Felix de la Concha exhibit in the Palm House

On exhibit in the Hermitage Palm House is “Hermitage Artist Intrigue,” a collection of twelve oil-on-linen paintings by Spanish painter Felix de la Concha, who was a resident Fellow in 2015. The paintings are of the historic Hermitage structures.

“I became absorbed by my surroundings at the Hermitage,” says de la Concha. “My creativity was fueled by the natural beauty and serenity of the Hermitage grounds – the ‘old Florida’ structures, the trees, the water and the waves.”

These paintings are a gift of the artist and of Alfstad& Editions. The paintings can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and during all Palm House public programs.

Bruce Rodgers to retire in December

Debbi Benedict, president of the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s board of trustees, announced today the pending retirement of Hermitage founding executive director Bruce E. Rodgers as of December 31, 2019.  Rodgers served on the original steering committee organized by the Sarasota County Arts Council and co-founders Patricia Caswell and Syd Adler to restore and adapt the five historic buildings into an artist community.  After the organization received its not-for-profit status in 2002, Rodgers became a founding trustee. He stepped down from the board to become the acting director in 2004 and was appointed the first Hermitage executive director in 2005.

“Since our beginning, Bruce has been our guiding light and a remarkable visionary, taking the Hermitage further than we could imagine,” said Benedict. “Our entire board, past and present, wish him great happiness in his retirement and thank him for leading us on this incredible journey.”

As the founding director, Rodgers set the operating policies and procedures for the organization and grew its annual operating budget from $80,000 to its current $700,000-plus level. He oversaw the completion of the historic campus restoration that was begun by the Sarasota County Arts Council; established the first endowment program; and created many local, regional, and national partnerships. In 2008, in partnership with Bob Greenfield, then president of the Greenfield Foundation, Rodgers created the Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat—a $30,000 prize in the form of a commission for a new work—which raised the organization’s profile to national status.

In addition to his many achievements as executive director, Rodgers has given back to the local community and to the field of artist communities. He served on the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County’s board of directors; Sarasota Film Commission Community Advisory Board; on panels for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs; and nationally, for 10 years, on the board of the Alliance of Artists Communities.

“In 2004, I was given both the honor and challenge of leading this new kind of cultural organization in our community—an organization that serves writers, painters, poets, composers, playwrights, and visual artists who are creating the art of our time,” says Rodgers. “This challenge could only have been met with the steadfast partnership of our dedicated trustees, our staff, our National Curatorial Council, our volunteers, and our community.  With the solid platform we have established, it’s a perfect time to pass the leadership to the next generation who will continue to use this platform to dream and to create future possibilities for the Hermitage. The blessing of this position has been the incredible talented and generous people I’ve had the privilege to work with and to know.  They are my friends, and I will always keep them in my heart.” 

A search committee, chaired by Englewood businessman David Dignam of Key Agency and comprised of both trustees and community members, has been formed to oversee the national search for the next leader to build on the foundation that has been created.  An email address has been established for interested candidates to send their resume along with a cover letter for the executive director role to HermitageEDSearch@gmail.com.

Hermitage launches search for executive director

The trustees of the Hermitage Artist Retreat seek an executive director to lead the organization into its future. Founded in 2002 as a project of the Sarasota County Arts Council, the Hermitage has grown to become a significant national artist community serving mid-career artists in all disciplines.  The mission of the Hermitage Artist Retreat is to “inspire the artists of today” and it expresses its values of excellence, access, and exemplary service to both artists and community at every opportunity.

The successful candidate will have a significant and effective history of broad engagement in the arts community, a passion for the arts and artists, and a proven track record of inspiring philanthropy with superior interpersonal and speaking skills. Work experience in an artist community is a plus but not a necessity. As a visionary leader of a small staff, he or she should enthusiastically enjoy “doing what it takes” to reinforce the Hermitage brand and experience on an everyday basis.

For complete details about the position, its requirements, and application information, click here.

Helga Davis awarded Greenfield Prize in Music

Congratulations to Helga Davis, who was recently awarded the 2019 Greenfield Prize in Music. Helga is a vocalist and performance artist with feet planted on the most prestigious international stages and with firm roots in the realities and concerns of her local community whose work draws out insights that illuminate how artistic leaps for an individual can offer connection among audiences. Davis was principal actor in the 25th-anniversary international revival of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’s seminal opera Einstein on the Beach. Among the collaborative and works written for her are Oceanic Verses by Paola Prestini, You Us We All by Shara Nova and Andrew Ondrejcak and Faust’s Box, by Italian contemporary music composer Andrea Liberovici.  Robert Wilson describes her as “a united whole, with spellbinding inner power and strength.” She also starred in Wilson’s The Temptation of St. Anthony, with libretto and score by Bernice Johnson Reagon; and The Blue Planet, by Peter Greenaway. She is the recipient of the 2014 BRIC Media Arts Fireworks Grant and completed her first evening-length piece,Cassandra. Current projects include Silent Voices with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus with text by Hilton Als, Jomama Jones Blacklight by Daniel Alexander Jones, Requiem for a Tuesday with bass-baritone Davóne Tines and dancer/choreographer Reggie Gray,  Yet Unheard, a tribute to Sandra Bland by Courtney Bryan, based on the poem by Sharan Strange. She has conceived and performed First Responder and Wanna as responses to Until and The Let Go by multidisciplinary artist Nick Cave. She is artist in residence at National Sawdust, host of the eponymous podcast HELGA on WQXR/New Sounds, and is the 2018-19 visiting curator for the performing arts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Works by Regina Scully on display through December

Small paintings and works on paper by New Orleans visual artist Regina Scully are on view in the Hermitage Palm House from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, through December. Admission is free.

Regina lives and paints in the Holy Cross neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the recipient of the 2017 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant Award. Scully’s artwork is showcased in a host of private and public collections, including the Microsoft Art Collection, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation Collection, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

“The Calling” by Lisa Diane Wedgeworth

The Calling, new video work produced at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, August 6-19, 2018

~ Guest post and photo by Lisa Diane Wedgeworth

I have been reflecting on home, the land of my family. A calling, a tugging at my spirit to return there, if even for a brief visit to set foot upon the land my  ancestors toiled, built, walked and raised families upon.

Traveling through Alabama with my mother, visiting civil rights monuments and memorials, a deep kinship with those who endured and survived the Domestic Slave Trade stirred within me and the American South felt as much as my home as any of the places my immediate family and ancestors were called to put down their roots (Los Angeles, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, England and Jamaica).

While at the Hermitage, the water of the Gulf of Mexico  – although stained with the stench and destruction of the Red Tide – conjured images within my mind’s eye and whispered new work, The Calling, in my ear.

 

Composer Sid Richardson wins the 2018 Hermitage Prize

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and The Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) announce that Sid Richardson (pictured above right), a composition student at AMFS, has been awarded the 2018 Hermitage Prize. Richardson receives a six-week residency at the Hermitage, along with a $1,000 stipend for travel and food expenses. Richardson was selected by a jury that included Alan Fletcher, AMFS president and CEO; Robert Spano, music director of AMFS and the Atlanta Symphony; and the composition faculty of AMFS.

Bruce Rodgers (pictured above left), the executive director of the Hermitage, says that the partnership with AMFS has been tremendously rewarding over the past six years. First awarded in 2013, the Hermitage Prize is given to a promising composer who is enrolled as a composition student at AMFS. Rodgers explains that the residency is the only one the Hermitage grants to an artist who is just embarking on his career. “The Hermitage supports mid-career artists of every discipline who are immersed in their careers,” he says. “This is the one time we welcome an artist at the very beginning of his career. But the bottom line is that both organizations share the same goal—to nurture world-class artists. These students are already on their way to impressive careers with a multitude of recognized work under their belts.”

Richardson earned his Ph.D. in composition in the Department of Music at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He also holds degrees from Boston Conservatory and Tufts University. He received the Roger Sessions Memorial Composition Award upon graduating from the Boston Conservatory, and the Outstanding Achievement Award from Tufts University’s Department of Music. Richardson has collaborated on compositions with such artists as Conrad Tao, yMusic, the Da Capo Chamber Players, Deviant Septet, and Amarcord.

Richardson says that winning the Hermitage Prize is “an affirmation of my musical explorations. I can’t think of a greater opportunity for a young artist than to be given time, space, and a community of like-minded individuals within which to work.” He adds that he hopes to continue to, “explore the intersections of music and literature in regard to musical form—and to engage with new genres and media. My stay at the Hermitage will prove an important stage in my development as a composer.”

“We never know what will take place during a residency,” Rodgers says. “If the Hermitage Prize winner shares a residency with an established composer it’s usually someone they have heard of and admire. The organic process that occurs when artists interact with each other on our campus is a remarkable thing to observe. We look forward to welcoming Sid and doing everything we can to ensure that he has a successful and productive residency.”

Historic beachside property tours offered in September

The Hermitage Artist Retreat is offering historic beachside property tours, Friday, September 7, at 10 a.m.; Friday, September 14, at 10 a.m.; and Friday, September 21, at 6 p.m.  These free, one-hour walking tours explore the property’s colorful history and offer up-close views of the 106-year-old main building and four other historic structures that now serve as live-work spaces for visiting artists. Reservations are required and only available through email at reservations@hermitageartistretreat.org.

According to Bruce Rodgers, the Hermitage’s executive director, the Hermitage is a thriving oasis of living history and natural splendor. “Artists from around the world draw inspiration from this special location,” he says. “These unique structures have survived more than 100 years despite Mother Nature’s harshest tests. We’ll share engaging stories of the colorful characters and artists who’ve stayed here.” He adds that the tour begins with a video overview of the retreat.

The Calusa Indians were the original inhabitants of the site; their heritage lives on in the many middens and archeological sites in the area. In 1907, Swedish immigrant Carl Johansen bought a parcel to build a homestead for his family. The Johansens moved out in 1916; their house sat vacant into the 1930s, when it became a nudist resort called The Sea Island Sanctuary. After that, the property exchanged hands several times until, in the early 1990s, writer Ruth Swayze and her daughter, Carroll, an artist, spearheaded a community effort to save the buildings from beach erosion. At the time, Patricia Caswell was the executive director of the Sarasota County Arts Council, the organization that ultimately leased the property from the county in 2000 to turn the buildings into the Hermitage Artist Retreat.

Caswell is now the Hermitage’s co-founder and program director. She says that tours of the Hermitage have been popular in the past.  “If these tours sell out, we plan to add more. It’s our delight to share this heritage with as many people as possible.”

Hermitage STARs Showcase Their Work

Hermitage STARs Showcase Their Work

Friday, July 20, 4-6 p.m., at the Hermitage

Four public school arts teachers from around the state will exhibit and discuss the work they have achieved during their three-week residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood.

Four Florida public school arts teachers will showcase and discuss the work they’ve developed during their three-week stay at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Friday, July 20, 4-6 p.m., at the Hermitage, 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood. The event is free and open to the public.

The four artist/teachers are the winners of the 2018 State Teacher/Artist Residency program (STAR), presented by the Hermitage and the Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE). They received a three-week summer residency, July 2-22, at the Hermitage, where they live and work as artists, without any expectation, schedule or demands.

Marisa Flint, a visual arts teacher from Edgewood Junior/Senior High School in Merritt Island, will hold an open studio and demonstrate encaustic painting (painting with hot wax). Rosemary Shaw, a visual arts teacher from U.B. Kinsey/Palmview Elementary School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, will lead guests in a participatory art activity in her studio. Travis Damato, a strings specialist teacher at Muller Elementary Magnet School in Tampa, will perform jazz standards on trumpet. Laura Tan, an art teacher at Southside Elementary Museum Magnet School in Miami, will show her work, including self-portraits in watercolor.

“These exceptional educators are also artists,” says Bruce Rodgers, executive director of the Hermitage. “They need time to pursue their own artistic work. Creativity is like a muscle, and like other muscles, it needs to be exercised. The STAR program gives them the rare opportunity to experience an ambience where artists from around the world come to get motivated and connect with the artist within. Stepping back from the demands of everyday life can inspire leaps in creativity.”

Florida arts educators apply for the Hermitage summer residencies through FAAE. Applications are open to all Florida music, visual art and creative writing teachers. Since the start of the program in 2011, 39 teachers have represented 20 Florida counties. Residencies last for three weeks and culminate with a free community program on the Hermitage’s beachfront campus.

“We look forward to seeing what this latest group of STARs will create,” says Rodgers. “It’s an honor to celebrate Florida’s top arts educators.”