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. 

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. 

    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 Receives Grant from Barancik Foundation to Protect Freedom of Artistic Expression and Support Diverse Community Programming

    A $400,000 grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation has been awarded to the Hermitage Artist Retreat in support of its efforts and impact as a leading national arts incubator for diverse and original works of music, theater, literature, visual art, dance, and more. The Hermitage offers one-of-a-kind artistic programming with a focus on community impact, education, and social justice. This grant will allow the Hermitage to further its commitment to celebrating bold and innovative new work without censoring or inhibiting the creativity of these extraordinary talents.

    In today’s complicated cultural climate, freedom of artistic expression is often being challenged, and this grant from Barancik Foundation will help provide the Hermitage with more flexibility and resources to manage the complex layers of protecting artistic integrity. As an incubator for diverse and original works across all artistic mediums, the Hermitage offers transformative experiences to artists and audiences alike, inviting leading artists from around the world to its beachfront campus on Manasota Key and offering rare ‘sneak peeks’ of bold and original new works to the members of our community. 

    “These candid, often interactive experiences provide an unparalleled level of access to some of the world’s leading creators, writers, and performers,” says Andy Sandberg. “As our programs and collaborations continue to evolve and expand throughout our region and across the nation, we are deeply committed to protecting every Hermitage Fellow’s freedom of artistic expression – this will always be core to our values. This means that our growing Hermitage audiences are getting a rare and always authentic look into the creative process of these diverse and accomplished talents.” 

    This recent $400,000 grant from Barancik Foundation is designed to help support these efforts, including the Hermitage’s growing community outreach and education initiatives, enhancing this prestigious national organization’s support for its artists and returning alumni talent, and broadening the organization’s reach and impact in schools and underserved communities all while providing artists with the ability to explore their craft and achieve their greatest potential, unencumbered by censorship. 

    “One of the many things the Hermitage does well is intentionally engage with audiences that might not otherwise have access to creative experiences,” commented Barancik Foundation President and CEO Teri A. Hansen. “Andy and team truly demonstrate a collaborative spirit that is enriching the arts and culture of our region.” 

    “This generous support from Barancik Foundation is going to not only allow us to provide more resources for the diverse and accomplished Hermitage artists who are making a meaningful and lasting impact in our community, but also to support our passionate and dedicated team in delivering the level and quality of unique programming we are committed to delivering,” added Sandberg. “It has been an exciting period of growth for the Hermitage, and now this grant will help us take the organization to the next level.”   

    Hermitage Announces New Collaborative Partnership with New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company

    The Hermitage Artist Retreat is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Tony Award-winning Roundabout Theatre Company, the nation’s largest not-for-profit theater with a celebrated history of producing iconic works for nearly 60 years. The partnership, designed to continue on an ongoing basis, furthers the Hermitage’s mission to inspire and foster the most influential and culturally consequential art and artists of our time. This collaboration will provide an opportunity for some of the theater world’s most exciting new voices to explore their work on the historic Hermitage campus before a potential production at one of the country’s most prestigious theatrical institutions. The inaugural year of this new partnership will launch this summer with playwrights York Walker and Dave Harris. 

    York Walker, an award-winning playwright and screenwriter from Chicago, is the inaugural recipient of the Vineyard Theatre’s Colman Domingo Award and is also a member of Marcus Gardley’s New Wave Writer’s Workshop. His work includes The Séance (Winner of the John Singleton Short Film Competition, 48 Hours… in Harlem), Covenant (Fire This Time Festival, Access Theatre’s 4 Flights Up Festival), White Shoes (Fire This Time Festival), Summer Of ’63 (The Actors Company Theatre’s New TACTics Festival, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville’s Apprentice Reading Series) and Of Dreams To Come (American Conservatory Theatre’s New Work Series). His play Covenant is scheduled to premiere as part of the Roundabout Underground Series in the fall of 2023.  

    Dave Harris is a poet and playwright based in Philadelphia whose work Tambo & Bones premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 2022. Other works for the stage include Exception to the Rule (Roundabout Theatre Company, 2022), and Everybody Black (Humana Festival 2019). His first feature film, Summertime premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released in 2021. Selected honors include: the 2019 Ollie Award, The Lorraine Hansberry Award and Mark Twain Award from The Kennedy Center, The International Commendation for The Bruntwood Prize, the Venturous Fellowship from The Lark, and a Cave Canem poetry fellowship amongst others. Harris is currently writing several features and television projects for AMC (Interview with the Vampire), FX, and Amazon. His first full-length collection of poetry, Patricide, was published by Button Poetry. Upcoming: Incendiary (Woolly Mammoth, 2023), Tambo & Bones (Royal Stratford East, London Premiere, 2023).   

    “We are honored to be launching this exciting collaboration with Roundabout Theatre Company,” added Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We are proud to be a leading national incubator for new and original works, and as Roundabout deepens its commitment to championing new voices, this partnership provides emerging and innovative playwrights with a ‘full circle’ journey.”

    Harris and Walker are not the only overlapping Hermitage and Roundabout Underground artists. Adam Gwon, whose musical Ordinary Days premiered at the Underground in 2009, went on to develop his musical Scotland, PA (with playwright Michael Mitnick) at the Hermitage Artist Retreat before its premiere at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre in 2019. Other notable mutual artists include Tigers Be Still playwright Kim Rosenstock, who was recently in residence at the Hermitage developing a new commission for Roundabout, amongst other emerging and established theater artists.  

    Visual Artist Sandy Rodriguez and Dancer-Choreographer Rennie Harris Honored at the 2023 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner

    The annual Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP) Dinner on Sunday, April 16th honored dancer-choreographer Lorenzo ‘Rennie’ Harris and visual artist Sandy Rodriguez. This was the culmination of a weekend-long celebration of events, hosted by the Hermitage Artist Retreat (Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO) in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation. To commemorate the 20th anniversary season of the Hermitage and the milestone 15th year of this distinguished national honor, the Hermitage presented two awards – one in the discipline of visual art and a special award in the field of dance and choreography. The evening of celebration was presented outdoors by the Ringling Museum’s Ca’ d’Zan and featured inspiring performances from Broadway star and Lucille Lortel Award winner Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer (Beetlejuice), hip-hop dancer Phil S. Cuttino Jr. (Rennie Harris Puremovement), violinist Samantha Bennett (EnsembleNEWSRQ), and special appearances from past Hermitage Greenfield Prize winners Sanford Biggers (2010, visual art), and Angélica Negrón (2022, music). The annual gala raised more than $240,000 in support of the Hermitage’s mission in addition to the Greenfield Foundation’s ongoing annual gift of $150,000. The festive evening was chaired by Sherry and Tom Koski, with honorary co-chairs Steven High (The Ringling Museum), Nate Jacobs (Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe), Virginia Shearer (Sarasota Art Museum)and Iain Webb (Sarasota Ballet). Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg served as master of ceremonies and announced that the Ringling Museum will be collaborating with the Hermitage as the presenting partner for the premieres of both Sandy Rodriguez and Rennie Harris’ commissions in Sarasota in 2025. Harris and Rodriguez each receive a $30,000 commission, along with an extended residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat.

    The evening opened with a performance from Philadelphia-based dancer Phil S. Cuttino Jr., a core member of Rennie Harris Puremovement, who kicked off the event with a tribute to hip-hop and street dance. Sandberg took the stage as master of ceremonies, and introduced a video documenting fifteen years of Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients, jurors, and presenting partners. Broadway star, Lucille Lortel Award winner, and Drama Desk Award nominee Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer enthralled the crowd with a performance of Stephen Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat,” from the musical Sunday in the Park with George, as a tribute to the creation of art.The program continued with Anne Patterson, one of this year’s visual art jurors and a Hermitage alumna artist, introducing a video of Sandy Rodriguez’s work and process. Two of this year’s dance jurors, Michael Novak (Artistic Director of Paul Taylor Dance Company)and Charmaine Warren (Founder and Artistic Director of “Black Dance Stories”) introduced selections of Rennie Harris’ extraordinary body of work. 2022 HGP recipient Angélica Negrón thanked the Hermitage for this opportunity and introduced her original violin and electronic music piece, “A través del manto luminoso.” The piece was performed by ensembleNewSRQ’s Samantha Bennett; enSRQ will be serving as the presenting partner for Negrón’s HGP commission, which will have its premiere in April of 2024 (further details to be announced).The evening continued with a surprise appearance from internationally renowned artist Sanford Biggers, the first-ever Hermitage Greenfield Prize winner in visual art (2010) and a current member of the Hermitage Curatorial Council. Biggers shared what the Hermitage and this award meant to his artistic practice, how the impact of this opportunity shaped the trajectory of his impressive career, and how important it is to pay that forward. To close out the event and celebrate the perfect weather, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer returned to the stage for a showstopping rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

    “This was an extraordinary evening and a joyful celebration of this truly one-of-a-kind prize,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “It was an honor to celebrate Rennie Harris, Sandy Rodriguez, and their immeasurable talents, and we can’t wait to introduce their new works of art and dance to our Gulf Coast community. It was thrilling as well to hear live performances from Leslie Kritzer and an original piece by Angélica Negrón on the beautiful grounds of the Ringling Museum, along with inspiring remarks from the one and only Sanford Biggers. We are so grateful to the Greenfield Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and all of our sponsors and donors for their belief in our mission and the support of new work.”

    The Hermitage Greenfield Prize is presented in partnership with the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation, who launched this initiative with the Hermitage in 2009. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County served as the lead community sponsor for this year’s festivities.

    Sandy Rodriguez plans to use her commission to create a site-specific panoramic exhibition – the centerpiece of which will be a new large-scale map that depicts the southeastern topography and coastline marked by stories of resistance from the colonial period to the present. Created with hand-processed local mineral pigment watercolors on amate paper with an accompanying audio installation, the effect will be reminiscent of a 19th-century style panorama in the round. This is a further exploration of a series of exhibitions for which she has been celebrated, which maps the ongoing cycles of violence on communities of color by blending historical and recent events; this will be her first in this region. 

    Rennie Harris’ intended commission will focus on a new dance piece titled “Losing My Religion,” a personal reflection on his own journey that weaves in thoughts on the world’s collective dilemmas. Harris is known for challenging what has come to be expected of street dance and hip-hop culture and the degenerative social norms and beliefs that ground the struggles of our time. As part of the work, he plans to incorporate a reimagining of his renowned solo “Endangered Species,” an autobiographical work recounting his experience of being chased and shot down in Kingston, Jamaica while touring as a U.S. ambassador for President Reagan’s ‘American Embassy Tour.’ The solo’s inclusion in the work completes a story of systemic racism and revolt, shifting away from what was to what is and what can be.

    Angélica Negrón’s commission seeks to engage the senses and encourage listeners to resist distractions with a composed work timed with the setting sun and inspired partly by the sun’s low-frequency sounds as captured by scientists. Her composition of strings and electronic music will feature slowly evolving musical textures, shifting patterns, natural sounds, and changes in scale and dimension that play with the unfolding gradations of light and color on the surrounding land, water, and sky – serving as a gentle reminder to surrender to moments of inspiration. 

    Hermitage Welcomes Stacia Lee as Managing Director

    Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, announced the organization has welcomed Stacia Lee as its first Managing Director, following a national search that commenced earlier this season. Lee joins the Hermitage team after serving as the publisher for Sarasota Magazine and overseeing the Florida and Texas operations for SagaCity Media. In her new role, Lee will serve as a right hand to Sandberg in overseeing the management and daily operations of the company. She will be responsible for implementing core strategies and systems, overseeing marketing and strategic partnerships, and executing the vision of this rapidly expanding organization. As the Hermitage continues on its growth trajectory, Lee will work closely with Sandberg and the Hermitage team to broaden the reach and impact of this leading national arts incubator. 

    “We are incredibly excited to welcome Stacia to the Hermitage family, and I am confident she will be a vital addition to our already extraordinary team of driven and dedicated professionals,” said Andy Sandberg. “I have had the pleasure of working with Stacia through the Hermitage’s partnership with Sarasota Magazine, and her breadth of experience, her passion, and her unique background will be invaluable to the continued growth and stability of the organization in the coming years. One of Stacia’s greatest strengths is that she does not come from a traditional arts background yet has a deep appreciation for the goals and values of the Hermitage. She understands that the ‘show must go on’ even as new ideas and initiatives are percolating.”

    “I am honored and privileged to join the extraordinarily talented team at the Hermitage Artist Retreat,” saidStacia Lee about her new role. “The energy and enthusiasm that these professionals have for the work is unmatched. The growth of the organization is equally impressive. What I’m most excited about is sharing the artistic process and the influence of the arts on our community, and seeing the larger national impact of the Hermitage.”

    Beyond serving as the publisher for both Sarasota Magazine and Houstonia Magazine at SagaCity Media, Stacia Lee (formerly Stacia King) was responsible for building and sustaining partnerships with key businesses, vendors, and non-profits across the Southeast. Prior to her move to lifestyle magazines, Lee’s career in news media has given her the opportunity to lead multimillion-dollar operations across the country with Gannett (publisher of the Sarasota Herald Tribune), Lee Enterprises, and McClatchy. Her career in management and leadership has encompassed marketing, communications, branding, and organizational development.

    In addition to this newly filled role, the Hermitage is seeking a Marketing & Communications Manager, and an additional role on the development team will be posted soon. Interested applicants can view the job descriptions and learn how to apply at HermitageArtistRetreat.org/Jobs.