Hermitage Announces Second Year of “Cross Arts Collaborative”

The Hermitage Artist Retreat is pleased to announce the continuation of the Sarasota Cross Arts Collaborative, made possibleonce morewith generous support from the Koski Family Foundation. This initiative is designed to give frequent performers and company members from leading Sarasota arts organizations a chance to expand their artistic practice from ‘performer’ to ‘creator.’

As with the inaugural year, the Hermitage is awarding Cross Arts Collaborative residencies to artists from two selected partner institutions. This program is designed to inspire and encourage generative work created by some of the best and brightest in our vibrant performing arts community. Artists are invited by their respective organizations to submit proposals for consideration; finalists are then submitted to the Hermitage for consideration, and recipients are selected in consultation with current or past members of the Hermitage National Curatorial Council. Recipients will receive two weeks of uninterrupted time at the Hermitage Artist Retreat this summer to develop a new generative project, and the work will then be shared with the Sarasota community in a free public program this fall. 

In the second season of the Hermitage’s Cross Arts Collaborative, this distinguished honor has been awarded to Lizzie Hagstedt, a musician, soundscape designer, and frequent collaborator with Asolo Repertory Theatre, and Jessica Obiedzinski, a dancer and longstanding company member of Sarasota Contemporary Dance

While the Hermitage’s nationally renowned residency program brings leading artists from across the country and around the world to create work on its beachfront Manasota Key campus, the Hermitage also seeks to enrich the incredible and growing arts scene in Sarasota, as showcased by performing arts institutions such as Sarasota Contemporary Dance and Asolo Repertory Theatre. 

“We want to offer this one-of-a-kind opportunity to some of the leading artists in Sarasota, by creating space for a talented performer to focus on being a generative artist,”said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We know there are actors, dancers, musicians, and performing artists working amidst our circle of frequent collaborators who have passion projects waiting in the wings. This could be an actor writing a play between production contracts, a violinist 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 the 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 thrilled to be continuing our longstanding collaboration with the Hermitage,” said Peter Rothstein, incoming Artistic Director of Asolo Repertory Theatre. “This Cross Arts Collaborative is a meaningful initiative providing an opportunity to support the artists who consider the Asolo a creative home.”Lizzie Hagstedt, the selected artist from Asolo Repertory Theatre, may be familiar to Sarasota audiences from her original compositions in Lifespan of a Fact, as well as an early sampling of her original musical “Sophie Blanchard’s High-Flyin’ Rock’n’Roll Extravaganza,” featured online in 2021 as part of the Asolo’s “Ground Floor Series: Making Musicals.” As part of her time at the Hermitage, Hagstedt plans to further develop the full version of this show, an all-femme actor/musician story about the life and pyrotechnic death of 19th-Century aeronaut Sophie Blanchard.

Jessica Obiedzinski, the selected performer from Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD), will use the time to develop and choreograph a solo dance piece focused on the physical impact trauma has on the body. “SCD is honored to be a part of the Hermitage Cross Arts Collaborative, offering a unique opportunity to create for our very own company member,” noted SCD Founder and Artistic Director Leymis Wilmott. “Jessica’s persistence and dedication to her dance and healing practice is a daily-lived experience. As a dance maker, she continues to be interested in the effects of emotional trauma and how that is embodied. This opportunity is encouraging Jessica to go deeper into her research and choreographic practice, and I am so excited for her and where this launchpad experience might propel her work next.”

After their time in residence, the Hermitage will collaborate with the selected partner institutions to bring a public program to the Sarasota community to highlight Jessica and Lizzie’s work. Details about this year’s event will be announced at a later date. 

Visual Artist Sandy Rodriguez and Dancer-Choreographer Rennie Harris Honored at the 2023 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner

The annual Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP) Dinner on Sunday, April 16th honored dancer-choreographer Lorenzo ‘Rennie’ Harris and visual artist Sandy Rodriguez. This was the culmination of a weekend-long celebration of events, hosted by the Hermitage Artist Retreat (Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO) in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation. To commemorate the 20th anniversary season of the Hermitage and the milestone 15th year of this distinguished national honor, the Hermitage presented two awards – one in the discipline of visual art and a special award in the field of dance and choreography. The evening of celebration was presented outdoors by the Ringling Museum’s Ca’ d’Zan and featured inspiring performances from Broadway star and Lucille Lortel Award winner Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer (Beetlejuice), hip-hop dancer Phil S. Cuttino Jr. (Rennie Harris Puremovement), violinist Samantha Bennett (EnsembleNEWSRQ), and special appearances from past Hermitage Greenfield Prize winners Sanford Biggers (2010, visual art), and Angélica Negrón (2022, music). The annual gala raised more than $240,000 in support of the Hermitage’s mission in addition to the Greenfield Foundation’s ongoing annual gift of $150,000. The festive evening was chaired by Sherry and Tom Koski, with honorary co-chairs Steven High (The Ringling Museum), Nate Jacobs (Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe), Virginia Shearer (Sarasota Art Museum)and Iain Webb (Sarasota Ballet). Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg served as master of ceremonies and announced that the Ringling Museum will be collaborating with the Hermitage as the presenting partner for the premieres of both Sandy Rodriguez and Rennie Harris’ commissions in Sarasota in 2025. Harris and Rodriguez each receive a $30,000 commission, along with an extended residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat.

The evening opened with a performance from Philadelphia-based dancer Phil S. Cuttino Jr., a core member of Rennie Harris Puremovement, who kicked off the event with a tribute to hip-hop and street dance. Sandberg took the stage as master of ceremonies, and introduced a video documenting fifteen years of Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients, jurors, and presenting partners. Broadway star, Lucille Lortel Award winner, and Drama Desk Award nominee Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer enthralled the crowd with a performance of Stephen Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat,” from the musical Sunday in the Park with George, as a tribute to the creation of art.The program continued with Anne Patterson, one of this year’s visual art jurors and a Hermitage alumna artist, introducing a video of Sandy Rodriguez’s work and process. Two of this year’s dance jurors, Michael Novak (Artistic Director of Paul Taylor Dance Company)and Charmaine Warren (Founder and Artistic Director of “Black Dance Stories”) introduced selections of Rennie Harris’ extraordinary body of work. 2022 HGP recipient Angélica Negrón thanked the Hermitage for this opportunity and introduced her original violin and electronic music piece, “A través del manto luminoso.” The piece was performed by ensembleNewSRQ’s Samantha Bennett; enSRQ will be serving as the presenting partner for Negrón’s HGP commission, which will have its premiere in April of 2024 (further details to be announced).The evening continued with a surprise appearance from internationally renowned artist Sanford Biggers, the first-ever Hermitage Greenfield Prize winner in visual art (2010) and a current member of the Hermitage Curatorial Council. Biggers shared what the Hermitage and this award meant to his artistic practice, how the impact of this opportunity shaped the trajectory of his impressive career, and how important it is to pay that forward. To close out the event and celebrate the perfect weather, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer returned to the stage for a showstopping rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

“This was an extraordinary evening and a joyful celebration of this truly one-of-a-kind prize,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “It was an honor to celebrate Rennie Harris, Sandy Rodriguez, and their immeasurable talents, and we can’t wait to introduce their new works of art and dance to our Gulf Coast community. It was thrilling as well to hear live performances from Leslie Kritzer and an original piece by Angélica Negrón on the beautiful grounds of the Ringling Museum, along with inspiring remarks from the one and only Sanford Biggers. We are so grateful to the Greenfield Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and all of our sponsors and donors for their belief in our mission and the support of new work.”

The Hermitage Greenfield Prize is presented in partnership with the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation, who launched this initiative with the Hermitage in 2009. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County served as the lead community sponsor for this year’s festivities.

Sandy Rodriguez plans to use her commission to create a site-specific panoramic exhibition – the centerpiece of which will be a new large-scale map that depicts the southeastern topography and coastline marked by stories of resistance from the colonial period to the present. Created with hand-processed local mineral pigment watercolors on amate paper with an accompanying audio installation, the effect will be reminiscent of a 19th-century style panorama in the round. This is a further exploration of a series of exhibitions for which she has been celebrated, which maps the ongoing cycles of violence on communities of color by blending historical and recent events; this will be her first in this region. 

Rennie Harris’ intended commission will focus on a new dance piece titled “Losing My Religion,” a personal reflection on his own journey that weaves in thoughts on the world’s collective dilemmas. Harris is known for challenging what has come to be expected of street dance and hip-hop culture and the degenerative social norms and beliefs that ground the struggles of our time. As part of the work, he plans to incorporate a reimagining of his renowned solo “Endangered Species,” an autobiographical work recounting his experience of being chased and shot down in Kingston, Jamaica while touring as a U.S. ambassador for President Reagan’s ‘American Embassy Tour.’ The solo’s inclusion in the work completes a story of systemic racism and revolt, shifting away from what was to what is and what can be.

Angélica Negrón’s commission seeks to engage the senses and encourage listeners to resist distractions with a composed work timed with the setting sun and inspired partly by the sun’s low-frequency sounds as captured by scientists. Her composition of strings and electronic music will feature slowly evolving musical textures, shifting patterns, natural sounds, and changes in scale and dimension that play with the unfolding gradations of light and color on the surrounding land, water, and sky – serving as a gentle reminder to surrender to moments of inspiration. 

Sarasota Art Museum and Hermitage Announce Plans for New Collaborative Exhibitions  

Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College of Art and Design and the Hermitage Artist Retreat are pleased to announce an expansion of their existing collaboration that will culminate with two full-scale art exhibitions at Sarasota Art Museum in the spring of 2024. While the Hermitage and the Museum have partnered on previous community programs featuring award-winning Hermitage artists across multiple disciplines, these will be the first major exhibitions of Hermitage alumni artists at Sarasota Art Museum.

Dan Cameron has been selected to curate an exhibition of multiple Hermitage artists spanning the past two decades. Cameron is a longtime member of the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council, and he will work in collaboration with Sarasota Art Museum’s Senior Curator Rangsook Yoon to shape an exhibition of works focused on the impact of 10 Hermitage artists, tracing the trajectory of their artistic journeys — from their residencies at the Hermitage to the return of their work to Sarasota. 

The Museum will simultaneously present a solo exhibition featuring new work and a site-specific installation by Hermitage Fellow Anne Patterson (American, born 1960) curated by Yoon. Patterson is a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn. Her body of work consists of paintings, sculptures, and large-scale multimedia installations that combine sculpture, architecture, lighting, video, music, and scent. 

As a synesthete (when she hears sound, she sees color and shape), Patterson seeks to create an experience which can transport audiences to a multisensory realm. Drawing from her background in theater set design, she uses these modalities to create an artistic practice, hovering somewhere between the visual, experiential, and immersive. Following her Hermitage Fellowship, Patterson became known to Sarasota audiences through her Pathless Woodsexhibit at The Ringling Museum, and she was subsequently commissioned by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to create an original, community-based piece that now hangs in their lobby called Circle of Thirds (2017).

Now celebrating its 20th Anniversary Season, the Hermitage is one of the preeminent arts incubators in the United States and has hosted some of the world’s leading visual artists in residence as Hermitage Fellows, along with artists spanning theater, music, literature, dance, and film. Sarasota Art Museum is a leading contemporary art museum focused on transformative, relevant, and pioneering exhibitions designed to elevate and empower. Both organizations are committed to exhibiting and championing bold and innovative artists with a global perspective. In addition to the two exhibitions spanning the second and third floors of the Museum, additional talks and programming will be scheduled. 

“The Hermitage has nurtured and supported hundreds of artists since its inception,” said Sarasota Art Museum Executive Director Virginia Shearer. “It is an honor to highlight the important role the Hermitage plays in advancing creative practice and building a rich network of artists who continue to impact and inform the cultural life of our city, and beyond.”

“We are incredibly excited to be partnering with Sarasota Art Museum as they showcase and celebrate the work of these extraordinary Hermitage visual artists,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “While all Hermitage Fellows offer our community a ‘sneak peek’ into their work and creative process, these thrilling exhibitions will offer Gulf Coast audiences a more complete look at the expansive talent of these diverse and accomplished visual artists, whose creations often take years to complete.”

Further details about both exhibitions will be announced in the fall of 2023. For more information about either organization, visit HermitageArtistRetreat.org and SarasotaArtMuseum.org.

Hermitage Announces New Programs in May and June

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced new programs throughout the months of May and June. Continuing its 20th Anniversary Season, these events will be presented all across Sarasota County, from the Hermitage’s beautiful beachfront campus on Manasota Key to the Van Wezel Terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay, as well as virtual offerings expanding access beyond geographic limitations. Hermitage programs introduce world-renowned artists to Florida’s Gulf Coast community and audiences across the country for candid and engaging conversations, musical performances, play readings, work-in-process showings, and educational opportunities for students and adults.

Newly announced programs in May include partnerships with Urbanite Theatre, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens at Historic Spanish Point, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and a new virtual program with support from Florida Humanities. Featured artists and performers include returning Hermitage Fellow and Tony Nominee Bess Wohl (Grand Horizons, Small Mouth Sounds) who provides the key-note conversation as part of Urbanite Theatre’s Modern Works Festival and whose play Camp Siegfried recently premiered Off-Broadway following development at the Hermitage; Julliard-trained violinist and 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Finalist Mazz Swift, who has performed at such iconic venues as Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, and New York’s Lincoln Center; returning Hermitage alumna and internationally celebrated cellist Karen Patterson; as well as Pulitzer Prize Finalist Zora Howard (Hang TimeStewThe Master’s Tools). June programs will spotlight the work of writer and acclaimed translator Jennifer Croft (William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, Man Booker International Prize) and author Tony Barnstone offering his literary insight through Tarot cards, plus as a showcase of original songs by Hermitage composers presented by some of Sarasota’s most celebrated performers.

On Friday, May 5th at 8pm, the Hermitage partners with Urbanite Theatre to present a conversation with Bess Wohl as part of Urbanite Theatre’s popular Modern Works Festival. Sarasota audiences will remember Wohl from the recent production of Grand Horizons at Asolo Rep as well as the in-process showing of selections from Camp Siegfried on the Hermitage Beach prior to its recent run in New York at Second Stage Theatre. As one of the most exciting voices writing for the stage today, this Tony Award-nominated playwright and returning Hermitage alumna will discuss her works and career as part of the festival’s focus on women in theater. 

The following week, Hermitage programs continue on Friday, May 12th at 6:30pm on the Hermitage Beach with “Black Women in our Collective Culture,” an interdisciplinary program featuring the works of Hermitage Fellows Delita Martin and Imani Perry. These two acclaimed Hermitage Fellows share a common subject: redefining the role and representation of Black people and particularly Black women in our collective culture. A multimedium visual artist, Martin has been exhibited both nationally and internationally with work combining collage, painting, drawing, and sewing techniques. Perry is the author of seven books and Pen Bograd-Weld Award for Biography, the Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction. 

On Friday, May 19th at 6:30pm, the Hermitage is pleased to welcome the return of cellist Karen Patterson for the next installment of the popular “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” series. One of the Hermitage’s earliest alumna musicians, Patterson will play an informal cello concert of favorites and original works at Selby Gardens: Historic Spanish Point. Since her time at the Hermitage, Patterson has performed all over the world including the Lagos Jazz Series Festival in Nigeria, the Jazz and Gospel Fest in Rio De Janiero, and a world premiere by Egyptian-American Composer Halim El-Dabh for the Dayton Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. “Cello on Point,” the latest installment of the “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby” series, promises to be a magical evening of beautiful music at Historic Spanish Point.

With “Moved to Music: Violin on the Bay,” the Hermitage partners with the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall to bring two genre-bending violinists to the Outdoor Terrace of this iconic Sarasota venue (recently home to the Hermitage’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Concert). Presented on Friday, May 26th at 6:30pm, “Moved to Music” combines the Julliard-trained violin talents of Mazz Swift, described by Jazz Right Now as “soaring and lyrical,” with the holistic approach of New Orleans-based violinist, teacher, and yoga instructor Rebecca Crenshaw. Both artists center the power of music to forge community and express big ideas, and both will share selections of their work and process. In addition to being a returning Hermitage alumna, Swift was also recognized as a finalist for the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize.      

The Hermitage’s “Artists and Thinkers” series continues on Wednesday, May 31st at 6:30pm ET with “Stewing with Zora Howard,” a conversation with Pulitzer Prize Finalist Zora Howard. Thanks in part to the support provided by Florida Humanities, this virtual artist conversation dives deep into the cultural, historical, and economic realities of her play Stew, which has been celebrated as a contemporary triumph. Facilitated by Hermitage Programs Director James Monaghan, this program is presented online and features selections of the work in addition to the artist’s insights and opportunities for audience members to engage directly via the ‘Q&A’ feature.   

The Hermitage’s year-round outdoor programming continues in June with “The Radiant Tarot: Pathway to Creativity” on Friday, June 16th at 6:30pm on the Hermitage Beach with Hermitage Fellow and writer Tony Barnstone. Inspired by the words of Rilke and William Blake amongst many other artists and practitioners, the artwork and guidebook of this Tarot deck are aimed at awakening creativity and personal growth. In this program, Barnstone, author of the guidebook, will illuminate some of the impulses behind its creation, its potential interpretations, and the creative projects it has already inspired. Don’t miss this intriguing take on the age-old quest of every artist: to capture creative inspiration and make the next great work.   

The following week, the Hermitage presents “The Many Languages of Jennifer Croft” at 6:30pm on Tuesday, June 20th on the Hermitage Beach. Recipient of the 2020 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing for her illustrated memoir Homesick and the 2018 Man-Booker International Prize for her translation of from Polish of Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s FlightsJennifer Croft is an accomplished writer as well as translator. She also happens to be married to gifted writer and translator Boris Dralyuk who joins her as part of the Hermitage’s Family Residency program. Croft and Dralyuk share selections from their original and translated works as well as offering insight on the mercurial art of translation. In recognition of this great evening of words, the Hermitage is partnering with a number of literary organizations to support the event including Sarasota County Libraries and the Johann Fust Library Foundation on Boca Grande. 

As the summer officially begins, the Hermitage travels to Lakewood Ranch on Friday, June 23rd at 7pm to present “Songs from the Sand: A Hermitage Cabaret.” This evening of song at Lakewood Ranch’s “Waterside Pavilion” stage will feature original songs and words created by artists who have been in residence on its Manasota Key campus presented by Sarasota’s finest performers. From Adam Gwon to Jeanine Tesori, Michael R. Jackson to Kit Yan, and Rona Siddiqui to Zoe Sarnak, the Hermitage has provided space and time to some of the most exciting musical theater writers working in the industry today. Hear some of these breathtaking and inspiring works, as well as little known stories surrounding some of their creation, performed by some of Sarasota’s greatest talents. (Details of the composers and performers to be announced at a later date.)

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.

Hermitage Announces Second Annual Concert in the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series

The Hermitage Artist Retreat is pleased to announce the second annual concert in the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage, featuring award-winning composer and lyricist Zoe Sarnak. This alumni music initiative was launched last year to a full-capacity crowd at Selby Gardens with “Soulful Strings: An Evening of Harp Music,” featuring celebrated harpist and Hermitage alumna Ashley Jackson. This year’s event will be presented in partnership with the Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy. Sarnak is a New York City-based Hermitage alum whose songs and musicals have premiered throughout New York, Los Angeles, and across the United States at venues such as the Public Theater, Geffen Playhouse, Roundabout Theatre Company, Williamstown Theater Festival, and more. Joined by Sarasota-based vocalists and musicians, Sarnak will perform her original songs, including some of her latest work. Presented by the water at Nathan Benderson Park, this outdoor event is free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee. Tickets will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis, at which time registrations will shift to a waitlist.

The Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage offers the opportunity for a distinguished Hermitage alumni composer or musician to return for additional residency time and a special community concert. This initiative is made possible by a generous multi-year gift from the Ruby E. and Carole Crosby Family Foundation. Hermitage Trustee Carole Crosby initiated this gift as a special tribute to her mother Ruby, who helped to inspire her own deep love of music. A musician herself, Carole Crosby graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music and played the harp in both the Atlanta Symphony and Detroit Symphony. Following the success of classical musician Ashley Jackson’s performance in 2022, Zoe Sarnak is an exciting contemporary pop-rock-folk composer making waves in the world of musical theater, as well as television and film. Sarnak was a compelling selection for this initiative, as her work combines the Crosby’s love of music with an equal passion for theater and storytelling.    

“I am continually inspired by the Hermitage’s commitment to artists and the impact these magnificent talents are having in our community,” said Hermitage Trustee Carole Crosby. “Music was always incredibly important to me and to my mother, so it’s an honor to celebrate her memory with this initiative spotlighting and supporting some truly extraordinary composers and musicians.”

Frequently cited for her ability to blend the contemporary music world with other genres like traditional musical theater to create a sound that is uniquely hers, Sarnak’s work has been heralded by VarietyBroadwayWorldSeattle Times, and more. She is the recipient of the Jonathan Larson Award, and a finalist for the Ebb Award, the Kleban Prize, and the Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award. Her works have been performed at such noted institutions as Second Stage, The Public Theater, Roundabout Theatre Company, Williamstown Theater Festival, New York Stage & Film, The Guggenheim, Geffen Playhouse, Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, and New York Theatre Workshop, amongst many others. She recently opened the world premiere of The Lonely Few starring Tony Award winner Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill) at L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse for which she created music and lyrics alongside Hermitage Fellow, award-winning playwright Rachel Bonds, as well as film and television projects with Netflix and CBS. Full bio below; also available at ZoeSarnak.com.

Zoe Sarnak’s concert and Hermitage residency are made possible through the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage. This second concert in the annual series, “The Pop-Folk World of Zoe Sarnak” will be presented outdoors at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota on Wednesday, April 26th at 7pm. (Estimated running time: 60-70 minutes).

New March Progams Announced

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces new programs to round out the month of March. These events will be presented across Sarasota County, from Asolo Repertory Theatre to Butler Park in North Port. 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 programs in March include partnerships with Asolo Repertory Theatre, Embracing Our Differences, and North Port High School. Featured artists and performers include Hermitage Fellows Kit Yan (Jonathan Larson Grant and Kleban Prize recipient), writer-actor Nandita Shenoy (O’Neill Finalist, Kilroys List), and celebrated teaching artist Tina LaPadula (founder, Seattle Teaching Artist Network, former chair Association of Teaching Artists).  

On Friday, March 24 at 6pm, the Hermitage presents “Complicated, Beautiful, Messy and Strange: The Words and Music of Kit Yan,” at Asolo Rep’s Robert & Beverly Koski Center. With Kit’s musical collaborations receiving development and productions across the country at noted theaters such as Seattle’s 5th Ave Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Mixed Blood Productions, and NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre), Kit Yan is quickly becoming a theatrical force. In this combination musical cabaret and artist talk, audiences will hear music and poetry from past work as well as new material. 

The following week, Hermitage programs continue on Thursday, March 30th at 5pm in beautiful Butler Park in North Port with “Creativity for All,” a participatory storytelling program facilitated by leading teaching artists and Hermitage Fellows Tina LaPadula and Nandita Shenoy. Using the large-scale visual art exhibition curated and installed outdoors by Embracing Our Differences, these two incredible artists and educators invite students and community members to explore their own perspective and share their voices. With LaPadula’s background founding and chairing national arts non-profits dedicated to change and focused on engaging students and Shenoy’s experiences acting and writing at theaters across the United States, this program promises to be an engaging and joyful celebration of our community.

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.

Full Line-Up of Events for 2023 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Weekend, April 14-16

The Hermitage Artist Retreat in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, presents the 15th year of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Weekend, April 14-16, 2023, culminating with the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on Sunday, April 16. This event – celebrating 2023 HGP winners Lorenzo ‘Rennie’ Harris (Dance & Choreography) and Sandy Rodriguez (Visual Art) – will also feature musical performances, including a selection from last year’s HGP recipient Angélica NegrónAdditional performers and guests will be announced at a later date. Tom and Sherry Koski serve as Co-Chairs for this year’s gala dinner, with Honorary Co-Chairs Steven High (Executive Director, The Ringling Museum of Art), Nate Jacobs (Founding Artistic Director, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe), Virginia Shearer (Executive Director, Sarasota Art Museum), and Iain Webb (Director, Sarasota Ballet).

This year’s weekend of events begins on Friday, April 14th at 5:30pm at the Asolo’s Cook Theater in the FSU Center for Performing Arts with “Aleshea Harris Presents,” featuring newly commissioned work from playwright, theater maker, and 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize winner Aleshea Harris. Her critically acclaimed plays include Is God Is, What to Send Up When It Goes Down, On Sugarland, and Brother, Brother. Described by The New York Times as “a rarefied theatrical intelligence,” Harris’ work seeks to honor the tragedies of the past and present while allowing for a potential hope to come. 

On Saturday, April 15th, the Hermitage presents two events on its Manasota Key campus honoring the distinguished recipients of this year’s prize. Both artists will receive six weeks of residency time as Hermitage Fellows to develop their projects, as well as a $30,000 prize to support the work. “Sandy Rodriguez: Putting Sarasota on the Map,” begins at 2pm in the Hermitage Palm House (indoors) and showcases the work of this year’s visual art recipient, Sandy Rodriguez. She will be joined by two jurors from this year’s selection process, renowned multidisciplinary artist and Hermitage alumna Anne Patterson and Creative Capital President Christine Kuan, Rodriguez will show examples of her work which often use topographical representations to merge societal issues past and present and discuss her process, including using hand-processed, locally sourced materials for pigments. 

The celebration continues on the Hermitage Beach at 6pm with “Rennie HarrisStreet Dance Pioneer,” a conversation with the first-ever Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipient in dance and choreography, Lorenzo ‘Rennie’ Harris, alongside jurors Joseph V. Melillo (Executive Director Emeritus, Brooklyn Academy of Music) and Charmaine Warren (founder of “Black Dance Stories”). Melillo has been a longtime friend of the Hermitage and was the first member of the Hermitage’s esteemed National Curatorial Council, and Warren is a celebrated dance writer and historian. Rennie Harris has dedicated his life and his company, Rennie Harris Puremovement, to preserving and celebrating hip-hop culture through workshops, demonstrations, and public performances and has revolutionized the relationship of this quintessentially American art form’s relationship to the broader dance community in the process.

With the exception of the Hermitage Greenfield Dinner on April 16th, the events on April 14th and 15th – like all Hermitage community programs – are free and open to the members of the public (with a $5/person registration fee). Registration is required for all events. 

“HERMITAGE TURNS 20: Andy Sandberg & Broadway Friends in Concert,” Mar. 20 at the Van Wezel

The Hermitage Artist Retreat today announced a one-night-only benefit concert to celebrate the 20th Anniversary Season of the Hermitage and to raise funds for ongoing repairs to the Hermitage following the impact of Hurricane Ian earlier this season. On Monday, March 20th at 7:30pm, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg returns to his roots as a performer to sing this benefit concert at Sarasota’s iconic Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Sandberg – a director, writer, performer, and Tony Award-winning producer – will be joined on stage by Broadway guest stars (to be announced at a later date) and accompanied by Hermitage Fellow and 2023 Grammy Award nominee Rona Siddiqui. Tickets are available at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall box office, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236; by calling (941) 263-6799; or online at VanWezel.org.

While many in Florida know Sandberg for his leadership role at the Hermitage, he has nearly two decades of experience in theater and television. As a performer, he has traveled the world with the Yale Whiffenpoofs and Alley Cats and has played iconic roles such as Tony in West Side Story, Leo Frank in Parade, Freddy in My Fair Lady, Huck in Big River, and many original works. As a director, writer, and producer, his works have been seen on and off Broadway, on London’s West End, and recently on the Hallmark Channel, where he wrote the scripts for the movies “Haul Out the Holly,” starring Lacey Chabert, and “Five More Minutes,” based on the hit song by Scotty McCreery.

As Artistic Director of the Hermitage, Sandberg spends the majority of his time championing leading artists and performers who are developing new work. For this one night only, Sandberg will perform a concert of Broadway songs to raise valuable funds for the Hermitage. He will be joined by some of Broadway’s brightest stars who are coming to Florida to celebrate the impact of this vital national arts organization on the Sarasota community and beyond. Additional guest performers will be announced at a later date.

“It’s been many years since I’ve performed a concert of this scale, and I cannot think of a better cause than supporting this organization I love so dearly,” said Sandberg. “I am incredibly proud of the work our team has been doing to keep the Hermitage driving forward in the months following Hurricane Ian, and I am certainly not above singing for our supper – quite literally!”

Tickets for this concert are $25, $50, and $75 (additional phone and online booking fees may apply). A limited number of $250 VIP tickets, which include a reception following the performance, are available ($175 of this $250 price is a tax-deductible contribution to the Hermitage). Thanks to generous underwriting from sponsors, all proceeds from ticket sales will directly benefit the Hermitage Artist Retreat.

Tickets are available at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall box office, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236; by calling (941) 263-6799; or online at  VanWezel.org.

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.