Hermitage Announces First Wave of Fall and Winter Programs

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces the first wave of new public programs through the end of 2023, featuring acclaimed Hermitage Fellows in music, theater, dance, literature, visual art, and more – with additional events to be announced. These newly added programs are presented on the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus, as well as venues throughout Sarasota County as part of the Hermitage’s ongoing collaborations with arts and cultural organizations spanning the Gulf Coast region, such as Asolo Repertory Theatre, The Bay Sarasota, Bookstore1, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, Johann Fust Library Foundation, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota Contemporary Dance, Sarasota County Libraries, Sarasota Opera, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, and more.

A special September program celebrates the gifted artists who call Sarasota County home. Presented in partnership with the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County through the John Ringling Tower initiative, Sarasota artists Melanie Lavender and Kuniko Yamamoto combine talents for “Power in Paper: Celebrating Sarasota Artists” on Friday, September 29th at 6pm. As the sun sets on the Hermitage Beach, spoken-word poet, podcast host, and proud Booker High School alum Melanie Lavender shares selections of work resulting from her two-week residency at the Hermitage. She is joined by Kuniko Yamamoto, an origami master and theatrical storyteller who participated in the Hermitage/JRT residency program last year just before Hurricane Ian.   

On Thursday, October 12th at 6pm, the Hermitage partners with Bookstore1 in downtown Sarasota to present Hermitage Fellow Kristen Renee Miller, who will read from selected works and discuss the ecosystem of the modern literary world in this free community program. October programming continues with a return to the Conservation Foundation’s Bay Preserve in Osprey, as Hermitage Fellows Diane Cook andCarmina Escobar explore the literary and sonic connection to the outdoors in this Hermitage program inspired by our collective roots in nature on Thursday, October 19th at 6pm. Hermitage events in October conclude on the Hermitage Beach with a pair of returning, Hermitage Fellows who met on Manasota Key while in residence. Celebrated poet Melissa Studdard and Grammy Award-winning composer ChristopherTheofanidis share selections of work from their oratorio inspired by Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha on Friday, October 27th at 6pm. This is a piece they are developing alongside Hermitage alumni Patrick Harlin and Anne Patterson, which is set to debut at the Aspen Music Festival in 2025. Hermitage audiences will be among the first to hear samples of this work and learn about its creative journey from the Hermitage Beach to one of the nation’s leading stages.

Join Hermitage Fellow and New York Times-heralded author Emily Nemens as she reads from and discusses her debut novel, The Cactus League on Friday, November 3rd at 6pm on the Hermitage Beach. Anchored by an expert knowledge of baseball’s inner workings, her novel is a propulsive and deeply human story that captures the essence of one of Florida’s cherished pastimes: spring training. On Monday, November 6th at 3pm, Hermitage Fellow and award-winning librettist Kirya Traber shares her passion for music and offers an audience-engagement workshop for those interested in exploring an intuitive approach to songwriting. Explore how music and song are some of the most powerful tools for communicating stories in this participatory event. These events launch a new Hermitage partnership with Sarasota County Libraries and Ringling College of Art and Design to kick off the Off the Page Literary Festival

On Saturday, November 11th, the Hermitage hosts its annual Artful LobsterAn Outdoor Celebration. Now celebrating its 15th year and coming on the heels of the organization’s jam-packed 20thAnniversary season, this signature event raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s nationally renowned artist residency program. The Artful Lobster is the only Hermitage benefit to take place on the grounds of the historic Gulf front campus – outdoors from 11:30am to 2pm beneath a large tent – located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood. Michael’s On East offers a luscious lobster feast, with performances from renowned Hermitage Fellows. Tickets for this fundraiser and sponsorship details can be found at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

The Hermitage Cross Arts Collaborative, now in its second season, is a new annual residency program focused on supporting the incredible talent of performing artists frequently featured on Sarasota stages. This year the program is represented by musician and composer Lizzie Hagstedt, whose work has been developed with Asolo Rep, and Sarasota Contemporary Dance Company member Jessica Obiedzinski. After two weeks on the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus, these two gifted creators will reunite to share selections of their new works and talk about how they utilized their residency time as the sun sets at The Bay – Sarasota’s newest signature park along Sarasota Bay on Tuesday, November 14th at 5pm. 

On Thursday, December 14th at 4pm, Hermitage Fellow Cleyvis Natera reads from and offers insight into her “refreshingly direct and declarative” (NY Times) debut novel, Neruda on the Park, and shares a glimpse into her writing process at the Johann Fust Community Library in Boca Grande. 

Additional November and December programs featuring award-winning Hermitage artists and performers will be announced at a later date. 

Matīss Čudars Wins the 2023 Hermitage Prize in Composition at Aspen Music Festival & School

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Aspen Music Festival and School (Aspen, Colorado) announce that Matīss Čudars, a composition student at AMFS, has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Hermitage Prize in Composition.Čudars is the tenth recipient of this annual award, which includes a residency at the Hermitage, along with a $1,000 cash stipend. Čudars was selected by a jury that includes multiple Grammy Award winner Robert Spano, Music Director of the AMFS and the Atlanta Symphony and a past member of the Hermitage Curatorial Council; award-winning composer and celebrated arts administrator Alan Fletcher, AMFS President and CEO; and the composition faculty of the AMFS, including Grammy Award-winning Hermitage Fellow Christopher Theofanidis.

Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg presented the award to Čudars at the Aspen Music Festival’s Benedict Tent, alongside Fletcher, Theofanidis, and award-winning composer and Hermitage Fellow Nico Muhly. This unique initiative, launched in 2013 and now celebrating its tenth anniversary, reflects an invaluable partnership between AMFS and the Hermitage, designed to champion new and original works and to recognize exceptional talent in the field of contemporary classical music. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of this award, the Hermitage and AMFS produced a retrospective video featuring exclusive interviews with past winners, distinguished AMFS faculty members, and renowned thought leaders in music, which can be seen here (URL link below). The idea for the prize 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.

“We are thrilled to recognize Matīss Čudarsas the winner of the tenth Hermitage Prize. He is a brilliant young composer and musician, and a welcome addition to the Hermitage family,” noted Sandberg. “We were delighted that the weekend’s festivities could be celebrated alongside fellow Hermitage alumni including Robert Spano, Nico Muhly, and Christopher Theofanidis.” Sandberg adds that the Hermitage Prize at AMFS is the only student residency awarded each year; all other Hermitage 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 unmatched Hermitage experience with leading artists from all around the world.” 

“I am deeply honored and filled with gratitude for being bestowed the prestigious Hermitage Prize in Composition,” added Čudars after learning the news of his recognition. “With fifty thousand creative ideas for new compositions, projects, and albums swirling within my mind, coupled with new commissions awaiting my attention, this prize has arrived at the most opportune moment. The nurturing embrace of the Hermitage, coupled with the breathtaking expanse of the Manasota Key landscape, presents an environment that promises to amplify my artistic endeavors. Engaging with fellow artists at the Hermitage and relishing in the privilege of uninterrupted concentration, I am excited to bring a multitude of these creative ideas to life.”

Matīss Čudars is a Latvian composer and guitar player. Čudars draws upon a diverse musical upbringing encompassing math-rock, jazz, classical music, and avant-garde improv. Matīss earned his master’s degree in music from Yale in 2023. He is a graduate of Amsterdam Conservatory with a bachelor’s in music for jazz guitar. With an insatiable creative drive, he transcends genres and aesthetics, constantly exploring new musical frontiers. Upcoming projects include the newly commissioned works for the 2023 Aspen Music Festival as a Composition Fellow and a new Helēna Sorokina work for soprano voice and bass clarinet. In 2024, Matīss will create a new opera for 16 voices, guitar and percussion for the Latvian Radio Choir as well as a new piano work for the Latvian Symphony Orchestra Chamber Group. 

Hermitage Announces Dates for 2023-2024 Benefit Events

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that its annual Artful Lobsterbenefit will be held on Saturday, November 11th, 2023, from 11:30am to 2pm. Now in its 15th year and coming on the heels of the Hermitage’s 20th Anniversary season, this signature outdoor event raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s renowned artist residency program. The Artful Lobster is the only Hermitage benefit to take place on the grounds of the historic Gulf front campus – outdoors beneath a large tent – located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood. Michael’s On East offers a delicious lobster feast, with performances from renowned Hermitage Fellows. This year’s event will be co-chaired by new Hermitage trustee Terry Brackett and longtime Hermitage supporters Suzette & Tim Flood. Ticket information and additional details are now available at: HermitageArtistRetreat.org/ArtfulLobster2023. For sponsorship inquiries, call Amy Wallace: (941) 475-2098, Ext. 2

Then in the spring, the 16th annual Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner will be held on Sunday, April 14th, 2024, starting at 6pm at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. This elegant annual dinner heralds the jury-selected recipient of this prestigious prize, which will be awarded this season in the discipline of theater. The Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP) is a distinguished national commission awarded by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in partnership with the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation; the award rotates annually among theater, music, and visual art. The 2024 HGP winner’s newly commissioned work will have its first public presentation in Sarasota in the spring of 2026. Ticket information and additional details will be announced later in the year. For sponsorship inquiries, call (941) 475-2098, Ext. 2.

Hermitage Receives National and Regional Grants

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced receipt of several significant grants that will support the Hermitage’s mission and community programming. The Hermitage offers one-of-a-kind artistic programming with a focus on community impact, education, and social justice. The Hermitage provides artists the opportunity to create bold new works of art across all artistic disciplines. These extraordinary talents give back to the community by presenting their works in progress to audiences throughout our region before they go on to national and international acclaim. The Hermitage welcomes nearly 100 of the world’s leading artists to Sarasota County each year. Their free community programming now includes over 50 events annually at locations throughout the Gulf Coast region. Support from these organizations allow the Hermitage to continue to support artists and community initiatives. 

Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF)is continuing its support of the Hermitage with a $40,000 Arts Appreciation Grant in support of the Hermitage’s mission: to inspire and foster the most influential and culturally consequential art and artists of our time. The Hermitage became one of Gulf Coast’s “Arts Appreciation” grantees in 2021, following multiple years of ongoing support and partnership. This grant was made possible through the Venice Endowment Fund, the Agnes Gnewikow Charitable Fund, and the Margaret Lehman Endowment Fund. 

An additional $15,000 in community program support came from The Exchange of Sarasota, which awarded a grant for “Hermitage North” programming and the Hermitage’s arts education initiative. Part of these funds were awarded through The Exchange’s new Elizabeth Lindsay Arts in Education grant program.

Additional gifts of support include a grant for improvements designed to enhance artist facilities from the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, a Capacity Building Grant from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County (CFSC) to support professional development, a grant from the Camilla & Earl McGrath Foundation toward the Hermitage’s nationally renowned artist residency program and free community programming, with continuing grants from the Amphion FoundationSustainable Arts Foundation, and Plantation Community Foundation to show support for special Hermitage programs in dance, music, family residencies, and more. 

The Hermitage is widely recognized for its national artist residency program and its rapidly expanding community programming, introducing area audiences to some of the world’s leading artists across all disciplines. “As our programs and collaborations continue to evolve and expand throughout our region, we are excited to build bridges to new audiences and invaluable supporters,” says Andy Sandberg,Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage. “We are truly grateful for these generous grants from both new and longtime supporters, all of which will 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 and beyond.”

Carole Crosby Elected New President of Board of Trustees;  Terry Brackett Joins as New Hermitage Trustee

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that Carole Crosby has been elected by a unanimous vote as President of the Hermitage Board of Trustees after four years as a member and two seasons as Chair of the Hermitage Governance Committee. Crosby succeeds Robyn Citrin, who concludes her two-year term as President and will remain on the Hermitage Board. Both Crosby and Citrin became trustees in the same season Andy Sandberg was hired as Artistic Director and CEO. The Hermitage also this year welcomes Terry Brackett as a new member of the Board of Trustees. These changes to the Hermitage Board follow a remarkable 20th Anniversary season that has included more than 50 live programs and events, dozens of new and expanded arts and education partnerships in the community, another record-breaking fiscal year, and a dramatic expansion of the Hermitage team. 

“We are thrilled to have Carole stepping into her new leadership role on the Hermitage Board of Trustees,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “With her vast experience and insight into board governance, as well her deep understanding and appreciation for the arts, Carole is a natural fit for this position. In addition to being a tremendous supporter and champion of the Hermitage and the arts in our community, Carole has been an invaluable member of the board, and I am excited to be her partner-in-crime in the seasons ahead. We are also delighted to welcome Terry Brackett to the Board of Trustees. Terry has been a passionate supporter of the Hermitage and its values, and we are looking forward to having her play a vital role in the future of the organization. I must share my sincere appreciation to Robyn Citrin, who has been a great friend and collaborator to me in her role as President and has helped guide us through a transformational time. We are grateful to have Robyn staying on as a trustee with her experience as an immediate past president, and we are looking forward to continuing the growth trajectory at the Hermitage.” 

Carole Crosby commences a two-year term as President, with David Green continuing as Vice President and Steve Adler continuing as Treasurer. Sondra Biller begins her first year as Secretary, while Ellen Bermantransitions into her new role as Chair of Governance. 

“It is truly an honor to lead this tremendous group of individuals and welcome Terry to the Board. We had an outstanding 20th Anniversary season, and I know that Terry’s enthusiasm for the arts — specifically the Hermitage — will be a welcome addition. The work Andy and the team do to support the development and creation of new works of theater, music, dance, poetry, visual art, and more is unparalleled. I am looking forward to this new role and a continuing collaboration with Andy and the Board in the seasons ahead.” said Carole Crosby

Prior to embarking on an impressive law career, Crosby was the principal harpist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Crosby maintained her role as principal harpist while earning her law degree and went on to practice law in Detroit after graduating as valedictorian. Crosby and her husband Larry Wickless moved to Chicago in 2008, where she became involved with several arts organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago and Alliance Francaise de Chicago, serving on its Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Since moving to Sarasota, Crosby most recently served as President of the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Board of Directors, in addition to being a past president of the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota and the Alliance Francaise de Sarasota.

In the 2021-2022, Crosby provided generous support to launch the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage, bringing extraordinary Hermitage alumni composers and musicians back to Sarasota for special concerts. This has led to popular Hermitage programs from harpist Ashley Jackson at Selby Gardens in 2022 and composer Zoe Sarnak at Nathan Benderson Park in 2023.

Terry Brackett is a retired attorney, having worked in the DC area both in government and private practice for 35 years. During that time, she served on several boards and volunteered for a number of women’s organizations. In Sarasota, she has served or is currently serving on the following boards: Asolo Repertory Theatre, WUSF, Library Foundation of Sarasota County, Protect Our Defenders (Advisory Board), Sarasota Canine Search and Rescue, UN Women – USA, and Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival (Advisory Board). 

The Hermitage’s board officers for the 2023-2024 season are: Carole Crosby, President; David Green, Vice President; Steve Adler, Treasurer; and Sondra Biller, Secretary. The Hermitage Board of Trustees also includes Ellen Berman (Chair of Governance), Christine BooneTerry Brackett,* Maryann Casey, Robyn Citrin (Immediate Past President), Marletta Darnall, Leslie Edwards (Past Pesident),Stephanie Jones, Tina Shao Napoli, Charlotte Perret, Liz Richardson, Edward M. Swan, Jr., Nelda Thompson (Emeritus), Mary Lou Winnick, Doug Wright, and Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO (ex-officio). *Indicates New Trustee

Hermitage Continues Year-Round Programming with New Events Announced for July and August

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Sarasota County, Florida) today announced new programs throughout the months of July and August. Continuing its commitment to innovative year-round arts programming, these events will be presented all across Sarasota County, from the Hermitage’s beautiful beachfront campus on Manasota Key to the heart of Sarasota’s vibrant downtown arts scene in collaboration with Sarasota Opera and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Hermitage programs introduce world-renowned artists to Florida’s Gulf Coast community and audiences across the country for candid and engaging conversations, open rehearsals, play readings, and film screenings. 

Newly announced summer programs include partnerships with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education (F.A.A.E.) and the Englewood YMCA in a family-friendly program with five gifted arts educators from across disciplines and across the state of Florida. Featured Hermitage Fellows in July include Hermitage Greenfield Prize finalist Christopher Williams, who the New York Times calls “one of the most exciting choreographic voices out there.” Williams is joined by his frequent dance collaborator Caitlin Scranton. August programs will spotlight the powerful storytelling of John Murillo (National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and 2021 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner) and Nicole Sealey (PEN Open Book Award and Rome Prize winner). Programs in August continue with celebrated playwright Dave Harris, who comes to the Hermitage as part of the recently announced partnership with New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company and their Underground Series, focused on producing some of the most exciting voices writing for the theater today; and returning Hermitage Fellow Hilan Warshaw whose films about music and opera have been seen around the world. 

On Friday, July 14 at 1pm, the Hermitage partners with the Englewood YMCA to present the “2023 Hermitage STARs.” Selected by F.A.A.E., these exceptional teachers apply for two weeks of residency on the Hermitage Beach to focus on their own artistry. This year’s teaching artists include Jeffrey Brown (Music, Orange County), James Finch (Painting, Brevard County), Omar Otero (Photography and Painting, Seminole County), Rachael Pongetti (Visual Art, Escambia County), and Katherine Gebhart (Writing and Illustration, Palm Beach County). The 2023 STARs program culminates in a family and student friendly program on Friday, July 14 at 1pm on the Hermitage campus.

On Friday, July 28 at 6:30pm, the Hermitage’s commitment to championing dance takes center stage with celebrated dancer-choreographer and 2023 Hermitage Greenfield Prize finalist Christopher Williams and his frequent dance collaborator Caitlin Scranton. Recognized as a pioneering choreographer interrogating the traditional dance canon with a focus on queer representation and perspectives, Williams offers an open rehearsal of his latest work on the Hermitage campus in the Hermitage Palm House Studio. “Folktale and Movement: The Ballet Russes Through A Modern Lens,” combines a selection of work-in-process with conversation and images from Williams’ previous work for an exciting and engaging dance-focused program.   

Hermitage programming continues into August with “Poetry Today: Undeniable Storytelling,” on Friday, August 4 at 6:30pm on the Hermitage Beach with two incredible wordsmiths. John Murillo, whose published works include Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry and Up Jump the Boogie amongst other critically acclaimed articles and Nicole Sealey, author of the award-winning work Ordinary Beast as well as publications in The Best American Poetry 2018 and 2021The New Yorker, and the Paris Review among others, bring poetic perspective to the program. Hear from these writers united by undeniable talent.  

On Friday, August 18 at 6:30pm, the Hermitage presents “From the Heart of Philly: The Works of Dave Harris,” the first public program as part of the Hermitage’s new collaboration with one of the country’s most lauded not-for-profit institutions – Roundabout Theatre Company – and presented in partnership with Sarasota’s own Westcoast Black Theater Troupe. Presented at WBTT, “From the Heart of Philly” will be an hour-long examination of playwright and poet Dave Harris’ work, which often focuses on themes of Black masculinity and spans poetry through his recently published collection Patricide, as well as theater with works such as Tambo and Bones, headed for a London premiere later this year. Hear selections of Harris’ work and get insight from one of the most inventive writers working in the theater today.         

The Hermitage is pleased to once again partner with the Sarasota Opera to present the return of Hermitage Fellow Hilan Warshaw on Wednesday, August 23 at 6pm. Warshaw, who utilizes his knowledge as a musician to inform his filmmaking work, takes a deep dive into the mysterious and scintillating history of one of the most celebrated lyric suites of the 20th century. Last year, Warshaw shared short selections of a variety of his internationally screened works, but this year’s presentation will take one complete film – Secret Song – from start to finish, followed by a Q&A with the creator in “Secret Song: Unraveling the Mystery of Berg’s Lyric Suite.”

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 at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

Hermitage Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Alumni Reunion Party in NYC

Two decades of Hermitage alumni came together in New York on Monday, June 5th to celebrate the lasting legacy of the Hermitage and connect with Hermitage Fellows across all artistic disciplines. Nearly 200 alumni – including Pulitzer Prize winners, Tony and Grammy Award winners, MacArthur ‘Genius’ and Guggenheim Fellows, National Book Award winners, and more – gathered together at the Sanctuary Hotel’s Haven Rooftop to commemorate the impact of this leading national arts organization located on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“Yes, the Hermitage is a beautiful and inspiring place to create, but the more than 700 extraordinary Hermitage Fellows are the true heart of the organization. These incredible artists and their experiences at the Hermitage are collectively changing the face of the artistic landscape,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “They are all part of a remarkable tradition that has fostered generative artists, writers, creators, and innovators of diverse backgrounds, many of whom have earned national and international recognition.”  

The outdoor event coincided with the sunset, an iconic memory for many Hermitage Fellows, and the party featured free-flowing food and cocktails, a silent disco dance party, and more. More importantly, the evening brought together multiple generations of Hermitage alumni to connect and reconnect as they shared stories of what they accomplished while in residence on Manasota Key, how the Hermitage has impacted their work and careers, and what the organization means to them as both artist and individuals. Sandberg briefly interrupted the party to thank everyone for coming, to encourage everyone in attendance to take a moment to recognize the collective talent in the room, and to take pride in the shared legacy of what it means to be a Hermitage Fellow. 

The Hermitage, through its expanding commitment to alumni engagement, endeavors to build upon what many of the artists in residence share as one of the most meaningful experiences of their careers. In addition to serving as a leading national arts incubator, the Hermitage annually presents two distinguished national commissions – the annual Hermitage Greenfield Prize and the Hermitage Major Theater Award, which will be presenting workshops and readings in major arts capitals such as New York, London, and Chicago. The Hermitage is the only major arts organization in Florida committed exclusively to developing and supporting new work across all artistic disciplines. 

“It was an honor to celebrate with this passionate, beautifully diverse, and undeniably talented network of alumni,” added Sandberg. “We are in awe of the work this community creates and privileged to continue making space for their artistry to thrive.” 

Hermitage 2023 STARs Announced

Five Florida public school arts teachers will spend part of their summer on Manasota Key while working on their own artistic endeavors. They are the winners of the 2023 State Teachers Artist Residency program (STARs) – now in its thirteenth year – presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in partnership with theFlorida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE). This year’s recipients were selected from dozens of impressive applicants, and the five teachers selected from across the State of Florida include three visual arts educators working in different mediums, a music teacher and electronic musician, and an artist/educator working across disciplines to illustrate an original novel. The five receive a residency at the nationally renowned Hermitage Artist Retreat, where they can focus on their own work as creative artists. These five teaching artists will present a family-friendly showcase of their work on Friday, July 14th starting at 1pm. This special event will be held outdoors at the Hermitage’s beachfront campus on Manasota Key; entrance at 6660 Manasota Key Road, Englewood, FL 34223. The program is presented in partnership with the Englewood YMCA. In addition to the students and families attending from the YMCA, this Hermitage community program will be free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee. Due to capacity limitations and safety protocols, registration is required at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

The five recipients of this honor, selected among dozens of impressive applicants, include: Jeffrey Brown, a keyboard instructor at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando (Orange County); James Finch, a visual arts instructor at West Shore Jr/Sr High School in Melbourne (Brevard County); Katherine Gebhart, an art instructor at Jerry Thomas Elementary School in Jupiter (Palm Beach County); Omar Otero, a photography and painting instructor at Hagerty High School in Oviedo (Seminole County); and Rachael Pongetti, a visual art instructor at the Escambia High School in Pensacola (Escambia County).

Jeff Brown teaches keyboard at Dr. Phillips High School in Orange County, FL, and serves as Math Interventionist at Chancery Charter HS. His degree is in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University. He was senior consultant for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) before working in music. As a musician, he has held music director, choir director and educator positions, including Teaching Artist in Residence at Santa Fe Opera. Awards include two Helene Wurlitzer Foundation residency grants, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts Residency Award, Banff Centre IWJCM selection, National Hispanic Cultural Center/McCune Foundation Fellowship, and Florida Alliance for Arts Education (Arts Integration Guided Residency). His compositions and performances have been presented in Canada, Europe, South America, and the U.S. He teaches in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

James Finch graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA degree in Art and specialized in Graphic Design. He has won two international design awards, multiple state awards, and numerous advertising (Addy) awards. Mr. Finch continues to work in the commercial art field as a designer and enjoys drawing and painting in his spare time. He currently teaches at West Shore Jr./Sr. High in the Computer Graphics programs. Many of his students have gone on to further their education and have careers in the arts ranging from animators, creative directors, motion graphic/social media arts, architecture, industrial designers, illustrators, and more. Mr. Finch was a member of the Space Coast Advertising Federation, FAEA and BAEA.

Katherine Gebhart is a life-long visual artist who also creates theater, writing, and poetry. For over 10 years, she has been teaching within the school district of Palm Beach County, where she encourages her students to be their best by striving for innovation and not perfection and to use their most imaginative ideas, incorporating both learned techniques and what makes them personally unique. When she is not in the studio, she is actively engaged in the culture of Jerry Thomas Elementary through many avenues, not the least of which is musical theater. 

Omar Otero received his Bachelor of Arts in Photography and Digital Imaging from the Ringling College of Art and Design, one of the most highly recognized and innovative arts colleges in the United States. He has had the privilege to teach photography, sculpture, drawing, and painting nationally and in Central America. After graduating, Otero worked side by side with actors and crew in New York television, including the daytime dramas All My Children, One Life to Live, Guiding Light, and As the World Turns. He has won multiple national honors, including the Ava Video Award. He started his art teaching career as a visual arts instructor at IQ Village School of the Arts in Orlando, Florida. Following that, he started teaching in Tegucigalpa, Honduras during the school year and also at his alma mater, Ringling College of Art and Design, during the summer.

Rachael Pongetti is a Pensacola-based teacher, photographer, and multimedia artist who focuses on the visual culture of her surrounding community and the theme of impermanence. She is the author of Uncovering the Layers, The Pensacola Graffiti Bridge Project, and recipient of the National Book Award for Communication for Freedom of Speech, from the Freedom Foundation in Valley Forge. Her work has appeared in various publications, exhibitions, and private collections. After facing the challenges of teaching through the pandemic, Rachael has turned to more analog-based art forms such as mixed media, collage, and assemblage art.

Since the start of the Hermitage STARs program in 2011, 62 teachers have represented over 30 Florida counties. 

Hermitage Receives Grant from Barancik Foundation to Protect Freedom of Artistic Expression and Support Diverse Community Programming

A $400,000 grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation has been awarded to the Hermitage Artist Retreat in support of its efforts and impact as a leading national arts incubator for diverse and original works of music, theater, literature, visual art, dance, and more. The Hermitage offers one-of-a-kind artistic programming with a focus on community impact, education, and social justice. This grant will allow the Hermitage to further its commitment to celebrating bold and innovative new work without censoring or inhibiting the creativity of these extraordinary talents.

In today’s complicated cultural climate, freedom of artistic expression is often being challenged, and this grant from Barancik Foundation will help provide the Hermitage with more flexibility and resources to manage the complex layers of protecting artistic integrity. As an incubator for diverse and original works across all artistic mediums, the Hermitage offers transformative experiences to artists and audiences alike, inviting leading artists from around the world to its beachfront campus on Manasota Key and offering rare ‘sneak peeks’ of bold and original new works to the members of our community. 

“These candid, often interactive experiences provide an unparalleled level of access to some of the world’s leading creators, writers, and performers,” says Andy Sandberg. “As our programs and collaborations continue to evolve and expand throughout our region and across the nation, we are deeply committed to protecting every Hermitage Fellow’s freedom of artistic expression – this will always be core to our values. This means that our growing Hermitage audiences are getting a rare and always authentic look into the creative process of these diverse and accomplished talents.” 

This recent $400,000 grant from Barancik Foundation is designed to help support these efforts, including the Hermitage’s growing community outreach and education initiatives, enhancing this prestigious national organization’s support for its artists and returning alumni talent, and broadening the organization’s reach and impact in schools and underserved communities all while providing artists with the ability to explore their craft and achieve their greatest potential, unencumbered by censorship. 

“One of the many things the Hermitage does well is intentionally engage with audiences that might not otherwise have access to creative experiences,” commented Barancik Foundation President and CEO Teri A. Hansen. “Andy and team truly demonstrate a collaborative spirit that is enriching the arts and culture of our region.” 

“This generous support from Barancik Foundation is going to not only allow us to provide more resources for the diverse and accomplished Hermitage artists who are making a meaningful and lasting impact in our community, but also to support our passionate and dedicated team in delivering the level and quality of unique programming we are committed to delivering,” added Sandberg. “It has been an exciting period of growth for the Hermitage, and now this grant will help us take the organization to the next level.”   

Hermitage Announces Second Year of “Cross Arts Collaborative”

The Hermitage Artist Retreat is pleased to announce the continuation of the Sarasota Cross Arts Collaborative, made possibleonce morewith generous support from the Koski Family Foundation. This initiative is designed to give frequent performers and company members from leading Sarasota arts organizations a chance to expand their artistic practice from ‘performer’ to ‘creator.’

As with the inaugural year, the Hermitage is awarding Cross Arts Collaborative residencies to artists from two selected partner institutions. This program is designed to inspire and encourage generative work created by some of the best and brightest in our vibrant performing arts community. Artists are invited by their respective organizations to submit proposals for consideration; finalists are then submitted to the Hermitage for consideration, and recipients are selected in consultation with current or past members of the Hermitage National Curatorial Council. Recipients will receive two weeks of uninterrupted time at the Hermitage Artist Retreat this summer to develop a new generative project, and the work will then be shared with the Sarasota community in a free public program this fall. 

In the second season of the Hermitage’s Cross Arts Collaborative, this distinguished honor has been awarded to Lizzie Hagstedt, a musician, soundscape designer, and frequent collaborator with Asolo Repertory Theatre, and Jessica Obiedzinski, a dancer and longstanding company member of Sarasota Contemporary Dance

While the Hermitage’s nationally renowned residency program brings leading artists from across the country and around the world to create work on its beachfront Manasota Key campus, the Hermitage also seeks to enrich the incredible and growing arts scene in Sarasota, as showcased by performing arts institutions such as Sarasota Contemporary Dance and Asolo Repertory Theatre. 

“We want to offer this one-of-a-kind opportunity to some of the leading artists in Sarasota, by creating space for a talented performer to focus on being a generative artist,”said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We know there are actors, dancers, musicians, and performing artists working amidst our circle of frequent collaborators who have passion projects waiting in the wings. This could be an actor writing a play between production contracts, a violinist composing a symphony after rehearsals, a dancer yearning to expand into the choreographer’s space – or someone looking to work across an entirely new genre. This residency is designed for an artist who is hungry to expand their creative practice and explore a new ‘hat’ within the arts and entertainment space.” Sandberg added that the Cross Arts Collaborative initiative would not be possible without the generous support of the Koski Family Foundation, longtime supporters and champions of the Hermitage.

“We are thrilled to be continuing our longstanding collaboration with the Hermitage,” said Peter Rothstein, incoming Artistic Director of Asolo Repertory Theatre. “This Cross Arts Collaborative is a meaningful initiative providing an opportunity to support the artists who consider the Asolo a creative home.”Lizzie Hagstedt, the selected artist from Asolo Repertory Theatre, may be familiar to Sarasota audiences from her original compositions in Lifespan of a Fact, as well as an early sampling of her original musical “Sophie Blanchard’s High-Flyin’ Rock’n’Roll Extravaganza,” featured online in 2021 as part of the Asolo’s “Ground Floor Series: Making Musicals.” As part of her time at the Hermitage, Hagstedt plans to further develop the full version of this show, an all-femme actor/musician story about the life and pyrotechnic death of 19th-Century aeronaut Sophie Blanchard.

Jessica Obiedzinski, the selected performer from Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD), will use the time to develop and choreograph a solo dance piece focused on the physical impact trauma has on the body. “SCD is honored to be a part of the Hermitage Cross Arts Collaborative, offering a unique opportunity to create for our very own company member,” noted SCD Founder and Artistic Director Leymis Wilmott. “Jessica’s persistence and dedication to her dance and healing practice is a daily-lived experience. As a dance maker, she continues to be interested in the effects of emotional trauma and how that is embodied. This opportunity is encouraging Jessica to go deeper into her research and choreographic practice, and I am so excited for her and where this launchpad experience might propel her work next.”

After their time in residence, the Hermitage will collaborate with the selected partner institutions to bring a public program to the Sarasota community to highlight Jessica and Lizzie’s work. Details about this year’s event will be announced at a later date.