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.

Hermitage receives $43,598 Tourist Development Cultural/Arts grant

The Sarasota County Commission awarded the Hermitage Artist Retreat a $43,598 Tourist Development Cultural/Arts grant to help fund its 2021-2022 community arts and cultural programs. The award-winning creators across all artistic disciplines who stay at the Hermitage provide free public programs that attract thousands of residents and tourists every year. These programs take place at the Hermitage and throughout the region in collaboration with leading arts, cultural, and educational institutions. 

The Hermitage recently announced that its 2021-2022 programming would continue with an expansion of popular live outdoor events, all with socially distanced seating, as well as added virtual offerings. 

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage, explains that these cultural gatherings exist to give both residents and visitors the rare opportunity to interact with celebrated authors, musicians, poets, playwrights, visual artists, composers, and performers from around the world. 

“The artists creating work at the Hermitage are shaping the artistic and cultural landscape of the future,” says Sandberg. “The Hermitage has been the birthplace and incubator for works that have gone on to leading theaters, museums, galleries, and concert halls around the world.” He adds that audiences attending Hermitage programs often have the rare opportunity to see a brilliant new work in progress, or to take part in conversations with artists who are truly at the top of their respective fields.

“We are honored that the Tourist Development Commission continues to recognize the Hermitage as a vital artistic leader in our region,” Sandberg adds. “These funds make it possible for us to share the talents and experiences of our extraordinary Hermitage Fellows with tourists and residents throughout our region. Moreover, at a time when arts organizations are facing ongoing challenges due to COVID-19, we are grateful that the arts continue to be recognized as essential to our culture and community here in Sarasota, and that we can continue to find a safe way to move forward with live outdoor and virtual programming.”

Hermitage receives grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation

The Hermitage Artist Retreat has been recognized by Gulf Coast Community Foundation as one of 12 cornerstone arts organizations with its Arts Appreciation Grant. The unrestricted $30,000 grant, made possible through the Venice Endowment Fund and the Violetta Marchisio Charitable Fund, will help support the Hermitage’s core operations for the 2021-2022 season. Gulf Coast notes that its Arts Appreciation grants allow area organizations to focus on what they do best — “bringing world-class talent and beauty to Florida’s Cultural Coast.” This year, Gulf Coast added the Hermitage Artist Retreat to its distinguished list of grantees, stating that the organization has a successful grant history with the foundation and strong donor support. 

“The Hermitage is a unique and beloved regional asset that rose to the challenge of innovating during the pandemic, providing strong educational and outreach programming,” says Jennifer Johnston, senior community investment officer at Gulf Coast Community Foundation.  “This grant recognizes the direct contributions the Hermitage makes to our community’s cultural life and to this region’s enduring brand as thearts and cultural destination in southwest Florida.” 

Read more here.

Hermitage welcomes Programs Manager James Monaghan

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, announced today the organization has welcomed James R. Monaghan as its new programs manager. Monaghan joins the Hermitage after serving as the Asolo Rep’s dramaturg and literary manager. In his new role, Monaghan will be responsible for coordinating and managing the Hermitage’s acclaimed artist and community engagement programs. He will work closely with Sandberg and the Hermitage team in overseeing the Hermitage’s nationally renowned artist residency program and will also collaborate with hundreds of Hermitage artists to bring innovative, authentic, and unique programming to our region.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome James to the Hermitage family, and I am confident he will be an extraordinary addition to our fantastic team,” says Sandberg. “I have had the pleasure of working with James in our collaborations with the Asolo, and have come to know him as someone deeply intelligent and passionate about the arts. As we expand and develop new programming, James’ thoughtful creativity will be a gift to our artists and our community.”

Prior to his work with the Asolo Rep, Monaghan wrote about theatrical design as the Tow Foundation Fellow in the Roundabout Theatre Company Archives, created a one-on-one theatrical experience entitled [antidote] for the National Theatre of Croatia in Rijeka, and worked in the literary department of the Play Company in New York. He has been a resident artist at the Catwalk Institute, was featured in the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas’ newsletter and recently directed a digital production of Spring Awakening with the Georgetown Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Before completing his MFA at Columbia University, Monaghan received his BFA with honors from New York University, and worked as an educator and director in his hometown of Houston, Texas. 

“I’m ecstatic to be joining such a passionate and talented team that is dedicated to serving Gulf Coast audiences, a community that celebrates the vital role of art in shaping our future,” says Monaghan about his new role. “The Hermitage provides unique and authentic insight into the creative process, and I’m honored to participate in growing that legacy.”

Patricia Caswell retires

by Susan Rife, special to the Herald-Tribune (read full article here)
May 19, 2021

Caswell, who for 17 years was head of the Sarasota County Arts Council (now the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County), will retire from her position at the Hermitage on her birthday, Monday.

The Hermitage would not exist if not for Caswell, who in the late 1990s saw the need to preserve the ramshackle beach shacks on Manasota Key and who, along with art collector and philanthropist Syd Adler, first envisioned the collection of buildings, which dated to the early 20th century, as a place where artists could gather to create new works.

Adler and Caswell became co-founders of the modern Hermitage, supervising the restoration of four of the original five buildings on the property. Originally under the auspices of the Arts Council, the Hermitage eventually spun off as its own entity. 

But the retreat is not simply a place where artists come from New York or Chicago to create new work. It’s also the site of frequent public performances, poetry readings on the beach and the like, which former Executive Director Bruce Rodgers initially thought was a crazy idea.

“She would come up with ideas that I would say, oh, that would never work, and of course, they did,” said Rodgers. “Performances on the beach: That was her idea.”

[Caswell will] miss “the extraordinary artists that have been there, and spending time with them. This is a very special thing that just a few of us got to do, because they were there to work. The evenings there were like a Paris salon with Gertrude Stein. We had Nico Muhly, he sat there around the table, talking to us about what it was like to be a young guy, a young composer, whose piece had been chosen by the Metropolitan Opera, him not understanding their traditions, them deferring all these decisions to the ‘maestro,’ all these stories inside the guts of the Metropolitan Opera.”

READ THE FULL HERALD-TRIBUNE ARTICLE HERE.

Hermitage continues to blossom

by Kim Cool, Venice Gondolier (read full article here)
January 20, 2021

In my 25 years at this newspaper, I have received the equivalent of a few more college degrees, especially in history and the arts.

And as the Gondolier moves toward its 75th anniversary in March, it has been fun to look back at stories I have covered, places I have visited and sadly, even a few that have gone.

At least part of the old Cypress Gardens remains at Legoland, which even replicated its ladies in hoop-skirted gowns but made entirely of Legos. The old Banyan Theatre Company and MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry in Sarasota have both come and gone. While I wasn’t here for its arrival, the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre dropped its curtain for the last time after about 40 years but with the title of longest-running dinner theater in the country.

But nothing has captured my interest as much the creation of the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key.

It was created from a collection of buildings on a 3.5-acre site in 2000, when the Sarasota County Arts Council spearheaded the move with other cultural institutions, area residents and county officials who had plans to seek grants from the Venice Foundation (now the Gulf Coast Community Foundation) and the state.

When my first article about the site on Manasota Key appeared … on July 8, 2000, the founders hoped for a 2002 opening and the arrival of their first resident artist.

While the site is not open to daily visitors there are many opportunities throughout the year to visit the site for concerts at the beach, readings in the former garage or other events. Hermitage artists also have gone out into the community to present programs such as the late playwright Romulus Linney (father of actress Laura Linney) who, with Venice Theatre executive producing director Murray Chase, spoke about playwriting and theater some years ago when he was a Hermitage Fellow.

For those of us lucky enough to live in this area, the Hermitage is more proof of the kind of neighbors we have.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.

Five Florida arts educators chosen for STARs residency

This month, five Florida public school arts teachers are spending part of their summer breaks on Manasota Key working on their own artistic endeavors. They are the winners of the 2020 State Teacher/Artist Residency program (STARs), presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE). This year’s recipients include three visual arts instructors, a library media specialist, and a creative writing and English teacher. The five receive a residency at the Hermitage on Manasota Key, where they have the opportunity to leave their classroom responsibilities behind and focus on their work as creative artists.

“These brilliant teachers are also talented artists in their own right,” says Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage. “During the academic year, their attention is devoted to their students, and this past semester has been particularly challenging for educators throughout our nation. The STARs program gives five distinguished teachers the opportunity to experience what leading artists from around the world have come to the Hermitage for – to focus on their craft, their art, and their creative process. Over the years, the STARs have created some truly stunning works of art and literature during their time at the Hermitage. Many teaching artist alumni have shared that this program enables them to return to their students with a new fire and passion for arts education.”

The chosen five are Daniela Drazan, a library specialist at Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks in Ocala; Gláucia Mir, a visual art, drawing and sculpture instructor at Liberty High School in Kissimmee; Joy Williams, a drawing, painting and ceramics instructor at North Fort Myers High (Center for the Arts) in Fort Myers; Tara Salovitz, an English and creative writing instructor at Port Charlotte High School in Port Charlotte; and Lucia Morales, a visual art instructor at Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy in North Miami Beach.

Florida arts educators apply for the Hermitage summer residencies through FAAE. Applications are open to all Florida music, theater, visual art, and creative writing teachers. Since the start of the program in 2011, 48 teachers have represented 21 Florida counties. Residencies culminate with a free community program; due to coronavirus, this year’s programs will be captured virtually and presented at a future date.

A Czech immigrant, Daniela Drazan has worked at the Library of Congress, taught English in Japan, conducted market research in the Czech Republic, and sang in a nightclub. She says that these experiences infuse and inspire her literary work. She hoped to write more and achieve publication but “like for many of us, work and family pushed aside the dream.” During her residency at the Hermitage, she hopes to continue work on a novel she’s started. “At five pages a day at the minimum, it might just be possible to complete the first draft, especially with a residency that provides the time and space for contemplation as well as productivity,” says Drazan.

Brazilian-born mixed media artist Gláucia Mir spent her childhood in São Paulo and her teens and 20s in New York City. Later she lived in the bucolic Bucks County, in Pennsylvania and now she calls Central Florida home. Her background in illustration and her gusto for adventure means her artwork often tells a story. Mir says she “thrives in the knowledge that my art can bring joy, questions or even disturb the viewer.” During her residency at the Hermitage, she plans on “delving into a set of works inspired by the ‘Mapping Vulnerability’ works that I began during my final graduate capstone project. My first set of works consisted of ink wash and mixed-media paintings which together made one large body of work. I would like to continue experimenting by using white on black to create a second set.” She adds that she would also like to read and listen to audiobooks and podcasts—something she rarely has time for. Finally, she says “I am my own worst enemy in settling down to work, because I let interruptions become my excuses. This time alone will let me focus and get to work.”

Joy Williams says that her art is inspired by Robert Rauschenberg, who told her that his mission is to “ennoble the ordinary.” “Our conversation inspired me to crystalize the message of my own work,” says Williams. “My objective is to offer an aesthetic of flowing ‘waves of joy’ in contrast to the angst of modern life.” The artist and teacher says she hopes to continue creating “art that concerns our worldwide need for clean water and clean oceans. I would like to continue this theme but expand mediums to work with printmaking and sculpture, incorporating objects found on location at the Hermitage. While I will take a stroll on the beach or a kayak in the mangroves, I will also be able to work well into the wee hours of the night as my muse calls.”

Tara Salovitz has already self-publisheda novel and says she will spend her time at the Hermitage to work on a young adult novel that she’s already begun. “It’s the story of two extraordinary sisters who are on a treacherous journey across the country in order to fulfill their destiny. The book is to be the first in a trilogy. I would strive to write or work on some aspect of my writing for at least eight hours a day.” Salovitz says that she also hopes to spend her time at the Hermitage reading books about her craft. “As a novice writer, I try to learn as much as I can from experts,” she says. “As for the rest of my time, I would like to take a walk and perhaps go for a swim every day; hopefully, the fresh ocean air and physical activity would stimulate my imagination as well as sustain me through long hours of work.”

Originally from Lima, Peru, Lucia Morales says she derives great inspiration from her heritage. Leaving her home and family in Peru has also shaped her art in ways she’s still discovering. “Through dance and painting I feel that I can maintain the connection to my heritage and explore new pathways of the relationships that those who leave home come to form with their new one,” she says. During her residency, she hopes to “use the time and location as a catalyst for my creative process. A place and time to continue the introspection that I simply cannot continue as a busy art educator during the school year, and the perfect scenery to continue studying nature, light and composition through plein-air painting.”

“We look forward to seeing what this latest group of STARs will create,” says Sandberg. “It is an honor to celebrate Florida’s top arts educators, and we are grateful to the Florida Alliance for Arts Education for their continued collaboration.”

Pictured left to right, the 2020 Hermitage Artist Retreat STARs: Daniela Drazan, Lucia Morales, Tara Salovitz, Gláucia Mir, and Joy Williams.

Hermitage meets $150,000 matching challenge, achieves first million-dollar fiscal year

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, today announced that the Hermitage has exceeded its $150,000 matching challenge, raising a total of $302,000 through this campaign in response to COVID-19. This spring fundraising initiative launched with a generous $100,000 pledge from the Manasota Key-based Cook family on April 7th to match every gift dollar-to-dollar through June 30th. The original $100,000 challenge was met in just four weeks, and an additional group of Hermitage supporters contributed $50,000 to extend the match. On Tuesday, June 30th, the Hermitage surpassed its goal.

“We cannot express our gratitude enough to everyone who helped us reach this milestone,” Sandberg stated. “I must recognize that this campaign was supported generously by all members of our community: our Hermitage Fellows and artists, our audiences, our longtime supporters, our artistic colleagues, the community foundations, our board of trustees, our staff, our volunteers, and many new champions of the Hermitage.”

In addition, the funds raised through this campaign enabled the organization to achieve its first million-dollar fiscal year, which concluded on June 30th.

“The generosity of our artists, our donors, and our community has helped to ensure the future of this truly vital institution. Without this essential support for artists and the creative process, without this space and freedom to shape and develop great works of the future, we would be staring down empty stages and empty pages long past the ramifications of any virus. No doubt, there are still many question marks and challenges ahead, but together, we can continue to support bold, impactful, and diverse works of art, theater, music, literature, and more that feed our souls and shape our cultural landscape.”

Watch Sandberg’s video thank you message here.

The Hermitage resumes its core residency operations this week, commencing with the STARS teaching artist program, in partnership with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education. The organization has implemented a number of social-distancing practices and policies to ensure the safety of artists, staff, and guests. Invitations have recently been issued by the Hermitage Curatorial Council for the 2020-2021 season. Hermitage Fellows will continue to engage in free community programs, and a number of these will be made available digitally until live programs resume.