Champions of Hermitage, Nelda & Jim Thompson, celebrated

This year’s Artful Lobster weekend included a special tribute event: a celebration of the legacy of longtime champions of the Hermitage and Manasota Key, Nelda and Jim Thompson. Approximately 40 guests gathered at sunset on the beach for this elegant and intimate celebration that included a tribute video featuring appearances by friends and fans, including honorary co-chairs Rebecca Cook and Bernard Dickens and Warren and Brammie Cook; Michael Saunders; and tennis legend and longtime friend Martina Navratilova. The event also featured a moment of celebration and light in memory of Jim Thompson, and a surprise visit from the Florida Gator. The John Miller Jazz Ensemble Trio provided the entertainment for the evening, and an unannounced performance from Ralph Farris delighted the guests.

Upcoming outdoor beach programs

The Hermitage Artist Retreat’s popular beachfront series continues with “The Making of a Musical,” November 23, 5 p.m., with composer and music director Rona Siddiqui; and “Illuminating the Transcendent,” Friday, December 4, 5 p.m., with composers Krists Auznieks and Robert Pound and poet Jason Schneiderman. These outdoor, beachside events are at the Hermitage, 6660 Manasota Key Road, Englewood.

Admission is free but registration is required. To learn more about these programs and to register, click here. Capacity is limited to accommodate safe social distancing, so early reservations are recommended. Masks are strongly encouraged.

“The relaunch of our Hermitage programs has been received with such appreciation from our audiences,” notes Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “Now that we’ve found a safe way to move forward with socially-distanced outdoor events – as audiences experienced recently on our beachfront campus as well as our recent event at Selby Gardens – we are honored to continue this series with four more extraordinary artists-in-residence. These renowned Hermitage Fellows provide members of our community with a unique look into the creative process, frequently debuting new works and inviting Hermitage audiences to be the first to experience their works-in-progress.”

Ralph Farris to headline Artful Lobster

Ralph Farris, a Hermitage Fellow and founding violist 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!

Ralph is a Juilliard-trained, multi-instrumentalist performer, music director, curator, composer, arranger, and record producer. He is a tireless collaborator, whether working as an individual, or as a founding member and artistic director of ETHEL, the genre-bending string quartet described by The New York Times as “indefatigable and eclectic,” and by The New Yorker as “vital and brilliant.” That spirit has led to collaborations with a who’s-who of rock stars, filmmakers, choreographers, educators, stage directors, and poets. Farris has said that his favorite place to compose is at the Hermitage and has even composed work inspired by Manasota Key. For more information, visit RalphFarris.com.

“We are all incredibly excited to have Ralph Farris returning to the Hermitage to perform at this year’s Artful Lobster,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “Ralph is one of the first artists I had the pleasure to meet and hear perform upon arriving at the Hermitage. He is a brilliant composer and performer, and our audience is in for a real treat!”

For more information about Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration!, click here.

Hermitage welcomes Amy Wallace as development director

The Hermitage Artist Retreat has welcomed Amy Wallace as the organization’s development director. Wallace joins the organization after serving for six years at New College Foundation.

“Amidst an impressive pool of candidates from around the country, Amy stood out as a clear leader and an extraordinary addition to the Hermitage team,” says Andy Sandberg. “We are thrilled – and fortunate – to welcome Amy as development director. With her impressive experience in fundraising and institutional advancement, her forward-thinking outlook on philanthropy, and her passion for our mission to support artists and the creative process, Amy is going to play a vital role in the bright future of the Hermitage.”

Wallace brings a wide range of development experience, spending the last six years at New College Foundation in a variety of roles, including prospect research, donor relations, and database management prior to her fundraising role as director of philanthropy. She spent many years in corporate financial services and human resources before transitioning to a career in nonprofit development and philanthropy. She is a member of the Association of Donor Relations Professionals and a member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Wallace graduated from the University of Maine with a bachelor’s degree in political science. 

The Hermitage is also pleased to welcome Emily Lane as its grants manager. Lane is a fourth-generation Floridian with a deep connection to the arts, and her career has included higher education, museums, and arts institutions, where she raised millions of dollars for arts, education, scientific and environmental projects, as well as capital campaigns. She spent nearly 15 years at Selby Gardens before starting her own consulting and grants practice.

Hermitage and Selby Gardens announce “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens”

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens announce a new collaboration, “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens,” launching with a five-program series as part of the 2020-2021 season. The outdoor series features performances and talks by Hermitage artists-in-residence and alumni. Four will take place at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus; one will be at Selby Gardens Historic Spanish Point campus. The series premieres with “Triple Current: Music of Arabia & America,” featuring the celebrated composer, santur player, jazz trumpeter and vocalist Amir ElSaffar, on Friday, October 23, 6 p.m., on the northern grounds of the Selby Gardens Event Center. Admission is free for all programs, but registration is required. Capacity will be limited to accommodate safe social distancing, so early reservations are recommended. Masks are strongly encouraged.

The complete roster of event dates in the inaugural season of “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” include:

~ Friday, October 23, 6 p.m., at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus (at the northern grounds of the Events Center)
~ Friday, January 22, 5:30 p.m., at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus
~ Wednesday, February 24, 6 p.m., at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus; part of Selby Gardens’ “Lichtenstein Nights” concert series  
~ Wednesday, March 3, 6 p.m., at Historic Spanish Point
~ A date in May to be announced, at Selby Gardens

For more information, click here.

Outdoor Beach Programs Return Oct. 9!

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces the return of its popular beachfront series with “Genius Loci: A Sense of Place in Story, Music, & Poetry,” Friday, October 9, 6 p.m., at the Hermitage Beach, 6660 Manasota Key Road, Englewood. This outdoor event features three Hermitage artists-in-residence: composer and bassist Michael Kurth, poet Lynnell Edwards, and author Justin Torres. In Edwards’ book of poetry This Great Green Valley and Torres’ book and film We the Animals, each captures the sense of place of their childhoods. Composer and bassist Michael Kurth, meanwhile, defines his place as the bottom staff of an orchestral score. The artistic realms include music, film, and the spoken and written word. In every realm, each artist has created a place of their own. As the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico, Edwards and Torres will read from their celebrated works, and Kurth will delight audiences with his string bass and bass ukulele.

Admission is free but registration is required. To learn more about this program and to register, click here. Capacity will be limited to accommodate safe social distancing, so early reservations are recommended. Masks are strongly encouraged.

“We are beyond excited to welcome audiences back to the Hermitage with the return of our outdoor beach series,” notes Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “Over the past few months, we have put tremendous thought and care into figuring out how to safely return to live programming while expanding our digital offerings, so that we can continue to build connections between our Hermitage Fellows and this extraordinary community.” The Hermitage resumed its artist residency program in July, with new social-distancing measures in place.

This outdoor event is the first of many programs and collaborations throughout the season, spanning Sarasota County and the surrounding region. The Hermitage will offer both live outdoor programs and virtual offerings throughout the year featuring celebrated playwrights, visual artists, musicians, poets, and more—all free to the members of our community.

2020 Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration!

Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, recently confirmed the organization is moving ahead with plans to hold its signature fall fundraising event, The Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration! Now in its 12th year, the Artful Lobster raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s nationally and internationally renowned artist residency program.

The event, which takes place outdoors beneath a large tent on the Hermitage’s environmentally pristine beachfront campus, is scheduled for Saturday, November 14, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., at 6660 Manasota Key Road, in Englewood, Florida.

Guests will enjoy a luscious lobster feast by Michael’s On East and a performance by a celebrated Hermitage Fellow (to be announced). Several new health and safety protocols have been implemented for this year’s celebration, and the Hermitage has published these at HermitageArtistRetreat.org/Safety.

The event’s co-chairs are Flora Major and Leslie Edwards. Sponsorship packages and tables range from $1,000 to $5,000. Single tickets, at $275, are extremely limited due to capacity, and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Bookings may be made online at HermitageArtistRetreat.org/ArtfulLobster2020 or by calling 941-475-2098, Ext. 5.

“While productions and performances around the world may be on hold, the creative process and artistic development are more essential than ever,” says Sandberg. “This year’s Artful Lobster is an opportunity to celebrate and champion the artists who will ultimately give us a reason to return to theaters, concert halls, and museums when it is safe to do so.”

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.

Artists returning to Hermitage Artist Retreat

by Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, July 3, 2020

Like so many other arts organizations and businesses across the country, the Hermitage Artist Retreat essentially shut down in March as the coronavirus began to spread. But staff and work crews have been busy making adjustments to allow a variety of writers, visual artists, musicians and others to start returning this month.

The retreat, a collection of buildings and historic cottages on Manasota Key, provides a temporary home for artists to develop new projects or just to get away from the everyday work and life issues that get in the way of the creative process.

Hermitage fellows, who are selected by a curatorial council of experts in the performing, visual and literary arts, stay in historic but private cottages on the beach. They have sleeping and studio space and areas where they can talk or share meals with other artists also staying there.

“We are fortunate in the way the campus is set up in that it is naturally built for social distancing,” said Andy Sandberg, who took over last fall as the organization’s artistic director and CEO.

During the downtime, the cottages were enhanced to include individual refrigerator freezers, microwaves and toaster ovens to make it possible for artists to work and eat without having to share a communal kitchen for meals.

They will still be able to meet with other artists in outdoor settings, which health officials say is generally a safer environment and reduces the risk of spreading the virus.

“Unfortunately, they can’t have that kitchen huddle experience at the moment, but we’re finding ways to get our artists together socially,” Sandberg said. Typically, new groups of artists are treated to a welcome beach dinner and Sandberg said the staff is working out safe seating arrangements for such events.

The schedule of artists slated to visit Englewood had to be reset because of the closure. Artists are generally offered up to six weeks over a two-year period for their residencies. They also are required to take part in at least two public programs during their residency, sometimes done in conjunction with other area arts organizations.

Sandberg said that part of the program also is being reevaluated and may temporarily incorporate more online events, conversations and discussions, or presentations outdoors on the beach.

“Audiences have indicated their comfort in doing things outdoors as something they might do sooner rather than huddling inside,” he said.

Helga Davis, the 2019 winner of the Greenfield Prize, which is administered by the Hermitage, and curator Eric Booth, one of the curatorial council members, recently spent time on site “to tell us what’s working and how to best exercise these practices,” Sandberg said.

Residencies resume this week with the annual visit of Florida arts educators selected through the State Teacher/Artist Residency program. “They are sort of the beginning of our new season,” Sandberg said.

The Hermitage Curatorial Council, made up of 14 distinguished arts leaders from across the country, is compiling updated lists of people they recommend for residencies. Artists do not apply for stays at the Hermitage.

Among the council artists are Booth, a leader in arts education in the nation; Valerie Cassel Oliver [pictured], the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; flutist Claire Chase; Christopher Burney, artistic director of New York Stage and Film at Vassar; Emily Mann, the playwright and director who recently ended a long tenure as artistic director of the McCarter Theatre Centre in Princeton, N.J.; and Robert Spano, music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

“They shape everything we do here” by selecting new lists of fellows, said Sandberg. “They are experts in their field and they have a commitment to identifying artists who are creating bold, dynamic and diverse work.”

The Hermitage has increased its budget to more than $1 million annually (from about $750,000), and the organization received some significant contributions toward meeting that goal, including $300,000 through a couple of matching gift challenges.

That money helped to make up some of the revenue the organization lost from the cancellation of its annual Greenfield Prize weekend dinner and related events in the spring. It has announced that its yearly Artful Lobster picnic will be held Nov. 14 on the Hermitage grounds, and the next Greenfield Prize Dinner is scheduled for April 11 at Michael’s On East.

Sandberg said the budget was increased because the Hermitage plans to expand its programming staff while providing more opportunities for collaborations with area arts organizations and for the public to meet visiting fellows and better understand how the organization works.

One of those new collaborations was announced last week. “UNSCRIPTED: Arts from the Inside Out,” a partnership with the Van Wezel Foundation, will give audiences an inside look at the creative process as shared by Hermitage fellows from around the world.

Sandberg said the audience will never know “exactly what to expect or what they will experience, creating a sense of mystery and anticipation for each gathering.”

The series is expected to begin this summer with initial programs offered as a bonus to Hermitage and Foundation supporters. Some performances will be made available for streaming online to the public.