At a time when arts groups are facing financial challenges because of revenue losses triggered by the coronavirus, the Hermitage Artist Retreat is getting some extra support.
The Cook family, neighbors and supporters of the artist retreat on Manasota Key, have committed to matching all donations to the organization up to $100,000 through June 30.
“Rebecca Cook and her brother, Warren Cook and their family have been part of the Hermitage family and they really believe in the community and the mission of what we do on both the artistic side and the preservation of the land and nature,” said Andy Sandberg, the artistic director and CEO of the Hermitage.
The fundraising period for the matching grant covers this year’s 24-hour Giving Challenge, scheduled for noon April 28 to noon April 29, when the Patterson Foundation will also match the first $100 of every donation to any registered nonprofits.
“If someone gives $100, that gift will turn into $300 because it will be matched by both the Cooks and the Patterson Foundation,” Sandberg said. “We hope in a tricky time with the virus that this special gift will inspire people to get involved. If the creative process is stalled and isn’t allowed to find a way forward, it will be hard to find a way to production and performance and publication.”
The Hermitage owns several beachfront cottages where playwrights, composers, choreographers, painters and other artists are invited to spend six weeks over two years working on projects or just using the time to clear their minds. They are required to take part in two public programs during their residency.
The list of Hermitage fellows includes Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellowship award winners, as well as winners and nominees of Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Academy awards.
The Hermitage also administers the annual Greenfield Prize, which provides a $30,000 commission to visual artists, playwrights and composers on a rotating basis. The virus forced the Hermitage to cancel this year’s Greenfield Prize weekend, which annually generates donations and attention.
“The visibility of our program is what inspires people to get behind the organization, and the Greenfield weekend is a big contributor to that,” Sandberg said.
Some past Hermitage fellows have reached out to the organization and offered testimonial videos of support.
Doug Wright, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “I Am My Own Wife,” said the Hermitage afforded him “solace, hospitality, and natural beauty to write. I was able to sit with my thoughts and forge them like raw clay into something approximating art — that’s the great gift of the Hermitage.”
And director and playwright Emily Mann, longtime artistic director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., describes the Hermitage as “one of my favorite places on earth.” Mann said this is a time to reflect on why art matters and the Hermitage “lets artists dream and think deeply about the truth.”
Sandberg said the staff and board of the Hermitage is aware that the vital and impactful work of the artists who spend time at the retreat “may seem less urgent when compared to the matters of life and death amidst this horrible pandemic. Still, the arts and the creative spirit are part of what make our lives so meaningful and special.”
He said the staff is working on programming and residencies for artists to spend time on Manasota Key for the 2020-21 season.
“We are planning with the same momentum as other organizations that are announcing new seasons, and we are still strategizing for the future and how we can rise stronger than ever on the other side of this.”
This article appeared in the Herald-Tribune, April 12, 2020.