Harlin are fond of saying that their experience was invaluable to their craft and their collaboration, allowing them to achieve new heights, find a unique environmental inspiration, and explore new possibilities in their work. Located on Manasota Key, many artists who are invited to make work on the Hermitage’s historic campus note the immediacy of the night sky around them, augmented by the crashing waves only steps away to create a primal and inspirational connection to nature. The Truth of the Night Sky conveys the sense of collectiveawe and wonderment we may feel under the dome of the stars or in the vibrating air of a concert hall, and it thus channels a message of hope and unity. Anne Patterson’s Hermitage Residency is generously sponsored by Ellen Berman & Roy Cohen.

Anne Patterson and Patrick Harlin have also been collaborating separately on a new oratorio based on Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, alongside two other Hermitage alumni who they met during their residency – Grammy Award-winning contemporary classical composer Christopher Theofanidis and celebrated poet Melissa Studdard.

In addition to the forthcoming exhibit from Patterson and Harlin, Sarasota Art Museum will also be presentingImpact: Contemporary Artists at the Hermitage Artist Retreat from March 10, 2024 through July 7, 2024. This exhibition will feature work from ten nationally and internationally renowned Hermitage alumni artists: Diana Al-HadidSanford Biggers (2010 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner), Chitra GaneshTodd GrayTrenton Doyle Hancock (2013 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner), Michelle LopezTed Riederer, the late John SimsKukuli Velarde, and William Villalongo.

A key factor these ten artists have in common is that over the past two decades, each has been a Fellow at the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key — a unique experience that contributed to each of their creative processes in a variety of ways. Overseen by guest curator and former Hermitage Curatorial Council member Dan Cameron, Impact represents the first major exhibition in collaboration between the Hermitage and Sarasota Art Museum, followed by and overlapping with The Truth of the Night Sky. The exhibit will feature work across a range of media, including sculpture, painting, installation, video, photography, printmaking, ceramics, textiles, and social practice. Sanford Biggers has remained engaged as not only a Hermitage alumnus, but also now a member of the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council.

“We are incredibly excited to partner with the Sarasota Art Museum to present these two world-class exhibitions from Hermitage Fellows to Sarasota audiences,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “This program on January 5th will offer an exciting ‘sneak peek’ into the making of these artists’ work and their unique collaboration.” Throughout the year, the Hermitage introduces Gulf Coast audiences to many exceptional Hermitage artists, and “in the case of the performing arts,” Sandberg adds, “we are frequently offering Sarasota audiences a ‘first look’ at more fully realized works of music, theater, and more. Now, this collaboration with Sarasota Art Museum provides Sarasota audiences the opportunity to experience more complete works created by acclaimed Hermitage visual artists.”

Hermitage Receives $50,000 Grant from The William G. and Marie Selby Foundation

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Sarasota County, Florida) announced a $50,000 Arts & Culture Grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation for the Hermitage’s “Build Back Stronger: Campus, Community, Care” project. Born out of lingering hurricane repair needs, this multi-component project will enhance the accessibility, sustainability, and security of the Hermitage’s campus. The funds from the Selby Foundation will specifically be used to install new hurricane shutters and an outdoor kitchen. The shutters will protect windows in historic structures and improve preparation for weather emergencies. The communal kitchen will allow artists to cook and share meals together without concern for health or accessibility barriers. The outdoor space will encourage collaboration and community amongst Hermitage Fellows in residency on the historic nine-acre beach campus on Manasota Key.

“We are truly grateful for this generous grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, who have been such champions of the Hermitage over the years in recognizing the value of preserving and improving our historical campus in order to further the important work we are doing for our community and beyond,” said Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage. “This grant will allow us to build back stronger from damage sustained by Hurricanes Ian and Idalia to better protect our campus and incorporate features that improve the lives of those we serve.” 

“The Selby Foundation appreciates the opportunity to invest in the intersection of artists, community, creativity, and history,” said Susie Bowie, President and CEO of the Selby Foundation. “The unique mission of the Hermitage nurtures inspiration for today and tomorrow.”

Hermitage Presented Two New Commissions from  Madeleine George and Shariffa Ali in NYC  

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO), today released photos from the premiere presentations of newly commissioned works by Madeleine George and Shariffa Ali. George and Ali, the first two recipients of the $35,000 Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA), had readings of their newly commissioned plays in New York at Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater just before Thanksgiving. Developed while in residence at the Hermitage in Sarasota County, Florida, these two new works are wholly original and coming to fruition less than two years after Madeleine George and Shariffa Ali learned of their selection for this distinguished national prize.

The Hermitage Major Theater Award, presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat and made possible with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation, recognizes a playwright or theater artist with a commission of $35,000 to create an original full-length work for the stage, as well as providing an extended residency at the Hermitage’s beachfront campus Sarasota County, Florida, plus the chance to present the inaugural workshop presentation of the newly created play in a major arts capital such as New York, London, or Chicago.

Pulitzer Prize finalist and playwright Madeleine George,currently a writer on the hit Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building,” was selected as the first winner of the HMTA by an Award Committee comprised ofLeigh SilvermanLiesl Tommy, and Doug Wright. George presented the first full-length reading of her new play The Sore Loser to an invitation-only audience on Friday, November 17. The Sore Loser is a Faustian comedy set in a bowling alley. It’s a play about power, domination, and the death of the patriarchy – as told through a small-town bowling tournament. Casting for The Sore Loser included stage and screen talentsAdam Chanler-Berat (Next to Normal, “Gossip Girl”), Lynda Gravatt (The Bounty HunterDelivery Man)Allison Guinn (On the Town, “Only Murders in the Building”), Greg Hildreth (Frozen, Maestro), James Jackson Jr. (A Strange Loop, White Girl in Danger)Matthew Maher (Gone Baby Gone, Captain Marvel), T Mitsock (“Becoming Eve”)Shannon Tyo (The Compeuppance, “30 Rock”), and Joel Van Liew (“FBI”, Limitless). The reading was directed by Mack Brown.

Theater-maker and director Shariffa Ali was selected as the second recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award by Lynn NottageDavid Henry Hwang, and Regina Taylor. Ali shared an in-process presentation of her newly devised work Hero for an invitation-only audience on Monday, November 20, also at MCC Theater. Ali and two of her collaborators, Joanna Evans and Jason Maina, provided an overview and excerpts from this heartwarming and inspiring new play with music, set in a small South African town and inspired by the true story of Shariffa’s longtime friend and collaborator Vuyo Sotashe

The Hermitage Major Theater Award was established in 2021 to recognize a playwright or theater artist with a substantial commission to create a new, original, and impactful piece of theater. This national jury-selected award, established by the Hermitage with generous support from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest unrestricted nonprofit theater commissions in the country. George and Ali have each received a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a residency at the Hermitage, plus developmental and financial support for these developmental readings in New York. The prize is intended to bridge the connection between the Hermitage (Sarasota County, Florida), where the commission is born, and other leading arts and culture centers around the world, including New York, London, Chicago, and notable arts capitals where great theater is frequently developed and presented. 

Hermitage Raises Nearly $300,000 at the 15th Annual Artful Lobster – A Record-Breaking Celebration! 

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Sarasota County, Florida) raised over $292,000 at the 2023 Hermitage Artful Lobster luncheon on Saturday, November 11th. Now in its 15th year and following the 20th anniversary of the Hermitage, this annual event raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s internationally renowned artist residency program, supporting the creative process of artists from around the world in the fields of music, theater, visual art, literature, dance, and more. Over 200 guests attended the sold-out event, which took place outdoors on a beautiful November afternoon at the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus. This year’s Artful Lobster was co-chaired by Terry Brackett and Suzette & Tim Flood, with Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg serving as the master of ceremonies. 

The event was headlined by world-renowned and Grammy Award-winning string quartet ETHEL. This was the first time in many years that all four members of ETHEL — Ralph FarrisKip JonesDorothy Lawson, and Corin Lee — were together at the Hermitage to help commemorate this milestone anniversary of this popular fall benefit. As part of the afternoon’s festivities, ETHEL delighted attendees with an uplifting and inspiring performance featuring selections from The River and Circus: Wandering City, two original works that were developed at the Hermitage. Highlights from the energetic performance included an audience participation segment and ETHEL member Kip Jones leaping through the crowd while playing the violin. Known for their acclaimed performances across the United States and around the world, ETHEL is comprised of four distinguished Hermitage alumni; this quartet of brilliant musicians has a deep connection with the Hermitage Artist Retreat, dating back to 2015. ETHEL’s residency and appearance at the 2023 Hermitage Artful Lobster were generously sponsored by Carol White Bold and Larry Bold. The outdoor event also featured a captivating performance by Emi Ferguson, a new Hermitage Fellow and celebrated flutist. Sharing from her book Iconic Composers, Ferguson charmed the audience with stories of John Williams overcoming his critics by telling tales from his once-ridiculed-now-iconic score to Jaws. Ferguson went on to perform an enchanting Williams composition from the film Memoirs of a Geisha.

“Great music, great art, great theater, great literature, great dance, great television – none of this happens without great artists,” said the Hermitage’s Andy Sandberg. “We are thankful to all who attended and supported this year’s Artful Lobster 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.” Sandberg added that the proceeds from this year’s fall fundraiser will also support ongoing improvements and protections for the Hermitage campus following the impact of Hurricanes Ian and Idalia.

Sponsors and partners for the 2023 Artful Lobster included Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Key Agency, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and Sarasota Magazine. A full list of this year’s sponsors, benefactors, and partners can be found at HermitageArtistRetreat.org/ArtfulLobster2023.