Tom Sleigh at Historic Asolo on Thursday

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in partnership with the Historic Asolo Theater of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art are bringing you the chance to meet an extraordinary American poet and writer. Tom Sleigh will read from his work and talk about his incredible life as a writer at the Historic Asolo on Thursday, November 11 at 7:30 pm.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in partnership with the Historic Asolo Theater of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art are bringing you the chance to meet an extraordinary American poet and writer. Tom Sleigh will read from his work and talk about his incredible life as a writer at the Historic Asolo on Thursday, November 11 at 7:30 pm. Call the Historic Asolo Theater at 941.360.7399 for reservations.

Tom wrote us this note about his life:
You could say that my life has resembled a double feature, plus the newsreel.

When I was a kid, the first feature was of me going to the movies every night because my parents owned a drive-in movie theater out in east Texas, red clay and piney woods country. My mother worked the snackbar, my father the projector. That was my first experience of poetry: enormous shadows on a screen, voices coming from the grille of the metal speaker like voices from other worlds.

The second feature was about a man who travelled to some of those worlds—like San Cristobal de Las Casas in southern Mexico, where I worked with the anthropologist and photographer, Gertrude Blom. At Na Balom—which means in Mayan the House of the Jaguar—I worked with the Lacandon Indians, the tribe most like the ancient Maya. And let’s not forget the newsreel: in the last few years, I’ve been to Lebanon and Syria, as well as to Kenya, where I’ve seen the lives of Palestinian and Somali refugees up close.

Throughout both features and “the newsy” as we used to call it, I’ve tried to write as closely to the bone as I could: Marilyn Monroe getting a massage, the greenish haze of teargas, cats lounging on tanks, a Somali poet singing a song for me. And more ordinary moments: the experience of finding my father’s Army records when he went to flight school, the way my mother’s dog looks at her sometimes, the sound of kids yelling their heads off as they splash naked in a pond.

Tom is the author of more than half a dozen volumes of poetry. Space Walk (2007) won the 2008 Kingsley Tufts Award, a prize worth $100,000, and earned Sleigh considerable critical acclaim. Referring to this collection, poet Philip Levine noted, “Sleigh’s reviewers use words such as ‘adept,’ ‘elegant,’ and ‘classical.’ Reading his new book, I find all those terms beside the point, even though not one is inaccurate. I am struck by the human dramas that are enacted in these poems, the deep encounters that often shatter the participants and occasionally restore them. What delights me most is seeing a poet of his accomplishments and his large and well-earned reputation suddenly veer into a new arena of both our daily and our mythical lives. For the writer, such daring may be its own reward; for the reader, it is thrilling to overhear a writer pushing into greatness.” Sleigh has also received the Shelley Award from the Poetry Society of America, an Individual Writer’s Award from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, a Guggenheim grant, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and an Academy Award from the Academy of American Poets.

Andrew McKenna Lee at the Historic Asolo

Described as “full of imagination and technical expertise,” Andrew McKenna Lee’s music is an integral synthesis of contrasting elements from a variety of styles and influences.

Andrew McKenna Lee

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in partnership with the Historic Asolo Theater of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art are bringing you the chance to meet an extraordinary contemporary composer and guitar virtuoso. Andrew McKenna Lee will perform at the Historic Asolo on Thursday, November 4 at 7:30 pm.

Described as “full of imagination and technical expertise,” Andrew McKenna Lee’s music is an integral synthesis of contrasting elements from a variety of styles and influences. A native of Charleston, SC, he began his musical studies on the guitar at age twelve and soon after went on to pursue composition. In recent years, his music has been performed by such ensembles as the Brentano String Quartet, the New Jersey Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, the Swedish percussion ensemble Kroumata, and the American chamber sextet eighth blackbird.

After completing undergraduate work in composition at Carnegie Mellon University, Andrew went on to obtain a Master’s degree in 2000 from the Manhattan School of Music. His primary teachers have been Leonardo Balada, Richard Danielpour, and Steven Mackey. He has received awards and fellowships from ASCAP, the New York Youth Symphony, Princeton University, the South Carolina Arts Council, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Hermitage Artist Retreat, the American Music Center, and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. He is currently completing his Ph.D. in composition at Princeton University, and is a member of the New York based composers collective, Random Access Music.

You can learn more about Andrew including hearing some of his music by visiting his web page at www.AndrewMcKennaLee.com.

Justice Served for Playwright

Catherine Filloux: Seeking justice, she finds it.

Playwright Catherine Filloux seeks justice in her plays while she deeply explores distress and ugliness in her literary realm of human rights and female genocide. As deeply as she sees and feels those horrors, she saw and felt the beauty of the Hermitage Artist Retreat. While at the Hermitage, it was clear in her eyes, her voice, and her whole expression, that she emotionally absorbs nature’s contrasting serenity and marvel, just as fully as she takes in the cruelty of the lifescapes of Cambodia and Bosnia.

“Justice” is Catherine losing herself in a well-deserved beach run, a luxurious swim, and a breathtaking sunset.

Catherine Filloux at her beach reading
The Sunset after Catherine's beach reading

Photos by Kathye Faries

The Privilege of our Work

We at the Hermitage are blessed to have this work. Not only do we have what may be the best offices in Florida – at least if you’re a beach person, but we get to spend time with the smartest, most talented people on the planet. We get to chat with them about their work, we get to have dinner or go out for a drink with them, and sometimes, like today, we get to see them in rehearsal.

Eve Beglarian in rehearsalWe at the Hermitage are blessed to have this work. Not only do we have what may be the best offices in Florida – at least if you’re a beach person, but we get to spend time with the smartest, most talented people on the planet. We get to chat with them about their work, we get to have dinner or go out for a drink with them, and sometimes, like today, we get to see them in rehearsal.

Composer Eve Beglarian has been with us this past week. Eve won the 2009 Greenfield Prize in Music which resulted in a $30,000 commission for a new work, a Hermitage residency, and a partnership with a regional arts organization to help develop the work. In this case, Eve is working with the Sarasota Orchestra. Today we got to attend some of her rehearsal with her musicians. While at the Hermitage last week, she composed a new piece that she got to try today.

Last year Eve had an adventure. She decided to paddle a red kayak from the headwaters of the Mississippi River, to New Orleans. Occasionally artists have to do these kinds of things – it’s “filling the well.” The New York Times wrote a wonderful story of her trip. And now she’s writing music influenced by music she heard, people she spoke with, and sounds she encountered paddling and camping her way down the river.

Today we got to hear her rehearse some of it, and talk about it. What a treat. And what a treat the Sarasota audience is in for on March 26th when the Sarasota Orchestra premieres the piece, one of two works that will be the result of the Greenfield Prize commission. Then, on March 26th, it will be your privilege to meet Eve, to discover for yourself what an exceptional human being and inspired composer and musician she is. And you will join with us in thanking Bob and Louise Greenfield and the Greenfield Foundation for the gift of the Greenfield Prize which has brought us Eve and which will continue to bring extraordinary people and the work they create to our community.

Sarasota Friends – Have a sailboat?

The Hermitage is looking for a Sarasota-based sailor to offer sailboat rides to artists. From a sunfish to a 64 footer, if you’ve got one, let’s talk. It’s a great opportunity to spend time with a Hermitage Artist.

While artists and writers are in residence at the Hermitage, we want to let them experience all that Florida has to offer. Many times these side trips turn into scenes in a book, or steps in a dance. If you are willing to offer sailboat rides, please let us know. We have several powerboat volunteers, but no sailboats. This week, we have a special request for a sail. If you can help, please call 475-2098 to make the arrangements. If you can’t do it by Sunday, talk to us anyway. This particular artist will return in March, and there may be similar requests by others.

Sanford Biggers’ Billboard

Sanford Biggers, winner of the 2010 Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, was commissioned for this billboard currently up on La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles. What do you think?

Sanford Biggers, winner of the 2010 Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, was commissioned for this billboard currently up on La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles. What do you think?

Hermitage Choreographer at Baryshnikov Center

Hermitage choreographer Hilary Easton’s new piece will have its New York premiere at the Baryshnikov Center in October.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
Hermitage choreographer Hilary Easton and her company will perform at the Baryshnikov Center in New York in October according to TalkDanceWorld.com. Easton, who was last in residence in October, 2009 credits her time at the Hermitage as well as The Silo Artist Residency Project for helping her develop the project, titled; Light and Shade Follow the link for the details in the full TalkDanceWorld.com article.

Greenfield Prize Gears Up

No sooner is one Greenfield Prize awarded than the process to select the next one begins. The next prize, to be awarded at the Greenfield Prize Award Dinner on March 27th, 2011, will be a commission for a new play. The special jury to make that selection has been constituted, and the first meeting will be held in the fall.

No sooner is one Greenfield Prize awarded than the process to select the next one begins. The next prize, to be awarded at the Greenfield Prize Award Dinner on March 27th, 2011, will be a commission for a new play. The special jury to make that selection has been constituted, and the first meeting will be held in the fall.

Each prize commission has two years to be completed, and this year the Sarasota Orchestra will premiere Eve Beglarian’s chamber music composition on the evening of March 26th, the evening before the dinner. So save the dates for a Greenfield weekend – a concert on Saturday evening and a celebration dinner with a major national speaker on Sunday. Ahh, life in Sarasota!

Fellows in the News

Congratulations to Hermitage playwright Elaine Romero whose play, Wetback was selected by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre for inclusion in “Voices At The River,” a new play development program for African American and Latino playwrights. The reading was held on July 16th at the theatre in Little Rock.

Congratulations to Hermitage playwright Elaine Romero whose play, Wetback was selected by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre for inclusion in “Voices At The River,” a new play development program for African American and Latino playwrights. The reading was held on July 16th at the theatre in Little Rock.