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.

Hermitage and The Bay Park announce new series

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and The Bay Park are joining forces to bring the Hermitage’s unique and innovative artist programming to one of Sarasota’s most exciting and ambitious public park projects through a new community program, “Hermitage at The Bay.”

“We are excited to partner with the esteemed Hermitage Artist Retreat to bring innovative events to The Bay,” says Jeannie Perales, Chief Experience Officer at The Bay Park Conservancy. “We know that attendees will delight in the Hermitage’s unique approach to audience engagement, and we’re proud to offer these programs to the community free of cost as a part of our effort to create a park that is open and accessible, free and welcoming to all.”

The first program — “Hermitage at The Bay: Sound and Color” on Thursday, November 18 at 5pm — features two Hermitage Fellows, composer Jared Miller and visual artist Iva Gueorguieva, who will share their latest work and speak about their creative process. Miller’s contemporary classical compositions range from the fast-paced rhythms of basketball in Buzzer Beater to the seismic shifts all around us in Under Sea, Above Sky. Gueorguieva’s art has been described as “the optical equivalent of surround sound” with a “perpetual suddenness” (LA Times). (Iva Gueorguieva’s Hermitage Residency generously sponsored by Gerald & Sondra Biller). Free with a $5 per person registration fee. Registration is required. The Bay’s Civic Green (on the north side of the Municipal Auditorium), 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236

On Sunday, December 12 at 2pm, “Hermitage at The Bay: Muse(ic) and Poetry” will feature two Hermitage Fellows, poets Francine J. Harris and Mae Yway (pictured). Harris is an Audre Lorde Award and Lambda Award winner, who will share selections from her latest work Here is the Sweet Hand, inspired by classic compositions. Renowned international poet Mae Yway from Burma (Myanmar) is an International Writing Program participant who presents work both in her native tongue and in translation. Free with a $5 per person registration fee. Registration is required. The Bay’s Civic Green (on the north side of the Municipal Building), 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236

New beach program with Tony Award nominee Bess Wohl

The Hermitage Artist Retreat presents a conversation on the beach with 2020 Tony Award-nominated playwright and 2021 Hermitage Fellow Bess Wohl. “The Next Horizon: The Latest from Playwright Bess Wohl” is Thursday, November 4, 5:30 p.m. (ET), virtual via livestream. This program is presented in partnership with the Asolo Repertory Theatre, which will host the regional premiere of Wohl’s play Grand Horizons starting in January of 2022. 

Following its Broadway run, Wohl’s comedy Grand Horizons received a 2020 Tony Award nomination for Best Play. The story takes an intimate look at the unpredictable and enduring nature of love after 50 years of marriage. The regional premiere is at the Asolo Repertory Theatre on January 19, 2022.

Also, as part of the Hermitage’s partnership with the Asolo Rep, FSU/Asolo Conservatory will present its production of Much Ado About Nothing on the Hermitage Beach. This event, on Monday, November 1, 5:30 p.m., is part of the “BardWired” community touring series.

Both events are free with a $5 per person registration fee. Registration for all live and virtual Hermitage events is required at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

Playwright Aleshea Harris Celebrated at Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on April 11

More than 130 guests gathered to celebrate playwright Aleshea Harris, the winner of the 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize, on Sunday, April 11, at the annual Prize Dinner at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. The event had been moved earlier that day from its original outdoor setting at The Ringling’s Ca’ d’Zan due to inclement weather. The festive evening was chaired by Ellen Berman and Flora Major. Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage, served as master of ceremonies.

“Neither rain nor sleet nor any tropical storm was going to stop us from finding a way to celebrate Aleshea Harris as the winner of this year’s Hermitage Greenfield Prize!” noted Sandberg in true show-must-go-on fashion. “While the change of venue was an unexpected surprise, we were determined to forge ahead with this very special evening of entertainment and celebration. We thank everyone at The Ringling Museum and Michael’s On East for their shared commitment to the safety and comfort of our guests. The adoration, respect, and joy in honor of Aleshea were truly palpable, and we are so grateful to the Greenfield Foundation and all of our sponsors for their generous support.”

(L-R) Andy Sandberg, Ellen Berman, Flora Major, Aleshea Harris

“The evening was full of irrepressible energy and talent,” added co-chairs Ellen Berman and Flora Major. “Aleshea Harris is a powerful presence, and the crowd was alive with enthusiasm. The whole event was a seamless and stunning success, and the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner has been transformed into one of the most entertaining evenings in town, capturing the true spirit of diversity and talent of the Hermitage and its artists.”

The festive evening commenced with a welcome video from Black Theatre United, featuring the music video “Stand for Change,” with a personal message of welcome and words of congrats to Harris from acclaimed actor and producer Tamara Tunie (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; As the World Turns) on behalf of her fellow BTU co-founders: six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Wendell Pierce, and more. The evening also showcased a tribute video featuring brand-new footage from thirteen years of Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients, jurors, and presenting partners. Excerpts from Harris’ work On Sugarland were brought to life on stage by Ive Lyles (Westcoast Black Theater Troupe) and Imani Williams (Asolo Conservatory, pictured below). Following the presentation of the award to Ms. Harris, Sandberg introduced a stirring rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here,” performed by Broadway and Sarasota’s own Ann Morrison and accompanied by Joseph Holt on piano to conclude the celebration. “How fitting the metaphor of Sondheim’s lyrics – especially after this year!” exclaimed Morrison.

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.

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.”

Jennifer Packer wins 2020 Greenfield Prize

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, has selected New York-based artist Jennifer Packer as the winner of the 2020 Greenfield Prize, given this year in the field of visual art. Packer will receive a six-week residency at the Hermitage and a $30,000 commission for a new work, which will premiere in Sarasota in 2022 with the Hermitage’s presenting partner, The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Jennifer Packer creates expressionist portraits, interior scenes, and still lifes that suggest a casual intimacy. Packer views her works as the result of an authentic encounter and exchange. The models for her portraits—commonly friends or family members—are relaxed and seemingly unaware of the artist’s or viewer’s gaze. Packer’s paintings are rendered in loose line and brush stroke using a limited color palette, often to the extent that her subject merges with or retreats into the background. Suggesting an emotional and psychological depth, her work is enigmatic, avoiding a straightforward reading. “I think about images that resist, that attempt to retain their secrets or maintain their composure, that put you to work,” she explains. “I hope to make works that suggest how dynamic and complex our lives and relationships really are.”

A Lesson in Longing, 2019, oil on canvas, 108 x 144 inches

Born in 1984 in Philadelphia, Packer received her BFA from the Tyler University School of Art at Temple University in 2007, and her MFA from Yale University School of Art in 2012. She was the 2012-2013 Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and a Visual Arts Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, from 2014-2016. Packer currently lives and works in New York and is an assistant professor in the painting department at RISD.

Packer will receive her award at the Greenfield Prize Award Dinner on Sunday, April 19, 6 p.m., at Michael’s On East, 1212 East Avenue South, in Sarasota.

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.