The wave of support continues

The Hermitage Artist Retreat received a $100,000 matching grant from the Manasota Key-based Cook family at the beginning of April. That challenge
was met in less than one month. $30,000 of this was received through the 2020
Giving Challenge, including more than $18,000 from individuals and nearly $12,000 from The Patterson Foundation. Now, thanks to a generous additional wave of support, the Hermitage has received a $50,000 pledge from a group of supporters to extend this matching challenge above and beyond the Cooks’ original gift. As a result, all gifts to the Hermitage will continue to be matched through June 30.

“We are truly overwhelmed by the response from our community,” says
Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “This generous matching
challenge has been met by artists, audiences, volunteers, staff, trustees, and so
many more. We are deeply grateful to the Cook family and to all who believe so
deeply in the Hermitage. It is wonderful to have such champions in this time of great need, and it is inspiring to see the outpouring of support for artists and the creative process during this critical moment in our cultural history.”

“We are hopeful that the overwhelming generosity of our community – and our artists’ extraordinary stories about why the Hermitage’s work is so meaningful – will inspire others to show their support for the Hermitage. We are encouraged to see such commitment to the arts in this uncertain time, and with our fellow arts and cultural institutions, we will continue to rally behind the artists and the new works that fill the stages, the museums, and the concert halls that we all know and love.”

To contribute to the Hermitage Artist Retreat, click here or call 941-475-2098, Ext. 2.

Hermitage receives $100,000 matching pledge in response to COVID-19 crisis

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.

Andy Sandberg appointed artistic director and CEO

Following an extensive national search, the board of the Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that the organization has chosen Andy Sandberg as its artistic director and chief executive officer. Sandberg is an accomplished director, writer, and Tony Award-winning producer, whose national and international career has been committed to new work and artist development.

Click here to read the full announcement and learn more about Andy. Events to introduce Andy to the community will be announced at a later date.

A Letter to the Community
Andy Sandberg
Artistic Director and Chief Executive Officer
The Hermitage Artist Retreat

Dear Hermitage Friends, Colleagues, Neighbors, and Alumni,

I am honored to lead the Hermitage into the next chapter of its history. Throughout my career, I have been an advocate for new work, and the Hermitage provides artists an invaluable opportunity to nurture bold ideas while planting the seeds for great works of art to sprout up around the country and throughout the world. I have been fortunate to work with so many brilliant artists over the years as a director, writer, and producer, and I am incredibly excited to be appointed the artistic director and CEO of the Hermitage, an organization that shares my longstanding commitment to artistic growth and the development of new work.

I look forward to being part of this extraordinary tradition and working with a brilliant and diverse group of artists across multiple disciplines to achieve their goals. The unique experience that the Hermitage offers is essential to our artistic landscape. The original and impactful works created at the Hermitage are going on to renowned theaters, concert halls, and galleries throughout the United States and across multiple continents.

It is a privilege to work with the board of trustees, the dedicated Hermitage staff, and our regional partners as we plan for the future of this great organization. I am grateful to Bruce Rodgers for his years of unwavering leadership, and I am eager to build on the organization’s impressive history while also reimagining what’s possible for the Hermitage in the years ahead. As we look to expand the Hermitage’s reach and impact, building new partnerships and relationships for the company, I am energized by and deeply committed to our core mission – to inspire the artists of our time.

Thank you for welcoming me into your community and into the Hermitage family.

Sincerely,
Andy Sandberg

Dear Friends of the Hermitage

If you missed the March 16th meeting of the Friends, this message may be for you. After serving as the Coordinator of the Friends of the Hermitage for the past several years, I am stepping aside to make room for someone else to fill the position.

Dear Friends,

Portrait of Marianne painted by artist and Friend of the Hermitage, Jacobina Trump

If you missed the March 16th meeting of the Friends, this message may be for you. After serving as the Coordinator of the Friends of the Hermitage for the past several years, I am stepping aside to make room for someone else to fill the position.

I have enjoyed meeting all of you and working with many of you during my tenure. Thank you for all your willingness to help out when needed and for your friendship that I hope will continue to grow in the future.

Soon Mike and I will be heading north to Canada for the summer. When we return in the fall we plan to volunteer at the Hermitage as usual. I will continue to oversee the libraries in the main cottage and to serve as the Friends liaison to the Artful Lobster Committee. I also hope to organize more literary events whenever there is an appropriate writer in residence.

So exactly what does the position entail? First of all, the length of time you have been a Friend is of no concern. New Friends are as welcome as “old” Friends to step up to the plate. Being the Friends Coordinator is a great way to get to know the workings of the Hermitage, the artists, the staff and the volunteers. The Friends meet about four times a year and at most of those meetings we are treated to a special program by a Hermitage
Fellow. At this past meeting we enjoyed a fabulous program by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova. Just another perk of being a Friend.

Coordinator responsibilities include being an ambassador for the Hermitage as in networking with the community and spreading the word. Greeting returning Friends at meetings and events and welcoming new and potential volunteers is important to keeping the Friends strong and growing.

Sharyn Lonsdale, the campus director, will be work with you in setting the agenda for meetings. She will also make it incredibly easy for you to actively participate in those meetings. You will work with Sharyn to make sure volunteers are happy with their roles in the organization. In addition, you are free to pursue any project that interests you and to encourage other volunteers to do the same.

It may be that two or more of you would like to share the position of Coordinator. If you would like to volunteer your leadership, Sharyn will welcome you with open arms.

I look forward to seeing you at the last meeting of the season slated for Friday, May 6th, details to be announced later. Hopefully, Sharyn can introduce us to a new Coordinator of the Friends by then.

Happy spring!
Marianne

Bringing the Hermitage to You

I recently had the delightful opportunity to speak to a local group, The Lemon Bay Garden Club. Several of the members of this group are also Friends of the Hermitage and every year swoop in like Santa’s elves to decorate the Hermitage House for the holidays. It was a pleasure to return the favor and share the Hermitage with those members who might not be as well acquainted with us.

I recently had the delightful opportunity to speak to a local group, The Lemon Bay Garden Club. Several of the members of this group are also Friends of the Hermitage and every year swoop in like Santa’s elves to decorate the Hermitage House for the holidays. It was a pleasure to return the favor and share the Hermitage with those members who might not be as well acquainted with us.

I also just got to speak about the history of the Hermitage in front of hundreds of people at the Lemon Bay History Fest Cracker Fair, a celebration of Old Florida. Clocking in at 109-years-old, the Hermitage House certainly qualifies as “Old Florida.” And as for history, we’ve got plenty.

This event took place just a few miles from the Hermitage but to my surprise, many in the audience not only had never been to one of our free programs, but they weren’t sure where we were or what we did. They were thrilled to hear that we had renowned national and international writers, artists, composers and choreographers staying right here in Englewood and sharing their work and talent throughout the area.

The Festival also provided several volunteers the opportunity to chat up the Hermitage with others in the community. It was wonderful to watch Margaret Riley and her husband Pat, John Arnold and Maria Baskin share their enthusiasm and knowledge, along with the beautiful scrapbooks created by Jackie Parsons. Thanks to all our Friends who gave up part of their Saturday to spread the word about the Hermitage.


John Arnold, Margaret Riley and Pat Riley get ready to greet the crowd at the Lemon Bay History Fest “Cracker Fair” on Feb. 13.

Friends Column

Now it’s May and many of you are gone for the summer. Others of you who are year-round residents hopefully will continue your volunteerism as usual. For me it’s a “push-me/pull you time of year with looking forward to another summer in Ontario and at the same time being reluctant to leave the Hermitage at this exciting time in its history. I would love to be here to help with the move to the Palms next door. In case you didn’t know, there may be plans for the Friends to have a room all our own where we can have meetings and work together on projects.

Dear Friends of the Hermitage,

Now it’s May and many of you are gone for the summer. Others of you who are year-round residents hopefully will continue your volunteerism as usual. For me it’s a “push-me/pull you time of year with looking forward to another summer in Ontario and at the same time being reluctant to leave the Hermitage at this exciting time in its history. I would love to be here to help with the move to the Palms next door. In case you didn’t know, there may be plans for the Friends to have a room all our own where we can have meetings and work together on projects.

Many thanks to Linda Schilke, Bob Kinsley and Mike Schafer who cleaned closets, cupboards, drawers, nooks and crannys. Thanks to Richard Parsons who made the door to the Harry Potter closet open and close easily. Thanks also to Mary Clement, Joan Dusenbury, Audrey Snyder, Carolyn Moore, Velvet Wildermuth and Kay Rihn who made short work of giftwrapping favors for the Greenfield Dinner. Thanks to Gladys Varga and Jacobina Trump for their work in the libraries. Thanks to Tom Dignam who transported a donated bookshelf from Venice and Jackie Parsons and Carolyn Moore who recycled worn-out Artful Lobster tablecloths into napkins. And a special thank you to new friend Becky Dexter who used her design skills to rearrange furnishings in the Hermitage House.

Please mark your calendars for a special event planned for Monday, November 2nd. Writer Tony Eprile will be in residence, and all of you are invited to take part in meeting with him to discuss his novel, “The Persistence of Memoy”. Tony is a South African now living in Vermont. His novel won the Koret Jewish Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. It was also listed as a Best Book of 2004 by the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Also invited to the meeting are three book discussion groups from Manasota Key. It should be a stimulating morning with Tony and a chance to meet other readers who live on the Key. You are welcome to bring family and friends and enjoy the beach afterwards. You can order “The Persistence of Memory” from Book Store1 in Sarasota. It is also available in hardcover, paperback and affordable used copies at Amazon.com. Stay tuned for more details in the fall.

Have a happy summer, and I look forward to seeing you around the time of Pioneer Days in Englewood for our annual Open House and other Labor Day weekend activities.

Marianne Schafer
Coordinator of the Friends of the Hermitage

Music at Sunset with ETHEL

Magic happens when we combine the world’s best artists with our beautiful seaside landscape. More than 400 people showed up with picnics and beach chairs for the most popular “Artists on the Beach” event the Hermitage has ever produced. They came to hear contemporary classical string quartet ETHEL.

Music at Sunset with ETHEL
May 23 on the New College Waterfront
By Patricia Caswell, Co-Founder and Program Director

Magic happens when we combine the world’s best artists with our beautiful seaside landscape. More than 400 people showed up with picnics and beach chairs for the most popular “Artists on the Beach” event the Hermitage has ever produced. They came to hear contemporary classical string quartet ETHEL.

Called by the New Yorker “the virtuosic alternative string quartet…vital and brilliant.” And by the New York Times: “Extraordinarily skilled, passionate musicians.” *ETHEL will perform greatest hits from the ETHEL Songbook, to include music by some of the six Hermitage composers who have written for the quartet and the members of ETHEL. Featuring a special ETHEL meditation on the setting sun.

I have long wanted to bring one of our beach artist events to North Sarasota County for people who think the drive to the Hermitage is too far. Now it will happen, thanks to our friends at New Music, New College along with ETHEL residency sponsor Ina Schnell, and Gerri Aaron who helps us produce all of our artistic programs.

Do not forget to bring your own beach chairs or blankets (there is no seating available at this setting) and refreshments at 7:30pm on Saturday, May 23 to College Hall on the New College Campus. We will remake the Hermitage beach concert experience to give you a hint of what you are missing if you haven’t been to one.

ETHEL on the stage is one thing to experience, but we got to experience the heart of ETHEL while they were in residence. On stage they are lauded for their broad range, fearlessness, musical boundary crossing, and technical mastery. They happen to be four of the most sensitive, kind, inclusive, warm, generous and energetic individuals we have had at the Hermitage. Beneath the music is their spirit. The place just feels good in their presence. It feels optimistic, contagiously experimental and fun. To be in the midst of their creating music is a memory-etching experience. As sponsors, Ina and Gerri will get to spend time among them – a rare treat. They will hear the walls of this 108 year-old house reverberate like the interior of a violin. The old wood floors will vibrate with the musicians’ tapping feet crescendoing to a window rattling stomp.

We will all get to see and hear the results on the bay at New College. See you there!

* As a footnote, Hermitage composers who have written for ETHEL include Anna Clyne, Evan Ziporyn, Doug Cuomo, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Robert Mirabal and Phil Kline, plus the members of ETHEL who are composers.

Five Generations of the Dignam Family Legacy at the Hermitage

Over the years Tom Dignam worked with us on the renovation of the Hermitage buildings. He supplied a never-ending stream of free construction material, labor, and furnishings. He came to the rescue when artists locked themselves out, when the electricity went off and when snakes got into studios. I even caught him cleaning the refrigerator and re-arranging furniture. Renowned Playwright Craig Lucas thought Tom was the handyman and was astonished that we named a building after him.

Over the years Tom Dignam worked with us on the renovation of the Hermitage buildings. He supplied a never-ending stream of free construction material, labor, and furnishings. He came to the rescue when artists locked themselves out, when the electricity went off and when snakes got into studios. I even caught him cleaning the refrigerator and re-arranging furniture. Renowned Playwright Craig Lucas thought Tom was the handyman and was astonished that we named a building after him.

When we first started saving the Hermitage buildings as an artist retreat, Tom’s father, George Dignam had just died. He had long been a civic leader in Englewood and we thought it would have been apropos to link the Dignam name with these historic buildings. That finally happened several years later when we named the “Tom Dignam Beach Cottage”.

The Dignams were destined to be connected to the Hermitage. My co-founder, Syd Adler and I asked David Dignam, also a civic leader and a rising star in Englewood to donate time and money to our cause. David said he would give us the best gift we could get: His dad, Tom.

While Tom knew construction, George’s granddaughter Leslie knew fund raising events. She started our highly successful and much loved lobster bake. More than once writers edited a few choice words to downgrade their R-rated scripts to G for George Dignam’s great granddaughter, Taylor who was often the only child at readings. When Brandon Dignam wanted to get married at the Hermitage, how could we say anything but “Yes.”

Annette and Tom attend nearly every beach reading, every volunteer meeting and every fundraiser. Tom became a popular historic home tour docent, spinning tales that became better each time. Annette always showed her appreciation for the art and the artists, especially the writers. She reads their books and loves to talk to the authors. She sits in the first row at every Friends meeting and reading.

That’s why it was easy to surprise her a few weeks ago when we honored Annette with the The Annette Dignam Hermitage/State College of Florida Residency in Literature. At the surprise announcement party Annette, in the front row, didn’t see her whole family gather in the rows behind. Her face glowed with emotion as the residency was announced. Love and appreciation flowed generously as folks from the Hermitage, SCF, and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation let Annette know how much she has meant to them. She served on the SCF Foundation for many years. This endowed residency helps two organizations that Annette has helped nurture.

And in the audience was the 5th generation Dignam, baby Garrett who may someday be mentored in writing by a holder of the Annette Dignam Hermitage/SCF residency in Literature.

Travels with our Friends

I was sorry to miss December at the Hermitage, especially the beach event that had so many people in attendance. Thanks to all of you who helped out in so many ways while I was away.

Marianne Schafer, Coordinator, Friends of the Hermitage

I was sorry to miss December at the Hermitage, especially the beach event that had so many people in attendance. Thanks to all of you who helped out in so many ways while I was away.

Actually, I heard all about it via the Hermitage website all the way on the other side of the world in Indonesia where Mike and I spent the month celebrating the marriage of our eldest son to a lovely young woman we have come to adore.

After the wedding in Jakarta, we spent two weeks travelling with the newlyweds to Yogyakarta and the island of Gili Trawangan off the coast of Bali and Lombok. Yogyakarta is known as the center of classical Javanese fine art and culture. Highlights of our travels were seeing a traditional Javanese ballet, hearing the beautiful strains of a Javanese orchestra, and shopping for batiks, tapestries, and fine silver filagree jewelry where the various processes were demonstrated for us by skilled artisans. We also witnessed a 4 a.m. sunrise over Borabadur, the largest Buddhist archaeological site in the world.

We spent Christmas on Gili Trawangan where I felt like I was living in a National Geographic article. We arrived there by boat, having waded into the Indian Ocean with our luggage to an awaiting water taxi. We spent the last week relaxing in a three-bedroom house a swimming pool with a soothing waterfall that was a welcome relief from the tropical heat. Breakfast was brought to our dining table; and we ate the rest of our meals in restaurants along a narrow, dusty cobblestone road traversed by bicycles, horse-drawn carts and pedestrians—no motor scooters or cars allowed.

All the time I was reminded of the Hermitage and the wonderful artists we have met and enjoyed there. Seeing a culture on the other side of the world made me realize more than ever how alike we all are, no matter where we live on this precious planet. Art is truly the universal language of mankind.

Now I am happy to be back home enjoying the cultural life that is the Hermitage and looking forward to all that the Hermitage has to offer in the New Year. Hopefully, you will continue to make the Hermitage a part of your life, too and we hope to see you at the February 12 meeting of the Friends of the Hermitage.