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Hermitage Awards Two $30,000 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Commissions

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO), in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation, has selected two recipients for the 2023 Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP), one in the discipline of visual art and one in the field of dance and choreography. The prize is awarded annually, rotating between the fields of music, theater, and visual art. This year’s recipient in visual art is Sandy Rodriguez. Raised on the US-Mexico border, Rodriguez creates poignant landscapes that weave together history, social memory, contemporary politics, and cultural production.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary season of the Hermitage and the 15-year legacy of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize, the Hermitage and the Greenfield Foundation decided to present a second award in the discipline of dance and choreography. This is the first time the HGP is recognizing dance, with a special prize going to Lorenzo ‘Rennie’ Harris. Harris has been a pioneer in the street dance movement since founding Rennie Harris Puremovement in the early ‘90s, bringing authentic hip-hop experiences to the dance concert stage and educational spaces around the world.

Harris and Rodriguez will each receive a six-week Hermitage Fellowship and a $30,000 commission to create a new work in their respective fields, which will have their first public presentations in Sarasota County in 2025. 

“Amidst a truly extraordinary field of finalists for both dance and visual art, Rennie Harris and Sandy Rodriguez are both groundbreaking generative artists who impressed the respective juries with their compelling and inspiring proposals,” says Hermitage Artistic Director Andy Sandberg. “Their dedication to their craft 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 passion and dedication, and we congratulate all of our brilliant finalists, whom we look forward to welcoming at the Hermitage. We look forward to welcoming Rennie and Sandy to Florida for the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner in April, and subsequently hosting them as Hermitage Fellows and sharing the first public presentations of their new commissions in Sarasota in 2025.” The Hermitage’s presenting partners for each of their works will be announced at a later date.

Lorenzo ‘Rennie’ Harris was born and raised in an African American community in North Philadelphia. In 1992, Harris founded Rennie Harris Puremovement, a street dance theater company dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-hop culture through workshops, classes, hip-hop history lecture demonstrations, long-term residencies, mentoring programs, and public performances. Harris founded his company based on the belief that hip-hop is the most important original expression of a new generation. His company has toured internationally performing such original works as “Rome and Jules,” a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (2001 ‘Bessie’ award in choreography); “Lazarus” as the first choreographer in residence for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2018; and “Lifted: A Gospel House Musical,” a New York Times Critics’ Pick when it premiered at the Joyce Theater in 2022, amongst many other productions and honors.     

Based in Los Angeles, Sandy Rodriguez is a first-generation Chicana artist and researcher. Since receiving her B.F.A. from the California Institute of Arts, she has exhibited her works at the Denver Art Museum; The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Garden; The Amon Carter Museum of American Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan, South Korea. Her works, such as Codex Rodriguez-Mondragón, have been featured in BBC News: In The Studio, Hyperallergic, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and Spectrum News/NY1, and her works are in the permanent collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX; and The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Garden, San Marino, CA, among others. 

Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients and finalists are nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders. The 2023 jury in dance and choreography included Joseph V. Melillo (chair), BAM’s executive director emeritus and the first member of the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council; Michael Novak, artistic director of the acclaimed Paul Taylor Dance Company, and a longtime company member himself; and Charmaine Warren, performer, historian, consultant, dance writer, and the founding artistic director for “Black Dance Stories.”

Visual art recipients and finalists of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize are similarly nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders. The 2023 jury in visual art included Allison Glenn, senior curator at New York’s Public Art Fund and curator of Promise, Witness, Remembrance (2021) at the Speed Art Museum, which The New York Times selected as one of the “Best Art Exhibitions of 2021”; Christine Kuan, president and executive director of Creative Capital, and the former CEO/director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art (NY); and Anne Patterson, acclaimed multidisciplinary visual artist and alumna Hermitage Fellow whose recent commission Ascendant Light is the anchor of Capital One’s corporate headquarters. 

Harris and Rodriguez will be celebrated at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on Sunday, April 16th, at 6pm at the Ca’ d’Zan of The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. Capacity will be limited, so early reservations are strongly recommended. Co-chairs for this event are Tom & Sherry Koski, with The Ringling Museum Executive Director Steven High andSarasota Art Museum Executive Director Virginia Shearerserving as honorary co-chairs.  Tables and sponsorships now available; additional information can be found here.

In addition to the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on April 16th, the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration will include programs and talks with current and past HGP winners and jurors throughout the weekend of April 14-16, 2023. 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.

Imani Uzuri announced as third winner of Hermitage Major Theater Award

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, announced today that composer and theater artist Imani Uzuri has been selected as the third recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award(HMTA). This national jury-selected prize, established by the Hermitage in 2021 with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest non-profit theater commissions in the country. Uzuri 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 such as New York, Chicago, or London in the fall of 2024. Uzuri, raised in rural North Carolina, is an award-winning composer, vocalist, experimental librettist, improviser, and lyricist.

“I am ebullient, in awe, and overwhelmed with joy and gratitude!” said Imani Uzuri on receiving the news.“I am in reverence and beyond grateful to the Award Committee, to the Hermitage, and to Flora Major and the generous Kutya Major Foundation. I am also thrilled that the Hermitage is committed to ecology, preservation, and community,” Uzuri added. “These are values that are significantly important to me as an artist. Receiving this phenomenal award and residency will enhance my artistic life immeasurably and transform the landscape of my theater career.”

Imani Uzuri, raised in rural North Carolina, is an award-winning composer, vocalist, experimental librettist, improviser, and lyricist. She composes, performs, and creates interdisciplinary works including concerts, ritual performances, albums, sound art installations, and compositions for chamber ensembles, film, voice, and theater (including experimental and musical theater), often dealing with themes of ancestral memory, magical realism, liminality, haunting, Black American vernacular culture, spirituality, and landscape. 

In describing her intended HMTA commission, for which she will be writing original music, lyrics, and book, Uzuri shares: “Lighthouse of the Singing Birds will be an immersive magical realist work of musical theater centering a young Black girl on the precipice of her thirteenth birthday – a special one,” shared Uzuri of her plans for the commission. “She lives in an enchanted lighthouse and bird sanctuary on a small island (populated with elusive wild horses) surrounded by a Sound with a purple beach (made so by coral) off the coast of the Outerbanks in rural North Carolina with her beloved grandmother (matriarch and head lighthouse keeper) and her intergenerational quirky extended family of artists including quilters, singers, moonshiners and instrument makers.”

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 third Hermitage Major Theater Award include Nissy Aya, a playwright, educator, and cultural worker; AnnMarie Milazzo, a Tony and Grammy Award-nominated vocal designer, orchestrator, and composer; and Daniel J. Watts, a Tony Award-nominated actor and theater artist. Each has been awarded a Hermitage residency and Fellowship, in addition to a cash prize of $1,000.

HMTA winners and finalists are nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders in the field of theater. The 2022 HMTA Award Committee included Christopher Burney, a member of the Hermitage Curatorial Council and the outgoing Artistic Director of New York Stage and Film; Patricia McGregor, an acclaimed director and the new Artistic Director of New York Theatre Workshop; and Jeanine Tesori, a Hermitage alumna and the Tony Award-winning composer of Kimberly Akimbo, Caroline or Change, and more.

February and March Programs Announced

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Sarasota County, Florida) today announced new programs for February and March of 2023. These events will be presented on the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus on Manasota Key and throughout Sarasota County. Hermitage programs introduce world-renowned artists to Florida’s Gulf Coast community for candid and engaging conversations, musical performances, play readings, work-in-process showings, and educational opportunities for students and adults.   

Newly announced February and March programs include continuing partnerships with ASALH (Association for the Study of African-American Life and History), Asolo Repertory Theatre, and the Town of Longboat Key, among others. New partnerships include a collaboration with Venice Symphony and the Pops Orchestra, as well as Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center. Featured artists and performers include Hermitage Major Theater Award winner Madeleine George, Tony and Olivier Award-winning producer Tom Kirdahy, Hermitage Prize in Composition at the Aspen Music Festival and School recipient Sofía Rocha, multidisciplinary artist Shannon Finnegan, acclaimed pianist and composer Conrad Tao, acclaimed author Daniel Gumbiner, award-winning theater maker Don Nguyen, groundbreaking jazz vocalist Fay Victor, playwright and screenwriter Stacey Rose, percussionist Lesley Mok, performer and teaching artist Tamara Anderson, and internationally exhibited visual artist B. Ingrid Olson

The newly announced programs in February and March begin with “The Art of Producing,” part of the Hermitage “Artists and Thinkers” series and the third in a cycle of popular conversations with Tony and Olivier Award-winning producer Tom Kirdahy. Kirdahy is great champion of new work and a friend to the Hermitage. This event is presented in collaboration with the Town of Longboat Key, where Mr. Kirdahy resides part of the year, as well as Asolo Repertory Theater where his work was recently seen on stage with Hood: A Robinhood Musical. This candid conversation between Kirdahy and fellow Tony Award winner Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage, will offer insight into the often-hidden role a producer plays in bringing shows to life on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and London’s West End, as well as the touring and regional market. Presented at Longboat Key’s Bayfront Park as the sun sets over Sarasota Bay on Friday, February 3 at 5pm. 

“Mastering the Monologue,” with theater maker Don Nguyen, is a masterclass on the often-tricky task of writing and performing a monologue. Presented in collaboration with New College of Florida on Friday, February 17 at 5pm, this intimate engagement at the New College campus in Sarasota provides a rare opportunity to observe both the performance of theatrical text and a dissection of its inner workings. A recipient of the New York Stage and Film Founder’s Award, Don Nguyenis a multifaceted artist whose plays are “intriguing and empathetic” (Seattle Times) with “a genuine sweetness” (The New York Times).

“Jazz and Theater: Keeping the Beat” reunites the Hermitage with the Manasota chapter of ASALH at the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center to present Jazz vocalist Fay Victor and playwright Stacey Rose. Presented at Fogartyville’s hybrid indoor-outdoor space on Thursday February 23 at 5pm, this program combines the unparalleled stylings of Fay Victor with the biting wit of Stacey Rose. With her scat stylings recognized by The New York Times as “her own hybrid of song and spoken word,” Fay Victor will share improvisatory work and speak about her career as a musical artist breaking boundaries. With a focus on “life as the other,” playwright and screenwriter Stacey Rose’s work has been seen on stages and screens across the United States including Barrington Stage, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York, and Fox’s 9-1-1.  

On Thursday, March 2 at 5:30pm, Tamara Anderson, Lesley Mok, and B. Ingrid Olson put the Hermitage’s multidisciplinary mission on display with “Tell and Show: Art and Performance Expressing Identity.” Working across different mediums but all using material from their own lives to inform the substance of their craft, each will share work and discuss their artistic process. Tamara Anderson has been seen on stage and screen and celebrated for her charm, humor, and impressive vocals. Lesley Mok’s innovative and dynamic compositions have been performed by such leading ensembles as the International Contemporary Ensemble, Metropolis Ensemble, and JACK Quartet. Visual artist B. Ingrid Olson’s works have been exhibited around the world including the MoMa in New York, Harvard’s Carpenter Center, the Aspen Art Museum, and i8 Gallery in Reykjavík.

Hermitage Major Theater Award Winner Madeleine George has a gift for delivering a powerful message in a joyous package, which she will speak about with Hermitage audiences in “Comedy and Community” on Friday, March 10 at 5:30pm. Like her work on Hulu’s hit television series “Only Murders in the Building,” or her plays Hurricane Diane and the Pulitzer Prize finalist The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence, her commission-in-process promises to tackle cultural and systemic mores all in the high stakes world of amateur bowling. With her unique blend of comedy and heart, George will share prior work and discuss her goals for the new HMTA commission, as well as how she hopes it will help to build and enhance a sense of community.

Sofía Rocha, the 2022 recipient of the Hermitage Prize in Composition presented at the Aspen Music Festival and School, shares her original musical compositions as part of the Hermitage “Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” series in “Making Musical Waves.” Rocha, no stranger to Florida having grown up in Naples, has studied and presented work across the United States with noted ensembles such as JACK Quartet, DeCoda, loadbang, and Brentano String Quartet, among others. For this musical program on Thursday, March 16 at 6:30pm, the Hermitage is partnering with the Venice Symphony and the Pops Orchestra to offer live performances of this next-generation composer’s nuanced and evocative work, all with unique insights from the creator, set against the backdrop of the botanical gardens. This season of “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” is sponsored in part by Scene Magazine.     

Nearly all 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 and social distancing, registration is required at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

January 2023 Programs

Newly announced January programs include ongoing partnerships with Bookstore1 and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, among others. Featured artists and performers sharing their work include author of Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood DaMaris B. Hill, composer and performer Molly Joyce, interdisciplinary visual artist Kenneth Tam, soloing violinist in pop superstar Beyoncé’s band Lady Jess, playwright Terry Guest returning to the Hermitage after an extended run at Urbanite Theater and a sold-out showing in a previous “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” appearance, author of critically acclaimed story collections and novels Diane Cook, playwright and director Kareem Fahmy, and 2022 Hermitage Major Theater Award-winner Shariffa Ali.  

The newly announced programs in the Hermitage’s 20th Anniversary Season pick up on Friday, January 6th, 2023 at 5pm on the Hermitage Beach with “Distinction and Unity.” Featuring three inventive artists working in three different fields, this cross disciplinary conversation spans literature, music, and visual art. Visual artist Kenneth Tam’s work focuses on ritual and reframing masculinity with a self-described “strain of absurdity and awkward humor.” Author DaMaris B. Hill’s latest work has been called “urgent” and “luminous” by Publisher’s Weekly, while composer and performer Molly Joyce has been described as one of the “most versatile, prolific, and intriguing composers working under the vast new-music dome” by The Washington Post

On Thursday, January 12th at 5pm, the previously announced “Violin and Voice,” cancelled in October due to Hurricane Ian, will be reborn on the Hermitage Beach. Combining the music of Lady Jess, violinist, arts leader, and frequent Beyoncé collaborator with the poignant and humorous words of award-winning playwright Terry Guest, this program paints a picture of the experience these two leading artists have living and making work in the United States and around the world. Presented as the sun sets on the Hermitage Beach, don’t miss the chance to meet these two remarkable artists as they create the works of tomorrow.  

The Hermitage returns to Bookstore1 on Friday, January 20th at 6pm where Hermitage Fellow Diane Cook presents a program focused on her collection of stories, Man V. Nature. The author’s debut work garnered substantial critical attention, making the short list for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, the PEN/Hemingway award, and the Los Angeles Times Award for First Fiction. Hear the author read selections of the work and discuss the different considerations when creating a story collection versus a novel, which she has since published to critical acclaim (shortlisted for the Booker Prize in Fiction). 

This season of the Hermitage’s “Artists and Thinkers” online series begins with “Kareem Fahmy’s Distinct Society” on Monday, January 23rd at 5pm ET. In the lead-up to its world premiere with Pioneer Theater in Salt Lake City, Fahmy’s play tells the story of a sleepy library that straddles the U.S.-Canada border as it becomes an unlikely crucible for five people all grappling with the “Muslim ban” in various ways. Dive into the literary, historical, and cultural considerations that influenced the writer as well as the characters and what examining their actions reveals about our own humanity. 

The popular “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” series continues on Thursday, January 26th at 5pm with 2022 Hermitage Major Theater Award Winner Shariffa Ali. This incredible theater maker hailing from South Africa is joined by singer, collaborator, and Ali’s dear friend Vuyo Sotashe to share insights into the plan for her new commission. Still in progress, the work is centered on small-town South Africa where a middle school choir, their principal, and their parents conspire to disguise the town’s most beloved singer as a girl in order to have him sing as a female soloist in a national competition. Learn about the origin for this commission in its early stages, hear text and songs that could influence the story, and get to know the theater-makers creating the work. The Hermitage Major Theater Award is made possible with generous support from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation.

2022 Artful Lobster Raises a Record-Breaking $265,000

The Hermitage Artist Retreat raised more than $265,000 at the 2022 Hermitage Artful Lobster luncheon on Saturday, November 12. Now in its fourteenth year and this year marking the 20thAnniversary Season of the organization, this annual event raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s renowned artist residency program and expanded community programming initiatives. Proceeds from this year’s benefit will also be used to support campus repairs following the impact of Hurricane Ian. Over 200 guests attended the sold-out event, which took place outdoors beneath a large tent on the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus and was co-chaired by Maryann Casey and Elizabeth Moore, with Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg as master of ceremonies. Michael’s On East served a plentiful barbeque and much-heralded lobster feast.

Hermitage Fellow and acclaimed musical composer Adam Gwon headlined the event. A recipient of the Kleban Award, the Fred Ebb Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, and the Frederick Loewe Award, among others, Adam Gwon’s work has been performed on six continents and across the United States at venues such as Roundabout Theatre, Signature Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and more. Gwon’s performance featured songs from his hit musical Scotland PA, which was written partly at the Hermitage, among other pieces. Gwon’s music was performed by the composer himself, along with accomplished vocalists Martina Long and Brandon Wardell. The event also featured an inspiring performance from Reggie Harris, a returning Hermitage alumnus, remarkably gifted musician and storyteller, and pillar of the international folk music scene for more than 40 years with his music regularly topping the folk charts. His skill and charm deliver a message of joy, unity, tolerance, and peace through the powerful medium of live music. 

“Great music, great art, great theater, great literature, great dance, great television – none of this happens without great artists,” noted Andy Sandberg. “We are thankful to all who attended or supported this year’s festivities. The generous outpouring of support for the work we are doing at the Hermitage is a demonstration of our community’s extraordinary commitment to the arts and the creative process.” Sandberg added that the proceeds from this year’s Artful Lobster will also support vital repairs to the Hermitage buildings and grounds following the impact of Hurricane Ian.

Sponsors and partners for the 2022 Artful Lobster include Gulf Coast Community Foundation, CHUBB, Key Agency, Herald-Tribune/LOCALiQ, and Sarasota Magazine. A full list of this year’s sponsors, benefactors, and partners can be found here.

Hermitage Presents First “Cross Arts Collaborative” Program Nov. 30

The Hermitage Artist Retreat will present a showcase of new work created during the inaugural year of the Hermitage Cross Arts Collaborative. Made possible with generous support from the Koski Family Foundation, this new initiative is designed to give performers and company members from leading Sarasota arts organizations a chance to expand their artistic practice from ‘performer’ to ‘creator.’ The goal of the Cross Arts Collaborative is to inspire and encourage generative work created by some of the best and brightest performers in our vibrant performing arts community. Nominated by their respective ‘host’ organizations in collaboration with Emily Mann, long-tenured Artistic Director of the McCarter Theatre Center and Emeritus member of the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council, Florida Studio Theatre’s Tsebiyah Mishael Derry and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s Derric Gobourne Jr. spent two weeks on the historic beachfront campus of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, developing their proposals to create new work. The resulting community program, “Cross Arts Collaborative: New Voices and New Work,” will be held on Wednesday November 30 at 5pm ET on the Rooftop Terrace at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s downtown Sarasota venue. The hour-long outdoor event will feature both of these remarkable performers and creators sharing excerpts from their original works-in-process.  

“We wanted to offer this one-of-a-kind opportunity to some of the leading artists in Sarasota, creating space for a talented performer to focus on being a generative artist,”said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “There are actors, dancers, musicians, and performing artists working amidst our circle of collaborators who have passion projects waiting in the wings. This could be an actor writing a play between productions, a cellist 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 this new 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 proud of our long history of collaboration with the Hermitage and the collective impact we have on the Sarasota community,” said Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “The Cross Arts Collaborative is an exciting new way to gather resources in service of wonderful artists like Derric who consider Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe their creative home.” 

           “Every time we partner with the Hermitage, the result is a unique look into the creative process of making theater through the eyes of a leading artist in the field,” added Florida Studio Theatre Founder and Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. “I’m so pleased we are able to collaborate once more to provide this opportunity to Tsebiyah who is quickly making a name for herself as one of those leading artists. We are honored to call her an FST creative family member and cannot wait to see what this dedicated time and space to delve into her richly varied artistry has produced.” 

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

New Fall Programs Announced

The Hermitage Artist Retreat will resume fall programming throughout the Gulf Coast region on October 28, with a full line-up of outdoor and indoor events through the end of the year. Though the impacts of Hurricane Ian took a significant toll on the Gulf-to-Bay campus, the organization has been working quickly to restore the buildings and grounds and has just welcomed artists back to its Manasota Key campus for the first time since the storm. 

“We have been working around the clock to bring the Hermitage campus back to life and resume operations, and we’ve been truly overwhelmed by the generous support from our extraordinary artists, audiences, donors, partners, and neighbors,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We are incredibly proud of our mission and the work we are doing to serve artists and our community. After two decades in existence, thousands of Hermitage champions have made it known that we are not going to let this storm bring down the Hermitage’s spirit. It is moments like these when our community needs to come together most, and the arts are one of our most powerful tools for healing.”

The newly announced programs in the Hermitage’s 20th Anniversary Season pick up on Thursday, November 17th at 6pm with acclaimed pianist and Hermitage Fellow Conrad Tao. Tao, who Sarasota Orchestra audiences may remember from his acclaimed 2021-2022 Masterworks Series performance, offers insight into his latest work “Keyed In” and shares in-process excerpts of work. Seen on stage at some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world, Tao has been called a musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times, who also cited him as “one of five classical music faces to watch” in the 2018-19 season; he is a recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and was named a Gilmore Young Artist — an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. 

On Friday, November 18th at 2:30pm, New College of Florida hosts Hermitage Fellow and internationally produced composer Yvette Janine Jackson for a “Radio Opera Workshop” in which Jackson will share selections of what The Guardian calls “immersive, nonvisual films.” Inspired by historical events and cultural realities, Jackson’s work uses narrative created through sound to transport listeners to other worlds. This gifted composer shares insights about the nuances in the creation of sonic environments in addition to sharing work and discussing it with students and the public.

December programming kicks off on the Hermitage Beach with an exciting program highlighting the Hermitage’s commitment to interdisciplinary work spanning music, visual art, and theater. “Multihyphenate Multimedia: Music, Visual Art, and Theater” features two incredible Hermitage artists whose talents cannot be contained by a single medium, style, or language. Raquel Acevedo Klein was named by The Washington Post as one of “2022’s Classical Composers and Performers to Watch,” and she is also an immensely talented visual artist. Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Guadalís Del Carmen creates original work across stage, television, and film that never shies away from the multifold perspectives of contentious issues, giving her audiences “no easy answers and no one to hate” while leaving them “more than a little entertained and a whole lot wiser” (ChicagoOnStage). See and hear original works from this incredible duo and dive into the unique, intersectional voices driving their work on Friday, December 2nd at 5pm as the sun sets over the Hermitage Beach. 

On December 9th, acclaimed Puerto Rican composer and 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Angélica Negrón (pictured) presents a program showcasing the broad range of unconventional musical tools in her repertoire in addition to the conventional instruments found on orchestra stages around the world. Inspired by nature and the music all around her, Negrón’s wide-ranging performance and compositional practice includes plants and found objects, often layering in vocals and other electronics in playful and creative ways. Be among the first to hear a demonstration from this revolutionary artist and learn about her creative process in “Angélica Negrón: Playing a Plant,” on Friday, December 9th at 5pm on the Hermitage Great Lawn. This program is presented in partnership with CreArte Latino, ensembleNewSRQ, UnidosNow, and New Music New College. (Negrón’s Hermitage Greenfield Prize commission is expected to culminate in an outdoor orchestral string performance in the spring of 2024, which will be presented in partnership with ensembleNewSRQ.)

The last scheduled program of 2022 – “Notes: On Writing and Music” – will take place on Thursday, December 15th on the Hermitage’s Manasota Key beachfront, presented in partnership with the Johann Fust Library Foundation. Featuring two artists who both bring an international perspective, the program spans literature and music. Nigerian-born Chigozie Obioma, whose two novels The Fisherman and An Orchestra of Minorities were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize in Fiction, reads selections of his work and discusses his creative process. He is joined by Filipino-American musician, instrument designer, and returning Hermitage Fellow Levy Lorenzo, whose quirky and innovative work has been described as “a potent force on the side of exuberance, pleasure and awe of virtuosity” by The New York Times. Join these two incredible artists as the sun goes down on the Hermitage Beach, December 15th at 5pm.

“As we work through the Hermitage’s ongoing recovery from the storm, we are more excited than ever for the dynamic range and scope of our fall program line-up, which speaks to the expansive diversity and creative talents of our brilliant Hermitage Fellows,” adds Andy Sandberg. “Each one of these hour-long events is going to be a completely different experience in a variety of beautiful settings, offering our community a rare glimpse into innovative works in process. We are grateful to our partners and collaborators throughout the region, who help us to expand the geographic reach and impact of our Hermitage programming. We look forward to introducing the work of these visionary artists to thousands of new and returning audience members in this 20th Anniversary Season for these truly one-of-a-kind events.”

Post-Hurricane Update

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Dear Hermitage Friends,

Thank you for all of your thoughtful notes of concern. The love, support, and kindness shown by our artists, supporters, neighbors, audiences, community partners, and collaborators has been overwhelming.

First and foremost, I am grateful to report that the Hermitage staff is all safe, though many of us are still without power throughout the Gulf Coast region, and some members of the team are facing damage to their homes. Since this week was held out for annual repairs, no artists were on the premises at the time of the storm’s arrival.

The Hermitage campus took a hit from Hurricane Ian, but fortunately we are looking at a matter of significant repairs, not rebuilding. The storm surge flooding was not as high as our neighbors to the south, though the wind damage on Manasota Key was quite severe. The building structures have remained largely in place, but we do have some collapsed sections and building repairs ahead of us, plus the grounds of the Hermitage have suffered considerable damages from this hurricane.

Click here to see Jay Handelman’s Herald-Tribune story on the impact of Hurricane Ian on the Hermitage: “Hermitage Artist Retreat May Have Suffered $1 million in Hurricane Ian Damage

I must thank and recognize our incredible staff for the work they did to prepare the campus. Everyone went above and beyond in terms of storm preparations, and the team did everything we could to protect the Hermitage in the lead-up to this monster hurricane. Each member of the staff cares deeply about the Hermitage and put in many hours of heavy labor to prepare the buildings as if it was their own home – nailing up plywood over the historic windows, building sandbags to limit the flooding, and much more.

I am also thankful that last year we made significant investments in building infrastructure throughout the campus, which helped to mitigate the damage. The work that was done to prepare the buildings was invaluable, but as a historic beachfront property in Ian’s path, the impact was very much felt.

Now, the critical work ahead must begin. We are deeply committed to ensuring the Hermitage is restored and protected so that this vital property survives — and thrives — for many years to come.

Our goal is to be operational again as soon as possible — ideally in the weeks ahead, but it’s too soon to give an exact estimate until we know more details about the scope of work, as well as the electricity on the island. While various staff members and I have been down to the campus, please be advised that Manasota Key is not yet the most accessible place to visit.

Regardless of how things shake out with government assistance – which we are of course pursuing – we are going to be facing significant direct expenses to repair the campus and to protect the Hermitage from future weather emergencies.

If you are able, please consider making a fully tax-deductible donation to help our Hermitage Hurricane Repair Efforts. Whatever amount you are able to contribute would be enormously helpful as we look to revive our beautiful campus.

If you prefer to mail a check, please notify our Development Director Amy Wallace via email at Development@HermitageArtistRetreat.org or by phone at 941-475-2098, Ext. 2. Mail delivery on Manasota Key could be delayed until roads are cleared. You may also call Amy to make a payment with a credit card by phone, as she is able to receive calls remotely.

For those who are not able to contribute monetarily, we will be in touch soon about ways you can help to raise awareness and lend a hand. We recognize some of you are facing significant losses of your own, and our hearts go out to all of our friends and neighbors who suffered in Ian’s path.

Funds raised will be used not only to repair the campus and restore the ecological grounds, but also to better protect the campus moving forward. There is a reason so many of our artists and audiences describe the Hermitage as “magical” – now, we must keep that magic alive. 

On behalf of the entire Hermitage team, thank you for all of your support, which is appreciated now more than ever.

Together, we will get through this and emerge even stronger!

With heartfelt gratitude,

Andy Sandberg
Artist Director and CEO

Click here to donate.

Hurricane Ian Damage

Hermitage Artist Retreat may have suffered $1 million in Hurricane Ian damage

by Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 1, 2022

The historic wooden cottages that make up the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key in Englewood are still standing after Hurricane Ian, but will probably require more than $1 million in repairs.

“It looks like the giant from ‘Into the Woods’ walked onto the campus and stomped around,” Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg said Saturday.

“It’s hard to assess the full damage as yet and we’re working to get contractors down here, but I’m guessing we’re looking at seven figures of damage repairs,” he said.

Fortunately, there were no visiting artists in residence at the retreat, which traditionally closes for a few weeks each September to refresh and repair the buildings. The Hermitage has canceled residencies for two weeks and a program on Oct. 6 at the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast’s Bay Preserve, Sandberg said.

“The grounds are severely torn up. There are trees, leaves and branches on every square inch of the property and all over Manasota Key, and it’s hard to access the key. Manasota Key seems like it’s been a little bit forgotten here on this barrier island that splits two counties,” Sandberg said. 

The Hermitage has five historic buildings on a nine-acre campus where artists from around the world come up to six weeks over two years to work on new projects without the pressures of their everyday lives.

Two of the structures date to 1907, including the Hermitage House, which has served as the main gathering place for artists and some visitors on the grounds. Sandberg said those buildings were moved back 50 feet from the water’s edge during a restoration about 20 years ago. Three other buildings date back to 1941.

Sandberg said when he first drove up after the storm passed, “I was prepared to find that some of the buildings had washed away to Mexico. I was happy to see that the campus is still there. But we suffered some severe damage, some flooding. Fortunately, the storm surge wasn’t as bad as they expected, but the wind damage was pretty bad.”

A few of the doors and windows blew out on the historic structures, and a kayak shed “essentially blew away and I can’t tell you where it went,” he said. The lanai screen also was ripped away from the Palm House, which serves as the organization’s administrative offices.

Sandberg said everything is fixable and “it’s going to take quick action to make it happen. Our top priority is getting back to habitability. We can’t control when Manasota Key gets power back, but we can take action to make sure the buildings are up to functionality in that time.”

He added that some of the artists who have already been to Hermitage have offered to come down and help.

Read the complete article here.

Adam Gwon and Reggie Harris to Perform at 2022 Artful Lobster

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, now celebrating its 20th Anniversary Season, announced today that Hermitage Fellow Adam Gwon, an acclaimed musical theater composer whose work has been described by The New York Times as “funny and urbane with a sweetness that doesn’t cloy,” will headline the Hermitage’s signature fall fundraising event, “The Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration!” on Saturday, November 12th from 11:30am to 2pm at the Hermitage campus on Manasota Key (Sarasota County, Florida). Gwon is joined by Reggie Harris, a returning Hermitage alumnus, remarkably gifted musician and storyteller, and pillar of the international folk music scene for more than 40 years. Harris will also be presenting a community program at Booker High School as part of the “Hermitage @ Booker” series on Friday, November 4th

Now in its 14th year, the Artful Lobster raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s nationally renowned artist residency program, supporting the creative process of artists from around the world in the fields of music, theater, visual art, literature, dance, and more. This popular event, which takes place outdoors beneath a large tent on the Hermitage’s beachfront campus, features a lobster feast catered by Michael’s On East, in addition to live performances from renowned Hermitage Fellows. The co-chairs for the 2022 Artful Lobster are Maryann Casey and Elizabeth Moore

A recipient of the Kleban Award, the Fred Ebb Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, and the Frederick Loewe Award, among others, Adam Gwon’s work has been performed on six continents and across the United States at venues such as Roundabout Theatre, Signature Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and more. 

A consummate storyteller and teaching artist, Reggie Harris’ music has regularly topped the folk charts. His skill and charm deliver a message of joy, unity, tolerance, and peace through the powerful medium of live music.