Hermitage Presented Two New Commissions from  Madeleine George and Shariffa Ali in NYC  

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO), today released photos from the premiere presentations of newly commissioned works by Madeleine George and Shariffa Ali. George and Ali, the first two recipients of the $35,000 Hermitage Major Theater Award (HMTA), had readings of their newly commissioned plays in New York at Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater just before Thanksgiving. Developed while in residence at the Hermitage in Sarasota County, Florida, these two new works are wholly original and coming to fruition less than two years after Madeleine George and Shariffa Ali learned of their selection for this distinguished national prize.

The Hermitage Major Theater Award, presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat and made possible with generous support from the Kutya Major Foundation, recognizes a playwright or theater artist with a commission of $35,000 to create an original full-length work for the stage, as well as providing an extended residency at the Hermitage’s beachfront campus Sarasota County, Florida, plus the chance to present the inaugural workshop presentation of the newly created play in a major arts capital such as New York, London, or Chicago.

Pulitzer Prize finalist and playwright Madeleine George,currently a writer on the hit Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building,” was selected as the first winner of the HMTA by an Award Committee comprised ofLeigh SilvermanLiesl Tommy, and Doug Wright. George presented the first full-length reading of her new play The Sore Loser to an invitation-only audience on Friday, November 17. The Sore Loser is a Faustian comedy set in a bowling alley. It’s a play about power, domination, and the death of the patriarchy – as told through a small-town bowling tournament. Casting for The Sore Loser included stage and screen talentsAdam Chanler-Berat (Next to Normal, “Gossip Girl”), Lynda Gravatt (The Bounty HunterDelivery Man)Allison Guinn (On the Town, “Only Murders in the Building”), Greg Hildreth (Frozen, Maestro), James Jackson Jr. (A Strange Loop, White Girl in Danger)Matthew Maher (Gone Baby Gone, Captain Marvel), T Mitsock (“Becoming Eve”)Shannon Tyo (The Compeuppance, “30 Rock”), and Joel Van Liew (“FBI”, Limitless). The reading was directed by Mack Brown.

Theater-maker and director Shariffa Ali was selected as the second recipient of the Hermitage Major Theater Award by Lynn NottageDavid Henry Hwang, and Regina Taylor. Ali shared an in-process presentation of her newly devised work Hero for an invitation-only audience on Monday, November 20, also at MCC Theater. Ali and two of her collaborators, Joanna Evans and Jason Maina, provided an overview and excerpts from this heartwarming and inspiring new play with music, set in a small South African town and inspired by the true story of Shariffa’s longtime friend and collaborator Vuyo Sotashe

The Hermitage Major Theater Award was established in 2021 to recognize a playwright or theater artist with a substantial commission to create a new, original, and impactful piece of theater. This national jury-selected award, established by the Hermitage with generous support from Flora Major and the Kutya Major Foundation, offers one of the largest unrestricted nonprofit theater commissions in the country. George and Ali have each received a cash prize of $35,000, as well as a residency at the Hermitage, plus developmental and financial support for these developmental readings in New York. The prize is intended to bridge the connection between the Hermitage (Sarasota County, Florida), where the commission is born, and other leading arts and culture centers around the world, including New York, London, Chicago, and notable arts capitals where great theater is frequently developed and presented. 

Hermitage Raises Nearly $300,000 at the 15th Annual Artful Lobster – A Record-Breaking Celebration! 

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (Sarasota County, Florida) raised over $292,000 at the 2023 Hermitage Artful Lobster luncheon on Saturday, November 11th. Now in its 15th year and following the 20th anniversary of the Hermitage, this annual event raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s internationally renowned artist residency program, supporting the creative process of artists from around the world in the fields of music, theater, visual art, literature, dance, and more. Over 200 guests attended the sold-out event, which took place outdoors on a beautiful November afternoon at the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus. This year’s Artful Lobster was co-chaired by Terry Brackett and Suzette & Tim Flood, with Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg serving as the master of ceremonies. 

The event was headlined by world-renowned and Grammy Award-winning string quartet ETHEL. This was the first time in many years that all four members of ETHEL — Ralph FarrisKip JonesDorothy Lawson, and Corin Lee — were together at the Hermitage to help commemorate this milestone anniversary of this popular fall benefit. As part of the afternoon’s festivities, ETHEL delighted attendees with an uplifting and inspiring performance featuring selections from The River and Circus: Wandering City, two original works that were developed at the Hermitage. Highlights from the energetic performance included an audience participation segment and ETHEL member Kip Jones leaping through the crowd while playing the violin. Known for their acclaimed performances across the United States and around the world, ETHEL is comprised of four distinguished Hermitage alumni; this quartet of brilliant musicians has a deep connection with the Hermitage Artist Retreat, dating back to 2015. ETHEL’s residency and appearance at the 2023 Hermitage Artful Lobster were generously sponsored by Carol White Bold and Larry Bold. The outdoor event also featured a captivating performance by Emi Ferguson, a new Hermitage Fellow and celebrated flutist. Sharing from her book Iconic Composers, Ferguson charmed the audience with stories of John Williams overcoming his critics by telling tales from his once-ridiculed-now-iconic score to Jaws. Ferguson went on to perform an enchanting Williams composition from the film Memoirs of a Geisha.

“Great music, great art, great theater, great literature, great dance, great television – none of this happens without great artists,” said the Hermitage’s Andy Sandberg. “We are thankful to all who attended and supported this year’s Artful Lobster festivities. The generous outpouring of support for the work we are doing at the Hermitage is a demonstration of our community’s extraordinary commitment to the arts and the creative process.” Sandberg added that the proceeds from this year’s fall fundraiser will also support ongoing improvements and protections for the Hermitage campus following the impact of Hurricanes Ian and Idalia.

Sponsors and partners for the 2023 Artful Lobster included Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Key Agency, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and Sarasota Magazine. A full list of this year’s sponsors, benefactors, and partners can be found at HermitageArtistRetreat.org/ArtfulLobster2023.

Nov. 30 “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” to Discuss State of the Arts

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that a distinguished panel of arts and cultural leaders will discuss the myriad of challenges facing the arts in Florida and our country in the newly announced program “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens: State of the Arts in Florida.” This event will take place on Thursday, November 30th at 5pm at Selby Gardens’ Historic Spanish Point campus. Hermitage Curatorial Council member Nataki Garrett, who recently served as Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, andTony and Olivier Award-winning producer Tom Kirdahy, a Sarasota resident and friend of the Hermitage, will participate in a discussion with the President of the Manasota Chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), David Wilkins, in a conversation moderated by Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg

No matter where you get your news, it is a given reality that America – and Florida, in particular – feels more divided now than at nearly any point in our history. How does this impact the artists who call Florida home or who come here to make work? What challenges does this create for our state’s cultural economy? These esteemed professionals will share their experiences and thoughts in a candid and wide-ranging discussion on the arts community and the artists creating work in the state of Florida and beyond.  

As a leading theater director and administrator who recently served as Artistic Director of the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Nataki Garrett has first-hand experience of the challenges arts leaders face in a polarized nation. Tony Award-winning producer Tom Kirdahy,active in both the Florida community and the national arts scene, has shared his candid views on the state of the arts with the Hermitage in previous programs. Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg will moderate the conversation, which will also feature the insight of David Wilkins from Manasota ASALH. Audience members will have the opportunity to engage with these local, national, and international experts in a frank and open discussion on the state of the arts in Florida and beyond.

“Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” is now in its fourth year as part of the Hermitage’s 2023-2024 season. The outdoor series — a continuing collaboration between the Hermitage Artist Retreat and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens — features performances, conversations, and explorations of works-in-progress by Hermitage artists-in-residence and alumni. 

“We are excited to now be in our fourth season of ‘Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens,’” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “It has been a joy to bring rich arts and cultural experiences to both of Selby Gardens’ beautiful waterfront locations, giving audiences the chance to experience one-of-a-kind performances and ‘sneak peeks’ into the creative process of leading national artists. We know this event with Nataki, Tom, and David will be a particularly compelling and candid conversation that’s relevant to all who appreciate and value the arts in our community.” 

These outdoor events are one part of many “Hermitage North” programs and collaborations planned throughout the season, spanning Sarasota County and the surrounding region. The programs feature industry-leading playwrights, visual artists, musicians, poets, choreographers, and more — all free to the members of our community with a $5/person registration fee. 

Grammy-Winning ETHEL to Headline Artful Lobster

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces today that world-renowned and Grammy Award-winning string quartet ETHEL will headline the Hermitage’s signature fall fundraising event, “The Artful Lobster: An Outdoor Celebration!” on Saturday, November 11th from 11:30am to 2pm at the Hermitage campus on Manasota Key. This is the first time in many years that all four members of ETHEL – Ralph FarrisKip JonesDorothy Lawson, and Corin Lee – will be reuniting at the Hermitage to celebrate this milestone anniversary of the event. This year’s Artful Lobster will also feature a performance by new Hermitage Fellow Emi Ferguson, a celebrated flutist and performer.

Now in its 15th year and following the 20th anniversary season of the Hermitage, the Artful Lobsterraises 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, dance, and more. This popular event, which takes place outdoors beneath a large tent on the Hermitage’s beachfront campus, features a lobster feast catered by Michael’s On East, in addition to live performances from renowned Hermitage Fellows. The co-chairs for the 2023 Artful Lobster are Terry Brackett and Suzette & Tim Flood

Grammy Award-winning ETHEL has performed across the United States and worldwide. They champion the art of music today, forging human connections across sound and style. ETHEL has premiered more than 250 works, many of them commissioned by the quartet consisting of four Hermitage alumni: Ralph Ferris (viola), Kip Jones (violin), Dorothy Lawson (cello), and Corin Lee (violin). At the heart of ETHEL is a collaborative ethos — a quest for common creative expression, forged in listening and community. The quartet has a deep connection with the Hermitage Artist Retreat, both as individuals and as an ensemble, dating back to 2015 and including the premiere of Circus: Wandering City conceived at the Hermitage in collaboration with the Ringling Museum of Art, where it was presented in 2018 at the Historic Asolo Theater. The quartet recently celebrated its 25th anniversary as a highly acclaimed performing ensemble. ETHEL’s upcoming residency and appearance at the Artful Lobster are generously underwritten by Carol White Bold & Larry Bold

Hailed by critics for her “tonal bloom” and “hauntingly beautiful performances,” English-American flutist and composer Emi Ferguson stretches the boundaries of what is expected of modern-day musicians. Ferguson’s unique approach to the flute can be heard in performances that alternate between silver flute, auxiliary flutes, and historical flutes, playing repertoire that stretches from the Renaissance to today. 

“We are incredibly excited to welcome ETHEL back to the Hermitage to perform at our 15th annual Artful Lobster,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “All of ETHEL are extraordinary talents and have been great friends to the Hermitage. Though some members have been back to Manasota Key individually – most recently Ralph Farris and Dorothy Lawson – it is thrilling to welcome the full quartet back for this milestone occasion. We are honored that both ETHEL and the brilliant Emi Ferguson will be joining us to celebrate this special event, which helps to raise vital funds for our core residency program and the 50 programs we offer throughout the community each year.”

Sponsorship levels for this fundraiser range from $1,250 to $10,000. Sponsorships may be purchased by contacting Hermitage Development Director Amy Wallace at (941) 475-2098, Ext. 2. The event has limited capacity remaining, so timely bookings are strongly recommended.

“Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” Kicks Off New Season on November 16

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces a newly developed partnership with Nathan Benderson Park as a part of the Hermitage’s 2023-2024 season. Expanding on the success of the Hermitage programming at Selby Gardens and other venues throughout the region, the new “Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” series launches this year following a popular Hermitage program at the park last season. That event featured award-winning composer and Hermitage alumna Zoe Sarnak and an ensemble of performers who shared Sarnak’s original songs as a part of the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Initiative at the Hermitage. Each program in the “Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” series will feature a celebrated Hermitage artist (or artists) to be announced. The outdoor series features performances and explorations of works-in-progress by Hermitage artists-in-residence and alumni.

“Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” events are currently scheduled to take place by Benderson Lake near the Nathan Benderson Family Finish Tower (5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota, FL 34235). The first event in this series – scheduled for Thursday, November 16th at 5pm – features two of the most innovative voices working in theater today. “Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park: Theater on the Lake” showcases the talents of Hermitage Fellows Terry Guest and James Anthony Tyler. These two talentssplit the bill to share some of their latest work and discuss the creative process as the sun goes down over the lake. This first program in the new series is presented in partnership with Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Urbanite Theatre, and Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy. Admission is free, but registration is required ($5/person) at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

“As we continue to offer one-of-a-kind Hermitage programming throughout the region, we are excited to welcome Sarasota and Gulf Coast audiences to another fantastic venue where they can share a magical evening with Hermitage artists against the beautiful backdrop of Nathan Benderson Park’s lakefront location,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We are thrilled to build upon the success of our first program at Nathan Benderson Park last spring. Much like our beach programs on Manasota Key and other locations throughout Sarasota and Manatee County, these hour-long events will offer our community the opportunity to experience a ‘sneak peek’ into these extraordinary artists’ creative process.” 

“We are honored to partner with the Hermitage Artist Retreat to celebrate the arts at Nathan Benderson Park,” added Bruce C. Patneaude, Chief Operating Officer of Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy. “The artists coming to the Hermitage are some of the very best in the world. It is a unique opportunity to watch their creative performances and interactions with the audience. Hosting this event at the Park is one of the many ways we are pleased to bring creativity, diversity, and culture to the Sarasota County and Manatee County communities. We look forward to building a fantastic annual series of events.” 

Hermitage Fellow and award-winning writer-performer Terry Guest is the playwright behind Urbanite Theatre’s extended 2021 run of At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen, their upcoming production of Oak in 2024, and the Hermitage’s 2023 presentation of The Madness of Mary Todd, which was part of the “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” series, also in partnership with Urbanite. Guest, a Chicago-based playwright, also recently shared selections from his work about Eartha Kitt, A Ghost in Satin, on the Hermitage Beach. His play The Magnolia Ballet has been performed all around the country and was the recipient of two Jeff Awards in Chicago, with Guest’s play Marie Antionette and the Magical Negros winning three Jeff Awards. “We are thrilled to once again partner with the Hermitage in support of Terry’s remarkable work,” said Urbanite Producing Artistic Director Summer Dawn Wallace. “Sharing insight into Terry’s process at this scenic outdoor venue is the perfect way to get audiences tuned into this brilliant writer’s voice and excited for this season’s production of Oak.” 

Hermitage Fellow James Anthony Tyler, the third annual recipient of the Horton Foote Award, has the distinguished honor of being one of the first playwrights commissioned by Audible to produce an audio play specifically for that platform, Hop Tha A, which Sarasota audiences will recall hearing selections from on the Hermitage Beach during Tyler’s last residency. “James’ works tell the kinds of stories we uplift at WBTT, those that promote and celebrate African-American history and experience,” added Nate Jacobs, Founder and Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theater Troupe. “We always enjoy partnering with the Hermitage to celebrate some of the nation’s most exciting new voices and playwrights.”

Confirmed 2023-2024 dates for this first official season of “Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” include Thursday, November 16, 2023, at 5pm; Friday, February 2, 2024, at 5pm; and Thursday, March 14, 2024, at 6:30pm.

These outdoor events are one part of many “Hermitage North” programs, series, and collaborations planned throughout the season, spanning Sarasota County and the surrounding region. The programs feature industry-leading and award-winning playwrights, visual artists, musicians, poets, choreographers, and more — all free to the members of our community with a $5/person registration fee. 

    Hermitage Announces First Wave of Fall and Winter Programs

    The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces the first wave of new public programs through the end of 2023, featuring acclaimed Hermitage Fellows in music, theater, dance, literature, visual art, and more – with additional events to be announced. These newly added programs are presented on the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus, as well as venues throughout Sarasota County as part of the Hermitage’s ongoing collaborations with arts and cultural organizations spanning the Gulf Coast region, such as Asolo Repertory Theatre, The Bay Sarasota, Bookstore1, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, Johann Fust Library Foundation, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota Contemporary Dance, Sarasota County Libraries, Sarasota Opera, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, and more.

    A special September program celebrates the gifted artists who call Sarasota County home. Presented in partnership with the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County through the John Ringling Tower initiative, Sarasota artists Melanie Lavender and Kuniko Yamamoto combine talents for “Power in Paper: Celebrating Sarasota Artists” on Friday, September 29th at 6pm. As the sun sets on the Hermitage Beach, spoken-word poet, podcast host, and proud Booker High School alum Melanie Lavender shares selections of work resulting from her two-week residency at the Hermitage. She is joined by Kuniko Yamamoto, an origami master and theatrical storyteller who participated in the Hermitage/JRT residency program last year just before Hurricane Ian.   

    On Thursday, October 12th at 6pm, the Hermitage partners with Bookstore1 in downtown Sarasota to present Hermitage Fellow Kristen Renee Miller, who will read from selected works and discuss the ecosystem of the modern literary world in this free community program. October programming continues with a return to the Conservation Foundation’s Bay Preserve in Osprey, as Hermitage Fellows Diane Cook andCarmina Escobar explore the literary and sonic connection to the outdoors in this Hermitage program inspired by our collective roots in nature on Thursday, October 19th at 6pm. Hermitage events in October conclude on the Hermitage Beach with a pair of returning, Hermitage Fellows who met on Manasota Key while in residence. Celebrated poet Melissa Studdard and Grammy Award-winning composer ChristopherTheofanidis share selections of work from their oratorio inspired by Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha on Friday, October 27th at 6pm. This is a piece they are developing alongside Hermitage alumni Patrick Harlin and Anne Patterson, which is set to debut at the Aspen Music Festival in 2025. Hermitage audiences will be among the first to hear samples of this work and learn about its creative journey from the Hermitage Beach to one of the nation’s leading stages.

    Join Hermitage Fellow and New York Times-heralded author Emily Nemens as she reads from and discusses her debut novel, The Cactus League on Friday, November 3rd at 6pm on the Hermitage Beach. Anchored by an expert knowledge of baseball’s inner workings, her novel is a propulsive and deeply human story that captures the essence of one of Florida’s cherished pastimes: spring training. On Monday, November 6th at 3pm, Hermitage Fellow and award-winning librettist Kirya Traber shares her passion for music and offers an audience-engagement workshop for those interested in exploring an intuitive approach to songwriting. Explore how music and song are some of the most powerful tools for communicating stories in this participatory event. These events launch a new Hermitage partnership with Sarasota County Libraries and Ringling College of Art and Design to kick off the Off the Page Literary Festival

    On Saturday, November 11th, the Hermitage hosts its annual Artful LobsterAn Outdoor Celebration. Now celebrating its 15th year and coming on the heels of the organization’s jam-packed 20thAnniversary season, this signature event raises valuable funds for the Hermitage’s nationally 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 from 11:30am to 2pm 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. Tickets for this fundraiser and sponsorship details can be found at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

    The Hermitage Cross Arts Collaborative, now in its second season, is a new annual residency program focused on supporting the incredible talent of performing artists frequently featured on Sarasota stages. This year the program is represented by musician and composer Lizzie Hagstedt, whose work has been developed with Asolo Rep, and Sarasota Contemporary Dance Company member Jessica Obiedzinski. After two weeks on the Hermitage’s historic beachfront campus, these two gifted creators will reunite to share selections of their new works and talk about how they utilized their residency time as the sun sets at The Bay – Sarasota’s newest signature park along Sarasota Bay on Tuesday, November 14th at 5pm. 

    On Thursday, December 14th at 4pm, Hermitage Fellow Cleyvis Natera reads from and offers insight into her “refreshingly direct and declarative” (NY Times) debut novel, Neruda on the Park, and shares a glimpse into her writing process at the Johann Fust Community Library in Boca Grande. 

    Additional November and December programs featuring award-winning Hermitage artists and performers will be announced at a later date. 

    “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” Kicks Off 2023-24 Season on October 5

    The Hermitage Artist Retreat’s popular series, “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens,” continues into its fourth year as part of the Hermitage’s 2023-2024 season. The outdoor series — a continuing collaboration between the Hermitage and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens — features performances and explorations of works-in-progress by Hermitage artists-in-residence and alumni. 

    “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” events are currently scheduled to take place at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus and its Historic Spanish Point Campus in Osprey. The first of these events is “The Blurred Line Between Humor and Heartbreak: A Playwriting Workshop,” where award-winning writer, actor, and Hermitage Fellow Halley Feiffer will invite participants into the creative process on Thursday, October 5, at 6pm, at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota Campus, 1534 Mound St., Sarasota. Admission is free, but registration is required ($5/person) at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.   

    Feiffer is a WGA, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle-nominated writer and actor. She is currently writing and show-running Season 12 of Ryan Murphy’s hit television series American Horror Story, starring Emma Roberts and Kim Kardashian. She is also writing the book for the Broadway-bound stage adaptation of Thelma & Louise with Neko Case composing. Her television and film roles include HBO’s Mildred Pierce, Flight of the Conchords, and Bored to Death, and the films The Squid and the Whale, Gentlemen Broncos, and He’s Way More Famous than You, which she also co-wrote. She is currently developing a film adaptation of her play The Pain of My Belligerence with Lena Dunham’s Good Thing Going for her to direct. 

    Confirmed dates for this fourth season of “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” include:

    • Thursday, October 5, 2023, Downtown Sarasota Campus
    • Thursday, November 30, 2023, Historic Spanish Point Campus
    • Thursday, January 25, 2024, Downtown Sarasota Campus
    • Thursday March 28, 2024, Downtown Sarasota Campus
    • Thursday, May 23, 2024, Historic Spanish Point Campus

    “As we continue to offer one-of-a-kind Hermitage programming throughout the region, we are thrilled to once again welcome audiences to share a magical evening with Hermitage artists against the beautiful backdrop of Selby Gardens’ two bayfront campuses,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We look forward to our continuing partnership with Selby Gardens on this popular series, welcoming new and returning audiences to experience a ‘sneak peek’ into these extraordinary artists’ creative process.” 

    “We are so excited to continue this extremely successful partnership with the Hermitage Artist Retreat,” says Selby Gardens President & CEO Jennifer Rominiecki. “Welcoming world-renowned Hermitage artists to our bayfront sanctuary in downtown Sarasota and our beautiful Historic Spanish Point campus in Osprey is something we look forward to each year. Treating Gulf Coast patrons to these special programs has been a delight, and we can’t wait to embark on another fantastic season with the Hermitage.”  

    These outdoor events are one part of many “Hermitage North” programs and collaborations planned throughout the season, spanning Sarasota County and the surrounding region. The programs feature industry-leading playwrights, visual artists, musicians, poets, choreographers, and more — all free to the members of our community with a $5/person registration fee. 

    Hermitage Receives National and Regional Grants

    The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced receipt of several significant grants that will support the Hermitage’s mission and community programming. The Hermitage offers one-of-a-kind artistic programming with a focus on community impact, education, and social justice. The Hermitage provides artists the opportunity to create bold new works of art across all artistic disciplines. These extraordinary talents give back to the community by presenting their works in progress to audiences throughout our region before they go on to national and international acclaim. The Hermitage welcomes nearly 100 of the world’s leading artists to Sarasota County each year. Their free community programming now includes over 50 events annually at locations throughout the Gulf Coast region. Support from these organizations allow the Hermitage to continue to support artists and community initiatives. 

    Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF)is continuing its support of the Hermitage with a $40,000 Arts Appreciation Grant in support of the Hermitage’s mission: to inspire and foster the most influential and culturally consequential art and artists of our time. The Hermitage became one of Gulf Coast’s “Arts Appreciation” grantees in 2021, following multiple years of ongoing support and partnership. This grant was made possible through the Venice Endowment Fund, the Agnes Gnewikow Charitable Fund, and the Margaret Lehman Endowment Fund. 

    An additional $15,000 in community program support came from The Exchange of Sarasota, which awarded a grant for “Hermitage North” programming and the Hermitage’s arts education initiative. Part of these funds were awarded through The Exchange’s new Elizabeth Lindsay Arts in Education grant program.

    Additional gifts of support include a grant for improvements designed to enhance artist facilities from the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, a Capacity Building Grant from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County (CFSC) to support professional development, a grant from the Camilla & Earl McGrath Foundation toward the Hermitage’s nationally renowned artist residency program and free community programming, with continuing grants from the Amphion FoundationSustainable Arts Foundation, and Plantation Community Foundation to show support for special Hermitage programs in dance, music, family residencies, and more. 

    The Hermitage is widely recognized for its national artist residency program and its rapidly expanding community programming, introducing area audiences to some of the world’s leading artists across all disciplines. “As our programs and collaborations continue to evolve and expand throughout our region, we are excited to build bridges to new audiences and invaluable supporters,” says Andy Sandberg,Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage. “We are truly grateful for these generous grants from both new and longtime supporters, all of which will allow us to provide more support and resources to the diverse and accomplished Hermitage artists who are making a meaningful and lasting impact in our community and beyond.”

    Carole Crosby Elected New President of Board of Trustees;  Terry Brackett Joins as New Hermitage Trustee

    The Hermitage Artist Retreat announced today that Carole Crosby has been elected by a unanimous vote as President of the Hermitage Board of Trustees after four years as a member and two seasons as Chair of the Hermitage Governance Committee. Crosby succeeds Robyn Citrin, who concludes her two-year term as President and will remain on the Hermitage Board. Both Crosby and Citrin became trustees in the same season Andy Sandberg was hired as Artistic Director and CEO. The Hermitage also this year welcomes Terry Brackett as a new member of the Board of Trustees. These changes to the Hermitage Board follow a remarkable 20th Anniversary season that has included more than 50 live programs and events, dozens of new and expanded arts and education partnerships in the community, another record-breaking fiscal year, and a dramatic expansion of the Hermitage team. 

    “We are thrilled to have Carole stepping into her new leadership role on the Hermitage Board of Trustees,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “With her vast experience and insight into board governance, as well her deep understanding and appreciation for the arts, Carole is a natural fit for this position. In addition to being a tremendous supporter and champion of the Hermitage and the arts in our community, Carole has been an invaluable member of the board, and I am excited to be her partner-in-crime in the seasons ahead. We are also delighted to welcome Terry Brackett to the Board of Trustees. Terry has been a passionate supporter of the Hermitage and its values, and we are looking forward to having her play a vital role in the future of the organization. I must share my sincere appreciation to Robyn Citrin, who has been a great friend and collaborator to me in her role as President and has helped guide us through a transformational time. We are grateful to have Robyn staying on as a trustee with her experience as an immediate past president, and we are looking forward to continuing the growth trajectory at the Hermitage.” 

    Carole Crosby commences a two-year term as President, with David Green continuing as Vice President and Steve Adler continuing as Treasurer. Sondra Biller begins her first year as Secretary, while Ellen Bermantransitions into her new role as Chair of Governance. 

    “It is truly an honor to lead this tremendous group of individuals and welcome Terry to the Board. We had an outstanding 20th Anniversary season, and I know that Terry’s enthusiasm for the arts — specifically the Hermitage — will be a welcome addition. The work Andy and the team do to support the development and creation of new works of theater, music, dance, poetry, visual art, and more is unparalleled. I am looking forward to this new role and a continuing collaboration with Andy and the Board in the seasons ahead.” said Carole Crosby

    Prior to embarking on an impressive law career, Crosby was the principal harpist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Crosby maintained her role as principal harpist while earning her law degree and went on to practice law in Detroit after graduating as valedictorian. Crosby and her husband Larry Wickless moved to Chicago in 2008, where she became involved with several arts organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago and Alliance Francaise de Chicago, serving on its Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Since moving to Sarasota, Crosby most recently served as President of the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Board of Directors, in addition to being a past president of the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota and the Alliance Francaise de Sarasota.

    In the 2021-2022, Crosby provided generous support to launch the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage, bringing extraordinary Hermitage alumni composers and musicians back to Sarasota for special concerts. This has led to popular Hermitage programs from harpist Ashley Jackson at Selby Gardens in 2022 and composer Zoe Sarnak at Nathan Benderson Park in 2023.

    Terry Brackett is a retired attorney, having worked in the DC area both in government and private practice for 35 years. During that time, she served on several boards and volunteered for a number of women’s organizations. In Sarasota, she has served or is currently serving on the following boards: Asolo Repertory Theatre, WUSF, Library Foundation of Sarasota County, Protect Our Defenders (Advisory Board), Sarasota Canine Search and Rescue, UN Women – USA, and Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival (Advisory Board). 

    The Hermitage’s board officers for the 2023-2024 season are: Carole Crosby, President; David Green, Vice President; Steve Adler, Treasurer; and Sondra Biller, Secretary. The Hermitage Board of Trustees also includes Ellen Berman (Chair of Governance), Christine BooneTerry Brackett,* Maryann Casey, Robyn Citrin (Immediate Past President), Marletta Darnall, Leslie Edwards (Past Pesident),Stephanie Jones, Tina Shao Napoli, Charlotte Perret, Liz Richardson, Edward M. Swan, Jr., Nelda Thompson (Emeritus), Mary Lou Winnick, Doug Wright, and Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO (ex-officio). *Indicates New Trustee

    Hermitage 2023 STARs Announced

    Five Florida public school arts teachers will spend part of their summer on Manasota Key while working on their own artistic endeavors. They are the winners of the 2023 State Teachers Artist Residency program (STARs) – now in its thirteenth year – presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in partnership with theFlorida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE). This year’s recipients were selected from dozens of impressive applicants, and the five teachers selected from across the State of Florida include three visual arts educators working in different mediums, a music teacher and electronic musician, and an artist/educator working across disciplines to illustrate an original novel. The five receive a residency at the nationally renowned Hermitage Artist Retreat, where they can focus on their own work as creative artists. These five teaching artists will present a family-friendly showcase of their work on Friday, July 14th starting at 1pm. This special event will be held outdoors at the Hermitage’s beachfront campus on Manasota Key; entrance at 6660 Manasota Key Road, Englewood, FL 34223. The program is presented in partnership with the Englewood YMCA. In addition to the students and families attending from the YMCA, this Hermitage community program will be free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee. Due to capacity limitations and safety protocols, registration is required at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

    The five recipients of this honor, selected among dozens of impressive applicants, include: Jeffrey Brown, a keyboard instructor at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando (Orange County); James Finch, a visual arts instructor at West Shore Jr/Sr High School in Melbourne (Brevard County); Katherine Gebhart, an art instructor at Jerry Thomas Elementary School in Jupiter (Palm Beach County); Omar Otero, a photography and painting instructor at Hagerty High School in Oviedo (Seminole County); and Rachael Pongetti, a visual art instructor at the Escambia High School in Pensacola (Escambia County).

    Jeff Brown teaches keyboard at Dr. Phillips High School in Orange County, FL, and serves as Math Interventionist at Chancery Charter HS. His degree is in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University. He was senior consultant for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) before working in music. As a musician, he has held music director, choir director and educator positions, including Teaching Artist in Residence at Santa Fe Opera. Awards include two Helene Wurlitzer Foundation residency grants, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts Residency Award, Banff Centre IWJCM selection, National Hispanic Cultural Center/McCune Foundation Fellowship, and Florida Alliance for Arts Education (Arts Integration Guided Residency). His compositions and performances have been presented in Canada, Europe, South America, and the U.S. He teaches in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

    James Finch graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA degree in Art and specialized in Graphic Design. He has won two international design awards, multiple state awards, and numerous advertising (Addy) awards. Mr. Finch continues to work in the commercial art field as a designer and enjoys drawing and painting in his spare time. He currently teaches at West Shore Jr./Sr. High in the Computer Graphics programs. Many of his students have gone on to further their education and have careers in the arts ranging from animators, creative directors, motion graphic/social media arts, architecture, industrial designers, illustrators, and more. Mr. Finch was a member of the Space Coast Advertising Federation, FAEA and BAEA.

    Katherine Gebhart is a life-long visual artist who also creates theater, writing, and poetry. For over 10 years, she has been teaching within the school district of Palm Beach County, where she encourages her students to be their best by striving for innovation and not perfection and to use their most imaginative ideas, incorporating both learned techniques and what makes them personally unique. When she is not in the studio, she is actively engaged in the culture of Jerry Thomas Elementary through many avenues, not the least of which is musical theater. 

    Omar Otero received his Bachelor of Arts in Photography and Digital Imaging from the Ringling College of Art and Design, one of the most highly recognized and innovative arts colleges in the United States. He has had the privilege to teach photography, sculpture, drawing, and painting nationally and in Central America. After graduating, Otero worked side by side with actors and crew in New York television, including the daytime dramas All My Children, One Life to Live, Guiding Light, and As the World Turns. He has won multiple national honors, including the Ava Video Award. He started his art teaching career as a visual arts instructor at IQ Village School of the Arts in Orlando, Florida. Following that, he started teaching in Tegucigalpa, Honduras during the school year and also at his alma mater, Ringling College of Art and Design, during the summer.

    Rachael Pongetti is a Pensacola-based teacher, photographer, and multimedia artist who focuses on the visual culture of her surrounding community and the theme of impermanence. She is the author of Uncovering the Layers, The Pensacola Graffiti Bridge Project, and recipient of the National Book Award for Communication for Freedom of Speech, from the Freedom Foundation in Valley Forge. Her work has appeared in various publications, exhibitions, and private collections. After facing the challenges of teaching through the pandemic, Rachael has turned to more analog-based art forms such as mixed media, collage, and assemblage art.

    Since the start of the Hermitage STARs program in 2011, 62 teachers have represented over 30 Florida counties.