Hermitage meets $150,000 matching challenge, achieves first million-dollar fiscal year

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, today announced that the Hermitage has exceeded its $150,000 matching challenge, raising a total of $302,000 through this campaign in response to COVID-19. This spring fundraising initiative launched with a generous $100,000 pledge from the Manasota Key-based Cook family on April 7th to match every gift dollar-to-dollar through June 30th. The original $100,000 challenge was met in just four weeks, and an additional group of Hermitage supporters contributed $50,000 to extend the match. On Tuesday, June 30th, the Hermitage surpassed its goal.

“We cannot express our gratitude enough to everyone who helped us reach this milestone,” Sandberg stated. “I must recognize that this campaign was supported generously by all members of our community: our Hermitage Fellows and artists, our audiences, our longtime supporters, our artistic colleagues, the community foundations, our board of trustees, our staff, our volunteers, and many new champions of the Hermitage.”

In addition, the funds raised through this campaign enabled the organization to achieve its first million-dollar fiscal year, which concluded on June 30th.

“The generosity of our artists, our donors, and our community has helped to ensure the future of this truly vital institution. Without this essential support for artists and the creative process, without this space and freedom to shape and develop great works of the future, we would be staring down empty stages and empty pages long past the ramifications of any virus. No doubt, there are still many question marks and challenges ahead, but together, we can continue to support bold, impactful, and diverse works of art, theater, music, literature, and more that feed our souls and shape our cultural landscape.”

Watch Sandberg’s video thank you message here.

The Hermitage resumes its core residency operations this week, commencing with the STARS teaching artist program, in partnership with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education. The organization has implemented a number of social-distancing practices and policies to ensure the safety of artists, staff, and guests. Invitations have recently been issued by the Hermitage Curatorial Council for the 2020-2021 season. Hermitage Fellows will continue to engage in free community programs, and a number of these will be made available digitally until live programs resume.

Artists returning to Hermitage Artist Retreat

by Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, July 3, 2020

Like so many other arts organizations and businesses across the country, the Hermitage Artist Retreat essentially shut down in March as the coronavirus began to spread. But staff and work crews have been busy making adjustments to allow a variety of writers, visual artists, musicians and others to start returning this month.

The retreat, a collection of buildings and historic cottages on Manasota Key, provides a temporary home for artists to develop new projects or just to get away from the everyday work and life issues that get in the way of the creative process.

Hermitage fellows, who are selected by a curatorial council of experts in the performing, visual and literary arts, stay in historic but private cottages on the beach. They have sleeping and studio space and areas where they can talk or share meals with other artists also staying there.

“We are fortunate in the way the campus is set up in that it is naturally built for social distancing,” said Andy Sandberg, who took over last fall as the organization’s artistic director and CEO.

During the downtime, the cottages were enhanced to include individual refrigerator freezers, microwaves and toaster ovens to make it possible for artists to work and eat without having to share a communal kitchen for meals.

They will still be able to meet with other artists in outdoor settings, which health officials say is generally a safer environment and reduces the risk of spreading the virus.

“Unfortunately, they can’t have that kitchen huddle experience at the moment, but we’re finding ways to get our artists together socially,” Sandberg said. Typically, new groups of artists are treated to a welcome beach dinner and Sandberg said the staff is working out safe seating arrangements for such events.

The schedule of artists slated to visit Englewood had to be reset because of the closure. Artists are generally offered up to six weeks over a two-year period for their residencies. They also are required to take part in at least two public programs during their residency, sometimes done in conjunction with other area arts organizations.

Sandberg said that part of the program also is being reevaluated and may temporarily incorporate more online events, conversations and discussions, or presentations outdoors on the beach.

“Audiences have indicated their comfort in doing things outdoors as something they might do sooner rather than huddling inside,” he said.

Helga Davis, the 2019 winner of the Greenfield Prize, which is administered by the Hermitage, and curator Eric Booth, one of the curatorial council members, recently spent time on site “to tell us what’s working and how to best exercise these practices,” Sandberg said.

Residencies resume this week with the annual visit of Florida arts educators selected through the State Teacher/Artist Residency program. “They are sort of the beginning of our new season,” Sandberg said.

The Hermitage Curatorial Council, made up of 14 distinguished arts leaders from across the country, is compiling updated lists of people they recommend for residencies. Artists do not apply for stays at the Hermitage.

Among the council artists are Booth, a leader in arts education in the nation; Valerie Cassel Oliver [pictured], the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; flutist Claire Chase; Christopher Burney, artistic director of New York Stage and Film at Vassar; Emily Mann, the playwright and director who recently ended a long tenure as artistic director of the McCarter Theatre Centre in Princeton, N.J.; and Robert Spano, music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

“They shape everything we do here” by selecting new lists of fellows, said Sandberg. “They are experts in their field and they have a commitment to identifying artists who are creating bold, dynamic and diverse work.”

The Hermitage has increased its budget to more than $1 million annually (from about $750,000), and the organization received some significant contributions toward meeting that goal, including $300,000 through a couple of matching gift challenges.

That money helped to make up some of the revenue the organization lost from the cancellation of its annual Greenfield Prize weekend dinner and related events in the spring. It has announced that its yearly Artful Lobster picnic will be held Nov. 14 on the Hermitage grounds, and the next Greenfield Prize Dinner is scheduled for April 11 at Michael’s On East.

Sandberg said the budget was increased because the Hermitage plans to expand its programming staff while providing more opportunities for collaborations with area arts organizations and for the public to meet visiting fellows and better understand how the organization works.

One of those new collaborations was announced last week. “UNSCRIPTED: Arts from the Inside Out,” a partnership with the Van Wezel Foundation, will give audiences an inside look at the creative process as shared by Hermitage fellows from around the world.

Sandberg said the audience will never know “exactly what to expect or what they will experience, creating a sense of mystery and anticipation for each gathering.”

The series is expected to begin this summer with initial programs offered as a bonus to Hermitage and Foundation supporters. Some performances will be made available for streaming online to the public.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Flora Major support Hermitage

The Hermitage Artist Retreat recently received a $40,000 grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. These funds will be used to expand community programming, visibility, and engagement as the Hermitage launches its Hermitage North programs.

This is being supported with an additional $45,000 given by Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation.

Andy Sandberg stated, “Thanks to this monumental grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Flora Major’s extraordinary gift of support, we can move forward with planning our Hermitage North programs, formalizing institutional partnerships with our invaluable arts and education partners in the region, and furthering the engagement of our artists and alumni with our community. We are deeply grateful to Gulf Coast Community Foundation and to Flora Major for their generous support of these programs and their continued commitment to our mission.”

Read the entire press release here.

Pictured: Jen Shyu, who gave a Hermitage North program in 2019.

ETHEL quartet puts “Circus,” conceived at Hermitage, online

This article appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on May 3, 2020.

Sarasota’s circus heritage and photos from The Ringling archives provided the inspiration for the world premiere of “Circus: Wandering City” by the string quartet ETHEL at Historic Asolo Theater in 2018.

The production, which The Ringling co-commissioned with the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2018 Next Wave Festival, was presented for a weekend in Sarasota in January 2018. But now, the acclaimed quartet is making it available for streaming for free while the museum and live performance venues are shut down.

“Circus: Wandering City” will be available beginning at 3 p.m. Friday at ethelcentral.org. It also can be viewed through The Ringling’s website, Ringling.org or its social media sites.

The performance incorporates hundreds of images from the Ringling’s Circus Museum archives, which are set to original compositions by quartet members, who were inspired by the photos.

The idea for a circus-themed show came in 2015 when the ensemble members had a residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat and performed their show “Documerica,” which was inspired by photos of environmental disasters from the Environmental Protection Agency’s files.

Dwight Currie, who was then Ringling’s curator for performance, suggested that Ringling’s circus photos might inspire a similar but different performance.

“I was just saying how evocative I find the images in the circus archives, and very little of it is actually on exhibit,” Currie told the Herald-Tribune before the 2018 premiere. “It’s just so foreign you just can’t help but imagine this and that. I said, how great would that be?”

The ensemble members agreed.

Cellist Dorothy Lawson said the “subject of the circus is so full of the highest and deepest aspirations of the human spirit.”

The performance is a collection of vignettes performed by Lawson, Ralph Farris on viola and violinists Kip Jones and Corin Lee.

Herald-Tribune music critic Gayle Williams described it as an “immersive, nonstop rollout of an extraordinary docu-music-theater experience,” adding that it is “an incredibly imaginative creation owing to the vision and talents of an entire team of collaborators.”

Hermitage cancels upcoming public programs and Greenfield Prize Weekend

Andy Sandberg, the artistic director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, announced that the organization is canceling this year’s Greenfield Prize Weekend, which was scheduled for April 18 and 19, 2020. This year’s celebration was scheduled to begin with a world premiere reading of a new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and 2018 recipient of the Greenfield Prize Martyna Majok (at the Asolo Rep). The weekend also included the “Artist Talk: The Work and Influences of Jennifer Packer” (at Sarasota Art Museum) with the 2020 Greenfield Prize recipient, visual artist Jennifer Packer. The organization’s signature fundraising event, the Greenfield Prize Dinner, scheduled for Sunday, April 19, is also cancelled, with plans to recognize Jennifer Packer at a future date to be determined. In addition, the organization is suspending its free community programs in April.

“In light of coronavirus concerns and in coordination with the Greenfield Foundation, we felt it was prudent to cancel all events pertaining to this year’s Greenfield Weekend, and move ahead with a scaled-back version of the award presentation in the months ahead when the situation has calmed down,” says Sandberg. “We have been in communication with this year’s Greenfield Prize winner, Jennifer Packer, who has been extremely gracious and understanding. We are also coordinating with the Asolo Rep to find a future date for Martyna Majok’s reading, and we look forward to welcoming both of these extraordinary artists back to Sarasota.”

Sandberg says that canceling one of the organization’s largest and most recognizable events could have a serious financial impact. “So many of our fellow arts leaders have had to make the same difficult decisions. In a time of crisis like this, non-profit arts organizations are often some of the hardest hit, and the support of our generous donors and patrons is more critical and meaningful than ever.”

Hermitage featured in WEDU Arts Plus season premiere

The Hermitage Artist Retreat is featured in WEDU’s season nine premiere of “Arts Plus.” Click here to watch the episode – we’re the first segment.

Interviews include artistic director/CEO Andy Sandberg, co-founder/program director Patricia Caswell, and artists-in residence Claire Chase, Christopher Merrill, and Sid Richardson.

Check out what’s coming up in February and March

The Hermitage has some fantastic free community programs coming up in February and March. Join us here at the Hermitage, or at Boosktore1Sarasota. Reservations are required.

The Suffragist Project: Supporting Women’s Voices in Playwriting with Playwright and Hermitage Fellow Julia Jordan
February 11, 5:30 p.m.
Bookstore1Sarasota

This event is in collaboration with Florida Studio Theatre’s Supporting Women’s Voices in Playwriting program.
Playwright and Hermitage Fellow Julia Jordan will speak about advocacy to focus national attention of gender disparity in playwriting and the strides women playwrights are making. The conversation includes Catherine Randazzo, FST’s associate artistic director, and Patricia Caswell, the Hermitage’s program director and co-founder. Read more and reserve your seats here.

Literary Editing and Publishing with Poet and Editor Lisa Ampleman
February 14, 5 p.m.

Hermitage Palm House
Lisa, the managing editor of The Cincinnati Review and poetry series editor for Acre Books, will give advice about the submission process and talk about some of the challenges facing editors. Read more and reserve your seats here.

From Broadway to the Beach with Musical Theater Composer Adam Gwon
February 21, 5 p.m.
Hermitage Artist Retreat beach

Adam, hailed as “a promising newcomer to our talent-hungry musical theater” whose songs are “funny, urbane, with a sweetness that doesn’t cloy” by The New York Times, will play piano and sing his own songs, demonstrating how a musical is born and evolves from idea to stage. Read more and reserve your seats here.

Restoring Coastal Ecology and Creating a Sense of Place with Landscape Architect Michael Gilkey
February 28, 5 p.m.
Hermitage Palm House

Michael will share his vision for the restoration of the Hermitage acreage, including the “Preserve” which contains three distinct habitats: coastal hammock, dune and wetlands. Audience members will have the opportunity to learn about native Florida plants and the process of creating an Old Florida landscape. After the talk, participants are welcome to walk on the beach to enjoy the sunset. Read more and reserve your seats here.

Sonic Meditation at Sunset with Composer Evan Premo
March 6, 6 p.m.
Hermitage Artist Retreat beach

Evan (pictured) is a teaching artist, composer, and double bassist. He will lead several sonic meditations, designed to find connection and peace through deep listening and spontaneous sounding. Read more and reserve your seats here.

Hermitage offers four free community programs in December

The first of the Hermitage’s free December programs is “Poem, Play and Novel: Three Readings,” with poet Greg Wrenn, playwright Sharyn Rothstein, and novelist Sugi Ganeshananthan, Friday, December 13, 4:30 p.m., on the beach at the Hermitage. Wrenn, a lifelong scuba diver, will give a reading from his eco memoir centered around the ocean. Rothstein, a playwright and television writer, will read from one of her many works. Ganeshananthan will read from her novel in progress, Movement, which tracks a medic-turned-doctor during and after the Sri Lankan civil war. Audience members are welcome to bring blankets and chairs; in case of rain, the event will be moved inside. Click for reservations.

Violinist and freestyle composition artist Mazz Swift (pictured) will perform an informal concert on Friday, December 20, 4:30 p.m., in the Palm House at the Hermitage. She’ll play works in progress, songs of resistance, spirituals, modern day protest music, and share her thoughts on the Ghanaian concept of “Sankofa,” or looking back to learn how to move forward. This will be followed by an opt-in group exploration of conduction (conducted improvisation). No musical, improvisational, or conduction experience is necessary for participation. Musicians are welcome to bring their instruments. Click for reservations.

Hermitage North returns featuring an open class with mime artist Bill Bowers, Saturday, December 21, 11 a.m., in the Jane B. Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for Performing Arts. Hailed by critics as the most accomplished and renowned mime of his generation, Bowers performs and teaches the art of physical storytelling throughout the world. He is also an award-winning actor and has appeared on the stages of Broadway, The Kennedy Center, The White House, La MaMa, the New York International Fringe Festival and many other venues. In this program, Bowers will demonstrate basic pantomime technique and perform selections from his solo plays. FSU students who have been studying with Bowers will share work from their week-long residency with him. Reservations can be made by calling the FSU Center box office at 941-351-8000.

Let’s Talk Opera,” part of the Fridays @ Five series, is Friday, December 27, 5 p.m., in the Palm House. Engage in conversation with contemporary opera creators Laura Kaminsky, composer, and Kimberly Reed, librettist and filmmaker. They wrote the opera, “As One,” with Hermitage Fellow Mark Campbell.  “As One” is the most-produced modern opera in America.  Video opera scenes will bookend the discussion. Click for reservations.

All programs are subject to change. Please check the Hermitage website or Facebook page for updated program status.