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.”

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE.

Hermitage receives grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation

The Hermitage Artist Retreat has been recognized by Gulf Coast Community Foundation as one of 12 cornerstone arts organizations with its Arts Appreciation Grant. The unrestricted $30,000 grant, made possible through the Venice Endowment Fund and the Violetta Marchisio Charitable Fund, will help support the Hermitage’s core operations for the 2021-2022 season. Gulf Coast notes that its Arts Appreciation grants allow area organizations to focus on what they do best — “bringing world-class talent and beauty to Florida’s Cultural Coast.” This year, Gulf Coast added the Hermitage Artist Retreat to its distinguished list of grantees, stating that the organization has a successful grant history with the foundation and strong donor support. 

“The Hermitage is a unique and beloved regional asset that rose to the challenge of innovating during the pandemic, providing strong educational and outreach programming,” says Jennifer Johnston, senior community investment officer at Gulf Coast Community Foundation.  “This grant recognizes the direct contributions the Hermitage makes to our community’s cultural life and to this region’s enduring brand as thearts and cultural destination in southwest Florida.” 

Read more here.

Composer David ‘Clay’ Mettens wins 2021 Hermitage Prize in Aspen

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) announce that David ‘Clay’ Mettens, a composition student at the AMFS’s Susan and Ford Schumann Center for Composition Studies, has been awarded the 2021 Hermitage Prize in Composition. Mettens is the eighth recipient of this annual award, which includes a six-week residency at the Hermitage, along with a $1,000 stipend. Mettens was selected by a jury that includes Alan Fletcher, AMFS president and CEO; Robert Spano, music director of the AMFS and the Atlanta Symphony, music director designate of the Fort Worth Symphony, and member of the Hermitage Curatorial Council; and the composition faculty of the AMFS, including Hermitage Fellow Christopher Theofanidis.

Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg presented the award to Mettens at the Aspen Music Festival and School’s Benedict Music Tent, alongside Fletcher, Spano, and Theofanidis. This unique initiative, which launched in 2013, reflects an invaluable partnership between the AMFS and the Hermitage, designed to champion new and original works and to recognize exceptional talent in the field of classical music. The idea was first conceived when Robert Spano was in residence at the Hermitage and shared with his colleagues in Aspen how beneficial the retreat had been for him and his work. The Hermitage Prize in Composition was created to offer the same experience to young, talented composers just beginning their professional careers.

“I was told by our friends at the AMFS that this was a particularly exceptional year for the composers and musicians, and the talent exceeded my expectations,” notes Sandberg. “It was thrilling to hear Clay’s brilliant work in Aspen, workshopped and performed with the AMFS’s Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra alongside original compositions by fellow composers in the program.” Sandberg adds that the Hermitage Prize in Composition given at the AMFS is the only student residency awarded by the Hermitage each year; all other Fellows are accomplished working professionals and leaders in their field, selected by the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council. “This provides the recipient of the annual Hermitage Prize in Composition the opportunity to share this Hermitage experience with leading artists from all around the world.”

David “Clay” Mettens is a Chicago-based composer whose works have received numerous accolades, including a 2020 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and Ithaca College’s 2018 Heckscher Foundation Composition Prize. His compositions have been performed by the Brussels Philharmonic, Washington National Opera, Spektral Quartet, and Ensemble Dal Niente, among others. Mettens holds a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Chicago, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music and University of South Carolina, respectively. This summer, he was a recipient of the Susan and Ford Schumann Scholarship at the Aspen Music Festival and School. 

“I’m thrilled to be invited to the Hermitage and work in a stimulating environment, surrounded by artists in other disciplines,” says Mettens. “My compositional imagination is fueled by encounters with literature, poetry, and visual art, and I look forward to practicing my craft in the company of brilliant creators in these disciplines.”

Photo L to R: Christopher Theofanidis, Robert Spano, David ‘Clay’ Mettens, Alan Fletcher, Andy Sandberg. Photo credit/Carlin Ma.

Hermitage announces new members of national curatorial council

The Hermitage Artist Retreat recently announced its 2021-2022 Curatorial Council, comprised of distinguished national arts leaders spanning the fields of theater, visual art, music, literature, and arts education. The newest additions to the Council include Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Nataki Garrett(pictured above), Pulitzer Prize-winning author Mitchell Jackson, and celebrated WQXR radio host Terrance McKnight

Nataki Garrett is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s sixth artistic director. She previously served as a juror for the 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize. Garrett is currently leading the charge to mobilize theater organizations across the nation to procure long-term federal government support to ensure the theater industry’s reemergence post-pandemic. Garrett’s passion is fostering and developing new work, including those that adapt and devise new ways of performing the classics. She has directed and produced the world premieres of many well-known and important playwriting voices of our time, including Katori Hall, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Dominique Morriseau and Aziza Barnes.

Mitchell S. Jackson is the winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing and the 2021 National Magazine Award in Feature Writing. His debut novel, The Residue Years, received wide critical praise and won a Whiting Award and The Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. A formerly incarcerated person, Jackson is also a social justice advocate who, as part of his outreach, visits prisons and youth facilities in the United States and abroad.

Terrance McKnight is the evening host on WQXR, an artistic advisor for the Harlem Chamber Players, and serves on the boards of the Bagby Foundation and the MacDowell Colony. He’s frequently sought out by major cultural organizations for his insight into the cultivation of diverse perspectives and voices in the cultural sphere. McKnight regularly curates concerts and talks at Merkin Concert Hall, Billie Holiday Theatre, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Museum of Modern Art.

Read full press release here.

Hermitage welcomes Edward Swan, Jr. to board; Robyn Citrin elected president

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that Robyn Citrin has been elected as the new president of the Hermitage Board of Trustees. Citrin succeeds Leslie Edwards, who concludes her term as president and will remain on the Hermitage board. The Hermitage also welcomes Edward Swan, Jr. as a new member of the Board of Trustees. In addition, Hermitage trustee Ellen Berman has been elected to the position of secretary, while David Green and Steve Adler will continue in their respective roles as vice president and treasurer.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with Robyn in her new role as president. She is one of the Hermitage’s most vibrant champions, and her passion and commitment for the mission of the organization are truly inspiring,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We are also incredibly excited to welcome Ed Swan to the Hermitage board. He has been a wonderful champion of the Hermitage; his experience, intelligence, and thoughtful creativity will be invaluable to the organization’s continued growth and success. I must give tremendous thanks to Leslie Edwards for her partnership and friendship; she is a vital member of the Hermitage family and has shepherded the organization through significant growth and change over the years.”

Robyn Citrin has lived in the Sarasota area for the past 12 years. She was elected to the Hermitage board in 2019 and has served as its secretary since January of 2020; she is also a graduate of the Gulf Coast Board Institute. Citrin is a former nurse practitioner, who began her career as a psychiatric nurse in New York City, and subsequently worked in obstetrics and gynecology in Denver. She has a master’s degree in nursing leadership. Citron’s volunteer work in Colorado included the Children’s Diabetes Foundation and the Junior Symphony Guild. Since moving to Osprey in 2009, Citrin has volunteered with the Literacy Council of Sarasota, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Oaks Women’s Club (OWC), for which she has been a past board president. She has also been a champion of the OWC’s scholarship program. Citrin and her husband are collectors of Japanese woodblock prints and have been involved with the Ringling Museum of Art’s Asian art collection.

Edward M. Swan, Jr. lives in Sarasota and spends part of the year on Martha’s Vineyard. Swan has more than 35 years of experience in institutional investment management with many of the nation’s largest pension funds among his clients. He has served on corporate and not-for-profit boards, including Tufts and Dillard universities, and The Ringling. He has previously been involved with the Hermitage as an active member of both the outreach and education committee and the marketing committee. Swan has a longstanding interest in the arts and community service and has volunteered at several Sarasota schools, developing programs designed to help lower income students understand what they need to do to be successful in high school and beyond. Swan received a BA from Tufts University and an MBA from the Wharton School. He also attended the director development program at the Kellogg School (Northwestern University) and was a captain in the US Air Force.

The Hermitage’s board officers for the 2021-2022 season are: Robyn Citrin, president; David Green, vice president; Steve Adler, treasurer; and Ellen Berman, secretary. The Hermitage Board of Trustees also includes Christine Boone, Susan Brainerd, Maryann Casey, Carole Crosby, Marletta Darnall, Leslie Edwards, Laura Kaminsky, Tina Shao Napoli, Michael Pender, Charlotte Perret, Edward M. Swan, Jr., Nelda Thompson, Mary Lou Winnick, and Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO (ex-officio).

Hermitage Major Theater Award announced

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, announced the establishment of the Hermitage Major Theater Award, a new annual prize that will recognize a playwright or theater artist with a commission of $35,000 to create an original piece of theater. In addition to the commission, the recipient of this annual award will receive a residency at the Hermitage to develop the new work and will also receive a reading or workshop in a leading arts and cultural center such as New York, London, Chicago, or Los Angeles. This initiative is made possible by a multi-year gift from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation to the Hermitage, starting with a commitment of $800,000.

Like the Hermitage Greenfield Prize – which will soon be celebrating its 14th season and rotates annually between the disciplines of music, theater, and visual art – the winner of the Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA) will be nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders in the field of theater. The new work will be developed and created in Sarasota at the Hermitage’s historic campus, and the commission will additionally receive a workshop or reading in a notable arts and cultural hub; it is anticipated that the first year will be in New York. The inaugural jury and HMTA recipient will be selected and announced in the coming months, and it is anticipated that the first commission will be completed in 2022.

In the spirit of the Hermitage’s commitment to the arts across multiple disciplines, finalists for the Hermitage Major Theater Award will be encouraged to create a commission that directly or indirectly represents the role and impact of art – musical, literary, theatrical, visual, or otherwise – in our culture and society. This distinguished 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 Sarasota County, where the original work is created, and other leading arts and culture centers around the world. This continued involvement in the creative development of its artists’ work beyond our region is a new step for the Hermitage, empowering this vital arts organization to strengthen relationships and build meaningful collaborations with leading cultural institutions in arts capitals worldwide.

“This award will be transformational for its recipients – providing not only significant funds and recognition, but also invaluable time, space, and inspiration at the Hermitage, as well as an opportunity to showcase their work,” says Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage. “Coming out of this period when the theater industry has been largely shut down, it is particularly exciting to be able to offer a gift and an opportunity like this to a theater artist. Moreover, it is a gift to the theatrical canon when you consider that each year, a brand-new work will be created as a result of this award.” 

Additionally, in providing generous support for the Hermitage for its core operations and programs, Sandberg adds that this leadership gift by Flora Major and The Kutya Major Foundation is invaluable to building long-term, sustainable support for an organization committed to the creation and development of bold and impactful new works. 

“It is exciting to support an organization that is so deeply committed to supporting new and original work,” adds Flora Major. “The Hermitage is reaching new heights under Andy’s leadership, and with a shared passion for the theater, I know that he will make something extraordinary out of this award. Anyone who values and appreciates the arts, across all disciplines, needs to invest in supporting artists in the earliest stages of their creative process – that is what the Hermitage does so well.”

Sandberg adds that the prize will build bridges between the Hermitage and Sarasota County, where the commissions will be born, and other leading arts and culture centers, including New York, London, and Chicago, where great theater is frequently developed and presented. “This award will offer the Gulf Coast community the chance to birth and introduce this new work of theater to the world, making a lasting impact on the broader artistic landscape, increasing the visibility of the Hermitage’s impact in other cultural centers, and emphasizing the global perspective of the bold new works being created on Manasota Key.”

Flora Major, founder and trustee of the Kutya Major Foundation, moved to Sarasota in 2005 and immediately became involved in the art and social life of the region. Originally from Hungary, Major was a successful entrepreneur in the telecommunication business in New York and in the textile industry in North Carolina. She has served on several not-for-profit boards through the years, including Duke University Eye Center, Duke University Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, the Advisory Board of Lenox Hill Hospital, Sarasota Orchestra, Asolo Repertory Theater, the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States, and the Designing Women’s Boutique for Arts and Humanities. Major currently serves on the Foundation Board of Isothermal Community College, the board of the Ringling College of Art and Design, the advisory board of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and the Council for the Arts at MIT. She has chaired numerous charity events, and she served as co-chair of the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s 2020 Artful Lobster and the 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner.

“I have been so inspired by the Hermitage Greenfield Prize and have seen the transformative effects of the Greenfield Foundation’s generous commitment to the Hermitage,” adds Major. “I hope this new initiative will inspire others who are passionate about the arts to recognize and support the important work that the Hermitage is doing.” 

Top picture: Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg and Flora Major at announcement event for Hermitage Major Theater Award. Second picture: Flora Major. Photo credit: Bywater Collective/The Hermitage Artist Retreat

Hermitage receives $260,000 in grants for historic preservation, artist impact

The Hermitage Artist Retreat recently received two major grants that will be directed to historic preservation efforts and artist impact in the community. The organization received $110,000 from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Inc., to assist with the restoration and rehabilitation of the historic Hermitage House. The Hermitage also received a $150,000 grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation for its “Artist Impact SRQ” initiative, an expansion of the Hermitage’s growing community outreach and education programs, enhancing the Hermitage’s support for its artists and broadening the organization’s reach and impact in schools and underserved communities.

The Hermitage House was originally built in 1907 and is the only property on Manasota Key on the National Register of Historic Places. The Selby Foundation’s grant will directly support the repair and restoration of the foundations supporting the Hermitage House. “This vital historic property is not only an iconic building on Manasota Key, but it is central to our organization, our residency program, and our artists,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We greatly appreciate the Selby Foundation for their generosity and for recognizing the importance of preserving this cornerstone of our historic campus.” 

Carol Butera, President and CEO of the Selby Foundation, adds: “The restoration and care of the historic Hermitage House, dating back to 1907, is essential to ensuring many decades of continued success for the Hermitage as a leading arts and cultural institution in our community.” 

While the Hermitage is known for its historic beachfront campus, the organization is also recognized for its expansive community programming. “As our programs and collaborations continue to evolve and expand throughout our region, we are excited to build bridges to new audiences, and also to share the extraordinary educational impact of our programs with the students in our community,” says Sandberg. “This generous gift from Barancik Foundation is going to allow us to provide more support and resources to the diverse and accomplished Hermitage artists who are making a meaningful and lasting impact in our community.”

“It’s time to reimagine how we engage students who have historically been underserved by the arts,” says Teri A Hansen, President/CEO of Barancik Foundation. “This support allows the Hermitage to expand its deeply rooted connection with the community and involve more young minds.”

Patricia Caswell retires

by Susan Rife, special to the Herald-Tribune (read full article here)
May 19, 2021

Caswell, who for 17 years was head of the Sarasota County Arts Council (now the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County), will retire from her position at the Hermitage on her birthday, Monday.

The Hermitage would not exist if not for Caswell, who in the late 1990s saw the need to preserve the ramshackle beach shacks on Manasota Key and who, along with art collector and philanthropist Syd Adler, first envisioned the collection of buildings, which dated to the early 20th century, as a place where artists could gather to create new works.

Adler and Caswell became co-founders of the modern Hermitage, supervising the restoration of four of the original five buildings on the property. Originally under the auspices of the Arts Council, the Hermitage eventually spun off as its own entity. 

But the retreat is not simply a place where artists come from New York or Chicago to create new work. It’s also the site of frequent public performances, poetry readings on the beach and the like, which former Executive Director Bruce Rodgers initially thought was a crazy idea.

“She would come up with ideas that I would say, oh, that would never work, and of course, they did,” said Rodgers. “Performances on the beach: That was her idea.”

[Caswell will] miss “the extraordinary artists that have been there, and spending time with them. This is a very special thing that just a few of us got to do, because they were there to work. The evenings there were like a Paris salon with Gertrude Stein. We had Nico Muhly, he sat there around the table, talking to us about what it was like to be a young guy, a young composer, whose piece had been chosen by the Metropolitan Opera, him not understanding their traditions, them deferring all these decisions to the ‘maestro,’ all these stories inside the guts of the Metropolitan Opera.”

READ THE FULL HERALD-TRIBUNE ARTICLE HERE.

Playwright Aleshea Harris Celebrated at Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on April 11

More than 130 guests gathered to celebrate playwright Aleshea Harris, the winner of the 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize, on Sunday, April 11, at the annual Prize Dinner at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. The event had been moved earlier that day from its original outdoor setting at The Ringling’s Ca’ d’Zan due to inclement weather. The festive evening was chaired by Ellen Berman and Flora Major. Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage, served as master of ceremonies.

“Neither rain nor sleet nor any tropical storm was going to stop us from finding a way to celebrate Aleshea Harris as the winner of this year’s Hermitage Greenfield Prize!” noted Sandberg in true show-must-go-on fashion. “While the change of venue was an unexpected surprise, we were determined to forge ahead with this very special evening of entertainment and celebration. We thank everyone at The Ringling Museum and Michael’s On East for their shared commitment to the safety and comfort of our guests. The adoration, respect, and joy in honor of Aleshea were truly palpable, and we are so grateful to the Greenfield Foundation and all of our sponsors for their generous support.”

(L-R) Andy Sandberg, Ellen Berman, Flora Major, Aleshea Harris

“The evening was full of irrepressible energy and talent,” added co-chairs Ellen Berman and Flora Major. “Aleshea Harris is a powerful presence, and the crowd was alive with enthusiasm. The whole event was a seamless and stunning success, and the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner has been transformed into one of the most entertaining evenings in town, capturing the true spirit of diversity and talent of the Hermitage and its artists.”

The festive evening commenced with a welcome video from Black Theatre United, featuring the music video “Stand for Change,” with a personal message of welcome and words of congrats to Harris from acclaimed actor and producer Tamara Tunie (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; As the World Turns) on behalf of her fellow BTU co-founders: six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Wendell Pierce, and more. The evening also showcased a tribute video featuring brand-new footage from thirteen years of Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients, jurors, and presenting partners. Excerpts from Harris’ work On Sugarland were brought to life on stage by Ive Lyles (Westcoast Black Theater Troupe) and Imani Williams (Asolo Conservatory, pictured below). Following the presentation of the award to Ms. Harris, Sandberg introduced a stirring rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here,” performed by Broadway and Sarasota’s own Ann Morrison and accompanied by Joseph Holt on piano to conclude the celebration. “How fitting the metaphor of Sondheim’s lyrics – especially after this year!” exclaimed Morrison.