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. 

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 Awards Two $30,000 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Commissions

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO), in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation, has selected two recipients for the 2023 Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP), one in the discipline of visual art and one in the field of dance and choreography. The prize is awarded annually, rotating between the fields of music, theater, and visual art. This year’s recipient in visual art is Sandy Rodriguez. Raised on the US-Mexico border, Rodriguez creates poignant landscapes that weave together history, social memory, contemporary politics, and cultural production.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary season of the Hermitage and the 15-year legacy of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize, the Hermitage and the Greenfield Foundation decided to present a second award in the discipline of dance and choreography. This is the first time the HGP is recognizing dance, with a special prize going to Lorenzo ‘Rennie’ Harris. Harris has been a pioneer in the street dance movement since founding Rennie Harris Puremovement in the early ‘90s, bringing authentic hip-hop experiences to the dance concert stage and educational spaces around the world.

Harris and Rodriguez will each receive a six-week Hermitage Fellowship and a $30,000 commission to create a new work in their respective fields, which will have their first public presentations in Sarasota County in 2025. 

“Amidst a truly extraordinary field of finalists for both dance and visual art, Rennie Harris and Sandy Rodriguez are both groundbreaking generative artists who impressed the respective juries with their compelling and inspiring proposals,” says Hermitage Artistic Director Andy Sandberg. “Their dedication to their craft embodies the mission of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize — to bring into the world works of art that have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic culture of our society. We thank our distinguished jurors for their passion and dedication, and we congratulate all of our brilliant finalists, whom we look forward to welcoming at the Hermitage. We look forward to welcoming Rennie and Sandy to Florida for the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner in April, and subsequently hosting them as Hermitage Fellows and sharing the first public presentations of their new commissions in Sarasota in 2025.” The Hermitage’s presenting partners for each of their works will be announced at a later date.

Lorenzo ‘Rennie’ Harris was born and raised in an African American community in North Philadelphia. In 1992, Harris founded Rennie Harris Puremovement, a street dance theater company dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-hop culture through workshops, classes, hip-hop history lecture demonstrations, long-term residencies, mentoring programs, and public performances. Harris founded his company based on the belief that hip-hop is the most important original expression of a new generation. His company has toured internationally performing such original works as “Rome and Jules,” a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (2001 ‘Bessie’ award in choreography); “Lazarus” as the first choreographer in residence for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2018; and “Lifted: A Gospel House Musical,” a New York Times Critics’ Pick when it premiered at the Joyce Theater in 2022, amongst many other productions and honors.     

Based in Los Angeles, Sandy Rodriguez is a first-generation Chicana artist and researcher. Since receiving her B.F.A. from the California Institute of Arts, she has exhibited her works at the Denver Art Museum; The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Garden; The Amon Carter Museum of American Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan, South Korea. Her works, such as Codex Rodriguez-Mondragón, have been featured in BBC News: In The Studio, Hyperallergic, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and Spectrum News/NY1, and her works are in the permanent collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX; and The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Garden, San Marino, CA, among others. 

Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients and finalists are nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders. The 2023 jury in dance and choreography included Joseph V. Melillo (chair), BAM’s executive director emeritus and the first member of the Hermitage’s National Curatorial Council; Michael Novak, artistic director of the acclaimed Paul Taylor Dance Company, and a longtime company member himself; and Charmaine Warren, performer, historian, consultant, dance writer, and the founding artistic director for “Black Dance Stories.”

Visual art recipients and finalists of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize are similarly nominated and selected by a jury of nationally recognized arts leaders. The 2023 jury in visual art included Allison Glenn, senior curator at New York’s Public Art Fund and curator of Promise, Witness, Remembrance (2021) at the Speed Art Museum, which The New York Times selected as one of the “Best Art Exhibitions of 2021”; Christine Kuan, president and executive director of Creative Capital, and the former CEO/director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art (NY); and Anne Patterson, acclaimed multidisciplinary visual artist and alumna Hermitage Fellow whose recent commission Ascendant Light is the anchor of Capital One’s corporate headquarters. 

Harris and Rodriguez will be celebrated at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on Sunday, April 16th, at 6pm at the Ca’ d’Zan of The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. Capacity will be limited, so early reservations are strongly recommended. Co-chairs for this event are Tom & Sherry Koski, with The Ringling Museum Executive Director Steven High andSarasota Art Museum Executive Director Virginia Shearerserving as honorary co-chairs.  Tables and sponsorships now available; additional information can be found here.

In addition to the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on April 16th, the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration will include programs and talks with current and past HGP winners and jurors throughout the weekend of April 14-16, 2023. These events will be presented on the Hermitage beach and throughout Sarasota County with some also available online. Additional details about these programs will be announced at a later date. The Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration is presented in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation, with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serving as the lead community sponsor.

Hermitage Announces Dates for 2022-2023 Benefit Events as Part of 20th Anniversary Season

Kicking off the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s 20th Anniversary Season, the Hermitage’s annual Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration will be held on Saturday, November 12, 2022, from 11:30am to 2pm. Now in its 14th year, this signature event raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s renowned artist residency program. The Artful Lobster is the only Hermitage benefit to take place on the grounds of the historic Gulf front campus – outdoors beneath a large tent – located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood. Michael’s On East offers a luscious lobster feast, with performances from renowned Hermitage Fellows. 

The 15th Anniversary of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner will be held on Sunday, April 16, 2023, from 6pm to 8:30pm outdoors on the grounds of The Ringling Museum in Sarasota and catered by Michael’s On East. This elegant dinner heralds the jury-selected recipient of this prestigious prize, which will be awarded in the discipline of visual art in 2023. The $30,000 Hermitage Greenfield Prize is an annual commission awarded by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation, and rotates among music, theater, and visual art. The 2023 prize winner’s newly commissioned work will have its first public presentation in Sarasota in the spring of 2025. 

2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Weekend – April 8-10 – Features Full Line-Up of Events

Events celebrating music and the Hermitage Greenfield Prize – April 8-10 – include a live conversation with acclaimed playwright and 2021 winner Aleshea Harris, a virtual talk with celebrated composer and 2022 recipient Angélica Negrón, and a live panel discussion with Hermitage Greenfield Prize Jurors Terrance McKnight (WXQR Radio) and Gary Padmore (New York Philharmonic), with Nate Jacobs (Founding Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe)

The 14th annual Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration Weekend culminates in the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner: “A Celebration of Music,” featuring a live performance of the work of 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize-Winning composer Angélica Negrón by Grammy Award-Winning cellist Nick Photinos, plus a special guest performance by Tony Award-Winning Hermitage Fellow Gavin Creel.

These events and the annual gala dinner are presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serving as Lead Community Sponsor. Limited seats are available for this nearly sold-out gala dinner. Click here for tables and sponsorships or contact Development Director Amy Wallace at or Development@HermitageArtistRetreat.org or (941) 475-2098, Ext. 2 

This year’s weekend of events begins on Friday, April 8 with “A Theater Maker’s Year: What ‘Went Down’” (6pm at New College of Florida) with 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Aleshea Harris. Then, on Saturday, April 9, the Hermitage presents two events, one virtual and one live: Angélica Negrón: The Journey, The Work, The Inspiration” (3pm, virtual event) features the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner, whose innovative music compositions have been described as “playful and inventive” by The New York Times. That evening, Hermitage Greenfield Prize Jurors Terrance McKnight, host of WQXR New York Public Radio, and Gary Padmore, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the New York Philharmonic, are joined by Sarasota’s own Nate Jacobs, Founder and Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, for a panel discussion entitled “Artistic License: Whose Story Is It?” (6pm on the Hermitage Beach). Click here to register.

“Ocean Body” Commission by Helga Davis Premieres in March, Plus Martyna Majok and Aleshea Harris Return to Sarasota

Three recent Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP) winners – Martyna Majok (2018), Helga Davis (2019), and Aleshea Harris (2021) return to Sarasota this spring to present their work and speak about their creative process.

First, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and 2018 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Martyna Majok presents “Building a Play: Exploring the Playwright-Director Collaboration.” This will be a conversation on the Hermitage Beach, moderated by Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok and her collaborator on the HGP commission, director Caitlin Sullivan – Friday, March 4th at 5:30pm. Last year, Majok offered Hermitage audiences an early virtual preview of her commission, featuring Tony nominee Marin Ireland. Here, Majok shares the continuation of the play’s journey.

Next up, the Hermitage, in collaboration with EnsembleNewSRQ and New College of Florida, presents the live Sarasota premiere of “Ocean Body,” the commissioned work from 2019 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner and composer, vocalist, and performance artist Helga Davis, along with her collaborators Shara Nova and Mark DeChiazza on Saturday, March 19th at 6pm. Davis and her creative colleagues shared a virtual sneak peek of her work last year; this is the further culmination of their work, presented live at the Hermitage. This will also be available virtually to allow greater accessibility to a wider audience.

Then in April, to kick off a weekend of events celebrating the Hermitage Greenfield Prize, award-winning playwright, author of What to Send Up When It Goes Down, and 2021 HGP recipient Aleshea Harris presents “A Theater Maker’s Year: What ‘Went Down’” on Friday, April 8th at 6pm. Harris’ commission is expected in 2023. Meanwhile, she has had an extraordinary season of plays premiering in New York, London, and more.

“We are thrilled to welcome back these three distinguished artists and recent Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients,” said Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO. “Martyna, Helga, and Aleshea are passionate and visionary creators who give us hope for the future, and their innovative works exemplify the mission of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize — to bring into the world works of art that have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic culture of our society.”

These community events in March and April lead us into this year’s Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration, culminating with the annual HGP Dinner on April 10th, recognizing 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner, composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica NegrónThe Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration is presented in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation, with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serving as Lead Community Sponsor. Co-Chairs for this event will be Carole Crosby and Sondra Biller. Capacity will be limited to accommodate safe social-distancing practices, and additional health and safety measures are anticipated for this event. Click here for more information on available tables and sponsorships.

Composer Angélica Negrón Wins 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, has selected innovative composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón as the winner of the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize, given this year in the artistic discipline of music. Negrón will receive a six-week residency at the Hermitage and a $30,000 commission for a new work, which will have its first public presentation in Sarasota in 2024.

On Monday, January 10th, Angélica Negrón received the news of her recognition via Zoom. 

Jury Chair Terrance McKnight stated, “Angélica Negrón’s music places value in the softest, most vulnerable, and most frequently overlooked instruments in the room. In her scores, even the robots find a pulse. Her compositional insight is the heartbeat of true democracy, and I am thrilled to introduce her to the Hermitage community.”

Born in Puerto Rico, Negrón writes original music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics, as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. She is a founding member of the tropical electronic band Balún, and her music has been performed at the Kennedy Center and the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial. Negrón has composed scores for the New York Botanical Gardens (Chorus of the Forest, 2019) and for Opera Philadelphia (The Island We Made, 2020), as well as the documentary films Landfall (2020) and Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016). Additional commissions and premieres of her compositions include works for the LA Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic Project 19 initiative.

“Amidst an extraordinary selection of finalists, Angélica Negrón stood out as an innovative and forward-thinking composer who impressed this year’s jury with her inventive and inspired approach to musical composition,” said Hermitage Artistic Director Andy Sandberg. “Her dedication to her craft embodies the mission of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize — to bring into the world works of art that have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic culture of our society. We thank our distinguished jurors for their passion and dedication, and we congratulate all of our brilliant finalists, whom we look forward to welcoming at the Hermitage. We look forward to recognizing Angélica’s work in Sarasota at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner in April, and subsequently hosting her as a Hermitage Fellow and sharing the first public presentation of her composition in Sarasota in 2024.”

Negrón will be celebrated at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on Sunday, April 10th, at 6pm at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. Capacity will be limited to accommodate safe social-distancing practices, and additional health and safety measures are anticipated for this event. For more information about this event, click here.

Read more about the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize here.

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.

Theater artist Aleshea Harris wins 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize

On Monday, January 11, Aleshea Harris received the news of her win via Zoom.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, has selected OBIE-winning playwright Aleshea Harris as the winner of the 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize, given this year in the artistic discipline of theater. Harris will receive a six-week residency at the Hermitage and a $30,000 commission for a new work, which will have its first public presentation in Sarasota in 2023 in collaboration with the Hermitage’s presenting partner, Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Jury Chair Mandy Greenfield stated, “Aleshea’s stunning body of work, including Is God Is and What to Send Up When It Goes Down, already distinguishes her as one of our most exquisite and fearless American playwrights. Her brilliant imagination, vast intellect, and innate theatricality guarantees a limitless future for her work and its impact. It was an honor to serve as a juror alongside distinguished theater-makers Nataki Garrett and Robert O’Hara. The Hermitage Greenfield Prize is a rare and special award that values and supports playwrights for their unique ability to reach and transform audiences. We celebrate Aleshea Harris; finalists Donja R. Love, Nikkole Salter, and Whitney White; the Hermitage Artist Retreat; and the Greenfield Foundation for the beautiful community it brings together with this prize.” 

Aleshea Harris’s play Is God Is (directed by Taibi Magar at Soho Rep) won the 2016 Relentless Award, an OBIE Award for playwriting in 2017, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award in 2019, was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and made The Kilroys’ List of “the most recommended un and underproduced plays by trans and female authors of color” for 2017. What to Send Up When It Goes Down (directed by Whitney White, produced by The Movement Theatre Company), a play-pageant-ritual response to anti-Blackness, had its critically-acclaimed NYC premiere in 2018, was featured in the April 2019 issue of American Theatre Magazineand was nominated for a Drama Desk award. 

Harris will be celebrated at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner, an outdoor event at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, on Sunday, April 11, 2021. For more information about this event, click here.

Read more about the 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize here.

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.