The Hermitage Raises More Than $225,000 at 2021 Artful Lobster – A Record-Breaking Celebration!

The Hermitage Artist Retreat raised more than $225,000 at the 2021 Artful Lobster luncheon on November 13. Now in its thirteenth year, the Artful Lobster raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s renowned artist residency program and community programming initiatives. Amidst limited capacity and added safety precautions, 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 Charlie Huisking and Charlotte Perret, with Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg as master of ceremonies. Michael’s On East served a plentiful barbecue and much-heralded lobster feast.

Dorothy Lawson, a Hermitage Fellow and founding cellist and artistic director of the genre-bending string quartet ETHEL, headlined the event and riveted the audience with her virtuosic cello performance and tales of her time at the Hermitage. She was introduced by popular radio personality Terrance McKnight, evening host of WQXR New York Public Radio and a member of the Hermitage National Curatorial Council. Lawson played an original song from a full-length musical experience that she and her fellow ETHEL musicians created during their Hermitage residency. To celebrate the Hermitage’s free community programs and collaborations, Raleigh Mosely II, a friend of the Hermitage and frequent performer with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, powerfully delivered an original song written by musical theater composer and Hermitage Fellow Rona Siddiqui. Following lunch, Lawson returned to the stage to perform her interpretation of a piece by Bach, which she dedicated to the memory of the late Susan Brainerd, a recent Hermitage trustee who sponsored Lawson’s last visit to the Hermitage earlier this year.

“When Bach composed his cello suites, nobody was writing that kind of music – it was brand new,” said Terrance McKnight as he introduced Lawson and shared his perspective on the role of the Hermitage. “Legendary artists like Bach composed some of the music we have today because of a benefactor. This is such an important conversation to have today because the work that you all are doing by supporting the Hermitage is inspiring these artists.”

“Great music, great art, great theater, great literature, great television – none of this happens without great artists,” added Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO 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.”

Sponsors and partners for the 2021 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 at HermitageArtistRetreat.org/ArtfulLobster2021.

Acclaimed ETHEL cellist Dorothy Lawson to headline 2021 Artful Lobster

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that Dorothy Lawson, a Hermitage Fellow, acclaimed cellist, and artistic director of the genre-bending string quartet ETHEL, will headline the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s signature fall fundraising event, “The Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration!” on November 13 from 11:30am to 2pm at the Hermitage campus on Manasota Key (Sarasota County, Florida).

Now in its 13th 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, and more. This popular event takes place outdoors beneath a large tent on the Hermitage’s beachfront campus. 

A Juilliard-trained cellist and composer, Lawson is a founding member and artistic director of ETHEL, one of America’s most adventurous string quartets. She has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the White Oak Dance Project, Philharmonia Virtuosi, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and numerous new music ensembles.

“We are incredibly excited to have Dorothy Lawson returning to the Hermitage to perform at this year’s Artful Lobster,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “Dorothy is an extraordinary performer with an innovative and radiant spirit – not to mention a great friend to the Hermitage. The audience at this year’s Artful Lobster is in for a real treat!”

Though this year’s Artful Lobster is now sold out, waitlist inquiries can be made by contacting Amy Wallace at (941) 475-2098, Ext. 2.

The co-chairs for the 2021 Artful Lobster are Charlie Huisking and Charlotte Perret. This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of Susan M. Brainerd, a beloved Hermitage trustee who passed away earlier this year. Brainerd generously served as the sponsor of Dorothy Lawson’s most recent Hermitage residency, which culminated with performances at Selby Gardens Downtown and Historic Spanish Point.

Dates announced for 2020 Artful Lobster and 2021 Greenfield Prize Dinner

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced the dates for the organization’s two signature fundraising events in 2020-2021. The highly popular Artful Lobster will be Saturday, November 14, 2020, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Hermitage’s historic campus on Manasota Key. The Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner, which will honor the 2021 prize recipient, is scheduled for Sunday, April 11, 2021, 6-8:30 p.m., at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. Details for both events, including ticket prices, sponsorship opportunities and entertainment, will be announced later in the summer.

Artful Lobster Nov. 9

The highly popular Artful Lobster is our signature fundraising event, and the only one to take place on our Manasota Key Gulf-front campus. With luscious lobster, a complete gourmet buffet, live entertainment by Hermitage artists, and an anticipated auction, the Artful Lobster kicks off the season for many in our community.

NEW THIS YEAR – There will be an air conditioned trolley bringing Artful Lobster attendees to the Hermitage from Sarasota.

Learn more here.

Co-chaired by Susan Brainerd and Susan McLeod, all proceeds go toward the Hermitage mission: inspiring the artists of our time.  

Artful Lobster 2011 A Great Success!

It was a picture perfect day for the annual Artful Lobster (AL) event at the Hermitage Artist Retreat. Thanks to the efforts of three-time Chair and Hermitage Trustee Debbi Benedict and her talented committee, the AL had its largest attendance to date.

Cellist Michael Fitzpatrick
Cellist Michael Fitzpatrick

It was a picture perfect day for the annual Artful Lobster (AL) event at the Hermitage Artist Retreat. Thanks to the efforts of three-time Chair and Hermitage Trustee Debbi Benedict and her talented committee, the AL had its largest attendance to date; exciting new live and silent auction items, including unique trips to Santa Fe, Antibes and Washington DC; and the always anticipated delicious lobster and barbecue lunch prepared and served by Michael’s On East. Guests were invited to tour the historic campus, generally not open to the public. All artists in residence were in attendance and spoke to guests about their work and Hermitage experience. Topping off the program was a special performance by guest artist and past Hermitage Fellow, Cellist Michael Fitzpatrick. The audience rose to their feet with a standing ovation and if that wasn’t enough, everyone went home with a specially-created CD of Fitzpatrick’s music. And of course it was a rousing financial success. While all bills are not yet accounted for, the ballpark figures point to the largest profit in the event’s history. Thanks to all who attended and contributed to make the afternoon so special.

Thank You from a Grateful Artful Lobster

While we’re not through balancing the books on the Artful Lobster, it’s clear that many thousands of dollars were raised that will allow us to continue supporting world-class, mid-career writers, painters, poets, playwrights, and other primary creators.

Mother Nature set the quality standard; the temperate Gulf breezes, the azure water, miles of pristine beach, and wheeling gulls and osprey fishing for their meal. Michael’s on East stepped up with mounds of delicious lobster, ribs, chicken, chowder, corn and all the trimmings. Hermitage artists Christopher Still, Andrew McKenna Lee, Robert Blake and Fellows Sabrina Small and Meg Pierce shared their work and made it clear why they were Hermitage artists. Scott Blum and Los Rumberos provided just the right music, MC and auctioneer Cliff Roless kept the program rolling, and event chair Debbi Benedict and her committee had it all well organized. None of these events happen without a team of volunteers and our Friends of the Hermitage led by Connie Ellis are the very best. The Lemon Bay Garden Club came out before the event to help us spruce up out campus. And our media sponsors, Sarasota Magazine and Scene Magazine helped make sure that everyone knew about it in the first place. We thank them as well.

In the end, the event was a great success. While we’re not through balancing the books on the Artful Lobster, it’s clear that many thousands of dollars were raised that will allow us to continue supporting world-class, mid-career writers, painters, poets, playwrights, and other primary creators, and then sharing them with our Gulf Coast communities in free programs for children, adults, and seniors. These funds will also help us preserve these magnificent historic buildings and protect the native ecology that we all love and enjoy so much.

The support we enjoy for our work is humbling, and it inspires us to make certain the investment in the Hermitage Artist Retreat made by individuals, foundations, corporations, and County and national government is leveraged and returned to the community in the unique benefits only we can provide.

Thank you.

Honoree Lesley Edwards and her mother, Annette Dignam Photo by Cliff Roles, courtesy of Scene Magazine


Event Chair Debbi Benedict with Hermitage President Caroline Andrus
Photo by Cliff Roles, courtesy of Scene Magazine