Roberto Bentivegna’s Gucci movie to be directed by Ridley Scott with Lady Gaga in lead role

Screenwriter Roberto Bentivegna worked on his screenplay “Gucci” while he was at the Hermitage. It’s now been announced with Ridley Scott directing and Lady Gaga in the lead role. The Sarasota Film Festival and Mark Famiglio underwrote Roberto’s Hermitage residency. Read more in Rolling Stone.

Kaminsky’s opera reaches #3 on Billboard list

Congratulations to composer Laura Kaminsky, a Hermitage Fellow and board member! Since its premiere in 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, her acclaimed “As One” has not only become the most-produced modern opera in America, but it’s also risen to #3 on the Billboard Classical list. Operawire calls it “one of the major works of American opera in the 21st century.” Brava!

We also want to be sure to recognize Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed as co-librettists and creative partners with Laura in the creation of this work. The three of them make one powerhouse team that is changing the nature of opera in our time.

Bruce Rodgers to retire in December

Debbi Benedict, president of the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s board of trustees, announced today the pending retirement of Hermitage founding executive director Bruce E. Rodgers as of December 31, 2019.  Rodgers served on the original steering committee organized by the Sarasota County Arts Council and co-founders Patricia Caswell and Syd Adler to restore and adapt the five historic buildings into an artist community.  After the organization received its not-for-profit status in 2002, Rodgers became a founding trustee. He stepped down from the board to become the acting director in 2004 and was appointed the first Hermitage executive director in 2005.

“Since our beginning, Bruce has been our guiding light and a remarkable visionary, taking the Hermitage further than we could imagine,” said Benedict. “Our entire board, past and present, wish him great happiness in his retirement and thank him for leading us on this incredible journey.”

As the founding director, Rodgers set the operating policies and procedures for the organization and grew its annual operating budget from $80,000 to its current $700,000-plus level. He oversaw the completion of the historic campus restoration that was begun by the Sarasota County Arts Council; established the first endowment program; and created many local, regional, and national partnerships. In 2008, in partnership with Bob Greenfield, then president of the Greenfield Foundation, Rodgers created the Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat—a $30,000 prize in the form of a commission for a new work—which raised the organization’s profile to national status.

In addition to his many achievements as executive director, Rodgers has given back to the local community and to the field of artist communities. He served on the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County’s board of directors; Sarasota Film Commission Community Advisory Board; on panels for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs; and nationally, for 10 years, on the board of the Alliance of Artists Communities.

“In 2004, I was given both the honor and challenge of leading this new kind of cultural organization in our community—an organization that serves writers, painters, poets, composers, playwrights, and visual artists who are creating the art of our time,” says Rodgers. “This challenge could only have been met with the steadfast partnership of our dedicated trustees, our staff, our National Curatorial Council, our volunteers, and our community.  With the solid platform we have established, it’s a perfect time to pass the leadership to the next generation who will continue to use this platform to dream and to create future possibilities for the Hermitage. The blessing of this position has been the incredible talented and generous people I’ve had the privilege to work with and to know.  They are my friends, and I will always keep them in my heart.” 

A search committee, chaired by Englewood businessman David Dignam of Key Agency and comprised of both trustees and community members, has been formed to oversee the national search for the next leader to build on the foundation that has been created.  An email address has been established for interested candidates to send their resume along with a cover letter for the executive director role to

Hermitage launches search for executive director

The trustees of the Hermitage Artist Retreat seek an executive director to lead the organization into its future. Founded in 2002 as a project of the Sarasota County Arts Council, the Hermitage has grown to become a significant national artist community serving mid-career artists in all disciplines.  The mission of the Hermitage Artist Retreat is to “inspire the artists of today” and it expresses its values of excellence, access, and exemplary service to both artists and community at every opportunity.

The successful candidate will have a significant and effective history of broad engagement in the arts community, a passion for the arts and artists, and a proven track record of inspiring philanthropy with superior interpersonal and speaking skills. Work experience in an artist community is a plus but not a necessity. As a visionary leader of a small staff, he or she should enthusiastically enjoy “doing what it takes” to reinforce the Hermitage brand and experience on an everyday basis.

For complete details about the position, its requirements, and application information, click here.

“The Calling” by Lisa Diane Wedgeworth

The Calling, new video work produced at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, August 6-19, 2018

~ Guest post and photo by Lisa Diane Wedgeworth

I have been reflecting on home, the land of my family. A calling, a tugging at my spirit to return there, if even for a brief visit to set foot upon the land my  ancestors toiled, built, walked and raised families upon.

Traveling through Alabama with my mother, visiting civil rights monuments and memorials, a deep kinship with those who endured and survived the Domestic Slave Trade stirred within me and the American South felt as much as my home as any of the places my immediate family and ancestors were called to put down their roots (Los Angeles, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, England and Jamaica).

While at the Hermitage, the water of the Gulf of Mexico  – although stained with the stench and destruction of the Red Tide – conjured images within my mind’s eye and whispered new work, The Calling, in my ear.


Ellen Dore Watson on “The Hermitage Gift”

We provide a special place where

artists can strive for success, and through their successes, our lives can also be

transformed. The Hermitage Gift for artists like poet Ellen Dore Watson – more than 80 last year alone – is only possible

because friends like you make it possible!

Artists of all disciplines are invited to come to the Hermitage to stay and work at our historic campus nestled among the sea grapes and mangroves of Manasota Key.
Writers, composers, and painters connect with artistic passions within while strolling along our shoreline, transforming the time away from normal routines into what most
claim to be their best productive time for creating.

“My Story” by Ellen Dore Watson,

Once darkness fell, I walked out onto the beach as if by gravitational pull. No moon. No

people. Pound and glow of surf. Slightly scary, but energizing. I felt myself opening up, anticipatory.

I don’t think I ever before felt so primed. Back at the house, a new poem

poured out, mysterious and different—a piece I hadn’t realized the manuscript needed.

The first evening of my first stay at the Hermitage. What was it about this place?

The Hermitage is a magic kingdom. The dolphins, mangroves, iguanas, egrets, sharks’

teeth found their way into my work and my psyche. In two weeks, I had intense and

inspiring conversations with four playwrights, a choreographer, a novelist, and a

composer, whose work I will follow and with whom I remain in contact. This amazing

cross-fertilization, and everyone’s single-mindedness about pressing forward, reaching

to new places in their work, was electrifying.

And then there’s the sense of time outside time: permission to read, think, walk,

uninterrupted. I’d been feeling empty, uneasy, stressed about what direction to go with

new pieces and how to re-enter earlier problematic ones. But the perfect balance of

solitariness and fellowship, external and internal immersion, and the fact of having

been invited here—invited!—conspired to produce ease, courage, even joy. When I hit

a snag in a poem, I went kayaking, let my brain stew while I glided, wondering how

those mullets can hurl themselves skyward, and why. But then I thought—that’s what

artists do: thrust themselves out of the familiar, then plop back in to see it anew. We do

what we do because we are who we are, and we are most ourselves when doing it.

I wrote eleven new pieces and re-imagined half a dozen thorny others.

It’s amazing every time. It’s not just driving blind, but finding I’ve taken my hands off

the wheel. Let something seep up from deep underneath—or maybe it’s drizzling down

from somewhere. From outside, from inside. Or just something coming. Forming.

Something we enter, or that enters us. It’s thrilling! Hours fly by, and then here is this

new thing that didn’t exist before, and now I get to play with it—add intention,

discipline, attitude, form—nudge it toward the best it can be. Which is what the

Hermitage does for the artists they gather there: that great a gift.

This is just one story of how a stay at the Hermitage made a difference in the

creative life of an artist, but it is why we are here.  We provide a special place where

artists can strive for success, and through their successes, our lives can also be

transformed. The Hermitage Gift for artists – more than 80 last year alone – is only possible

because friends like you make it possible!

Please visit and click on the Donate Now Button. Or mark your calendar

for the 24-hour Giving Challenge beginning at 12 noon on Tuesday September 20.

The Patterson Foundation will provide a 2:1 match of donations up to $100 from

new donors (those who did not contribute to the Hermitage during last year’s Giving

Challenge), and will provide a 1:1 match of donations up to $100 from returning

donors! Be the one and make the Hermitage Gift available to future Hermitage.


The 2016 Giving Challenge is presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with

giving strengthened by The Patterson Foundation, as well as support from Manatee Community

Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, and the

Herald-Tribune Media Group.

Thoughts from our Guest Blogger: Nerissa Street

We’re turning our blog over to Nerissa Street, a teacher, writer, speaker, and all-around amazingly creative person who will be reading and leading on our beach on Friday, Aug. 7. Nerissa is definitely a STAR at the Hermitage and back at home in Fort Lauderdale. But even though she lives in Florida, she’s never seen sharks’ teeth like we have on Manasota Key. Read all about it here and come meet her Friday.

Ah-Ha Insights and Stories Told Lovingly

Kukuki Velarde created a delicate whimsical, ode to her little girl Vida. Line drawings on paper, cut out and layered in three dimensions told the beautifully crafted, artfully re‐imagined story of how her little daughter came to be. A fairy baring an egg metaphorically gave a gift to Kukuli that started Vida’s life.

Kukuki Velarde created a delicate whimsical, ode to her little girl Vida. Line drawings on paper, cut out and layered in three dimensions told the beautifully crafted, artfully re‐imagined story of how her little daughter came to be. A fairy baring an egg metaphorically gave a gift to Kukuli that started Vida’s life.

This work intended for a children’s book was a departure from her critically acclaimed ceramic work expressing the struggles of the indigenous people of Peru.

June is family residency month. Hermitage babysitters allow artist‐parents the freedom to create at an intense pace between tranquil family playtimes on the beach.

Oscar Bettison, here with his sweet baby daughter Paloma, came to write a commission for an Amsterdam ensemble.

His warm comfortable British accent seemed at home in the Hermitage living room when we gathered in the house to chat after his composer‐talk was rained out on the beach. A conversation evolved about his way of composing music.

He told us he liked to be challenged, like when a pianist/percussionist asked him to write a solo piece. Together they had to invent ways the pianist could play percussion with his feet while still manning the keyboard.

He wrote a piece with the violin strings all tuned to D (when usually the four strings are tuned to GDAE). We watched a young virtuoso play the piece on youtube. If many of us had heard this piece on a car radio, we might have changed the channel, but after learning its origin, appreciating the difficulty and understanding the pattern, listeners were fascinated.

Oscar doesn’t go with the first idea he has for a piece. He gets more ideas, then, if the first one is still exciting, he goes with it. A writer agreed she works the same way. An artist later chimed in that Oscar’s work is like the collage she makes. Everyone heard something in his music to relate and memorable ah‐ha discourse.

Baby Paloma’s father had sat on the old wooden Hermitage floor helping her learn her first words in the morning. That evening in the same spot Englewood’s literati (decades older than Paloma) still with curious, open minds, learned a new language too, the language of 21st century musical composition.