Blog

It Takes A Village

Most not-for-profits like the Hermitage are supported by heros, both “sung” and “unsung.” Often those of the “unsung” hue are merchants and service providers who give and do not receive enough credit for their gifts. I’m reminded of this as we wrap up the major annual maintenance work and upgrades on our facility. Let us begin with Sarasota County, through the Parks and Recreation Department, who are major unsung heros for underwriting the costs of this work. You see, we had wood rot, dry rot, and wool rot. Such is life under the Florida sun and humidity on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. And the County stepped up and helped us with the costly repair and we are so grateful for their help.

Libby's LogoThese extensive carpentry repairs were done by other unsung heros Pat Ball Construction and their foreman, Hitch Bier. Pat Ball and Hitch went way beyond what the needed to do, contributing approximately $3,000 of additional work beyond the scope of their contract. They did this because they care – they care about our community, they care about the history embedded in these old buildings, and they understand the importance of preserving the history the building represents. The entire Hermitage House was repainted by Coating Solutions, Inc represented by Bud Tippins and his crew. More work done above and beyond the scope. We had a sliding glass door donated by Jon Cole and Tom Dignam donated the labor to install it in the Whitney Garage, transforming that space into a year-round visual art studio with air conditioning and heat.

We have five A/C units on campus. They are maintained by Castle Air. We get a deal from company owner, Blaise Castellano – often free labor and used parts, and a “not-for-profit price” on other HVAC costs. Blinds Blinds is a window covering company who has donated blinds to us, and given us good prices on the rest.

We have also been blessed with generosity from Steve Seidensticker at Libby’s Cafe and Bar, and Ash Shukla and Denise May at Chutney’s, eateries that have fed both artists and VIPs for us.

We wanted you to know some of the people and organizations who, behind the scenes, have been heroic in their generosity. If you see them, please thank them for supporting the Hermitage. Even better, patronize their establishments or use their services. If you see a Sarasota County Commissioner thank them. We all benefit from the good will of all our unsung heroes.

Greenfield Prize Process Begins

Today was an exciting day for the Hermitage. We had the first meeting of the Greenfield Prize jury, the group of national industry (theatre) experts, setting off on a journey to select a playwright to receive the 2011 Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat

Greenfield WaveToday was an exciting day for the Hermitage. We had the first meeting of the Greenfield Prize jury, the group of national industry (theatre) experts, setting off on a journey to select a playwright to receive the 2011 Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat – a $30,000 commission for a new work to be premiered in 2013, a Hermitage residency, and a partnership with the Asolo Repertory Theatre. While we don’t reveal the names of the jury members until a winner is selected, they are three of the most important and visible names in the American professional theatre.

During this stage of the prize process, we meet by conference call – we are scattered across the country. We will reconvene on the telephone in three weeks when we compile a list of approximately 30 playwrights suggested by the jury. These names will be winnowed down to 3-4 writers who will receive a letter out of the the blue informing them that they are finalists for this prestigious prize. The finalists will be invited to submit a proposal of what they will create if they are selected.

The jury convenes in person at the Hermitage in January to select the winner. (The runners-up are also offered Hermitage residencies.) The prize is formally presented at the Greenfield Prize dinner on March 27, 2011.

We must tell you, this is more fun, and more exciting than you can imagine. Stay tuned, we’ll keep you up to date with the process as it evolves. Want to know more about the Greenfield Prize? www.GreenfieldPrize.org

A Call from our Past

We got a chance to talk to some new friends the other day. First, we received a comment on our Facebook page from Bess Graham-Hodge. Who is Bess? (Hang with me, we’re going to go back in time….) Bess is the great granddaughter of the family that built the Hermitage House. Her father was Pat Graham, the son of Ruth Johanson Graham and Frank Graham.

Ann and Pat Graham
Ann and Pat Graham, 1942
We got a chance to talk to some new friends the other day. First, we received a comment on our Facebook page from Bess Graham-Hodge. Who is Bess? (Hang with me, we’re going to go back in time….) Bess is the great granddaughter of the family that built the Hermitage House. Her father was Pat Graham, the son of Ruth Johanson Graham and Frank Graham. Ruth Johanson Graham was the youngest daughter (of 13 children) of Carl and Anna Johanson. Carl Johanson built what is now the Hermitage House in 1907 and Bess is his great granddaughter. After writing to thank her for contacting us, Bess offered to put us in contact with her 85-year old mother, Ann who was the daughter-in-law. We called Ann, who was delightful. She was so anxious to tell us things about the Hermitage. For example, she told us that in the late 19th Century, Anna Johanson, Carl’s wife, had been a cook for the King of Sweden, and that they needed to have the permission from the King to immigrate to America. A cook for the King of Sweden… AND she had 13 children.

Ann said it was her great granddaughter, Kasee Stratton, PhD candidate, who had revived her interest in the Hermitage. Kassee had asked her about it after hearing stories about the Hermitage, and then went online and discovered our website and some historical pieces written by Diana Harris a writer active with the Lemon Bay Historic Society in Englewood. Kassee and Ann contacted Diana and had two great conversations with her.

Then we received an email from Kassee:

“My great-grandmother and I plan to make a special visit to Florida, as I’m sure she mentioned in her phone conversation with you. I must say Bruce, my great-grandmother has not mentioned leaving her little home until I found out that we could visit the Hermitage. She is beyond excited and such a delightful woman that I would give anything to make this dream a reality.”

So one of the many great perks to this work is that you never know what the day will bring you. On this day it brought us Bess, Ann, and Kasee and a feeling we were reaching back through time to Carl and Anna Johanson. We’re looking forward to our visit in the spring and learning more about our past.

The Alliance of Artist Communities

I’m often asked how many artist communities there are. It’s not an easy number to come by as it depends on how you define an artist community.

I’m often asked how many artist communities there are.  It’s not an easy number to come by as it depends on how you define an artist community.  However, there are over 400 organizational members of the Alliance of Artist Communities. So that gives us a good clue.  And according to the Alliance, there are two qualifications to be an artist community:

  1. Not-for-profit status ( a 501(C)3 designation from the IRS)
  2. A competitive process for admission

Well what is the Alliance of Artist Communities and why do they get to say? 

Almost all arts disciplines have “service organizations” whose mission is to serve and speak for the field.  For example, symphony orchestras have the League of American Orchestras, and not-for-profit theaters have the Theatre Communications Group.  They are industry organizations that have the big picture view of the field they serve.  So our industry organization is the Alliance of Artist Communities, located in Providence, RI.

What do they do?

They convene an annual conference where member organizations gather, attend sessions and panels about topics relevant to the field, and hear guest speakers and keynotes address issues and challenges that all of us in the field face.  These may have to do with fundraising, assessing and meeting community challenges with you organization, different processes for selecting artists, the latest not-for-profit accounting changes that effect artist communities – all kinds of “nuts and bolts” information relevant to our work.  This year the conference is October 20 – 23 in Providence, and you can click HERE to connect to the Alliance conference web page for all the info.  (Everyone is welcome!).

But when the National Endowment for the Arts expressed interest in creating a separate funding category for artist communities, the Endowment approached the Alliance as spokesperson and expert for the field.  Then through this relationship, the Endowment and the Alliance created a new program that addresses our needs, the results of which is dramatically increased funding from the Endowment for artist communities across America.  Last year, the Hermitage received $20,000 of those funds. (Yeah!!!) 

And if you or your cousin or friend down the block wants to start an artist community  – you contact the Alliance.  They have a whole program dedicated to helping new and emerging communities get off the ground.

The Alliance website itself is a huge resources to the communities AND to the individual artists who want to apply to work at a community.  They maintain an extensive, searchable database of American and international artist communities and a paid ($25) membership gives individuals access to the database with a huge variety of search tools to find just the right creative experience.

The Alliance provides many more services, and more than I have time to detail in this post.  I encourage you to explore their website.  Understanding the Alliance will help you understand the field of artist communities like the Hermitage, as a whole.  It’s a rich, tremendously varied field.

Enjoy.

Greenfield Prize Gears Up

No sooner is one Greenfield Prize awarded than the process to select the next one begins. The next prize, to be awarded at the Greenfield Prize Award Dinner on March 27th, 2011, will be a commission for a new play. The special jury to make that selection has been constituted, and the first meeting will be held in the fall.

No sooner is one Greenfield Prize awarded than the process to select the next one begins. The next prize, to be awarded at the Greenfield Prize Award Dinner on March 27th, 2011, will be a commission for a new play. The special jury to make that selection has been constituted, and the first meeting will be held in the fall.

Each prize commission has two years to be completed, and this year the Sarasota Orchestra will premiere Eve Beglarian’s chamber music composition on the evening of March 26th, the evening before the dinner. So save the dates for a Greenfield weekend – a concert on Saturday evening and a celebration dinner with a major national speaker on Sunday. Ahh, life in Sarasota!

A Visit To Anderson Ranch

I made a visit to the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado while on vacation in July. Anderson Ranch is a sister artist community located on 4.5 beautiful acres just outside of Aspen that focus almost exclusively on the visual arts. Unlike the Hermitage, Anderson Ranch offers a myriad of classes in everything from painting to sculpture to ceramics (with more than 10 kilns of all sizes) to new media, and wood. In addition, they provide about 38 residencies per year for some of the world’s most accomplished artists. It is just a great place to work.

I made a visit to the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado while on vacation in July. Anderson Ranch is a sister artist community located on 4.5 beautiful acres just outside of Aspen that focus almost exclusively on the visual arts. Unlike the Hermitage, Anderson Ranch offers a myriad of classes in everything from painting to sculpture to ceramics (with more than 10 kilns of all sizes) to new media, and wood. In addition, they provide about 38 residencies per year for some of the world’s most accomplished artists. It is just a great place to work. 

I also got to spend time with the Ranch’s new executive director, Barbara Bloemink who had been on the job about a month but who had clearly settled right into her work. We had a great conversation about the differences between the Hermitage and Anderson Ranch (which are many) and we began to explore opportunities for collaboration between our organizations. While we parted without anything specific, we committed to finding opportunities in the near future.

The Anderson Ranch Art Center is open and very accommodating to visitors on their campus (also unlike the Hermitage) and I encourage anyone finding themselves in the area to go for a visit, their cafeteria is open to the public during the summer. Or go to take a class. While some of the world’s best visual artists go there to work, you don’t have to be a world-class artist to take a class. If you want to spend a week honing your painting technique, or your sculptural eye, or working in “new media,” it’s all possible there. And it’s possible in the most beautiful of settings, and among the most stimulating of colleagues. It’s a great organization. Click HERE to go to their website.

Fellows in the News

Congratulations to Hermitage playwright Elaine Romero whose play, Wetback was selected by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre for inclusion in “Voices At The River,” a new play development program for African American and Latino playwrights. The reading was held on July 16th at the theatre in Little Rock.

Congratulations to Hermitage playwright Elaine Romero whose play, Wetback was selected by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre for inclusion in “Voices At The River,” a new play development program for African American and Latino playwrights. The reading was held on July 16th at the theatre in Little Rock.

Rest and Repair

It’s been a restful summer so far, which has given us (your staff of three) the chance to replenish our batteries while we prepare for a very busy season. At the same time, we’ve been working with Sarasota County as they prepare to help us make some major repairs on the Hermitage House.

It’s been a restful summer so far, which has given us (your staff of three) the chance to replenish our batteries while we prepare for a very busy season. At the same time, we’ve been working with Sarasota County as they prepare to help us make some major repairs on the Hermitage House. Mother Nature is unforgiving and she makes the task of maintaining a wooden beach house under the relentless Florida sun, a real challenge. So we did not schedule artists to be in residence during this time, knowing that hammering and sawing were not so conducive to creativity work. 

However, we will be hosting playwrights James Garcia and Kia Corothron, as well as Sarasota poet Justin Spring in August. They’ve agreed to deal with the noise. When James arrives in August the vacation’s over and we will have artists in residence continuously until next August. So while it doesn’t look like we’ll be repaired by then, we will be rested, and raring to go.

The image is playwright Kia Corothron taken during a previous Hermitage residency.