So just how does the STAR program make a difference in these artist/teachers lives? I went back to our first STARs, a wonderful group of teaching artists, several of whom I am happy to call my friends, who came to the Hermitage in 2011, not knowing what to expect from this surprise gift of time and space. I had been here three years and never saw a group of artists bond so tightly. Looking back, they provide insight as to what is so special about the STAR program and how five years later, how much their time here mattered.
Andrea Huffman: “After breakfast every day, I looked forward to walking to the studio, opening the doors to let the light in and just focusing on the creative process. It was a pivotal experience for me in accepting myself as a working, professional artist. In a practical way, I have sketches and photos from the Hermitage that I continue to reference in my artwork. In a deeper way, it is a constant reminder to treasure the moments I have to create art, and suck the life out of those moments (to very loosely paraphrase Thoreau). It’s also a reminder of how little I needed to be content…. Oh to recapture that perspective again.
Patricia Cummins, Artist: “The best memories of my residency at The Hermitage reflect on the personal connections made with Manasota Key and the other STARs. There was always something new and exciting to share! I have served a dozen National Park residencies, receiving recognition as an artist. The STAR residency was the FIRST and ONLY that recognized me as an artist as well as an arts educator. Never before has that occurred in my 40-year career as an art teacher. Being recognized by the Hermitage and the FAAE was one of the highlights of my career.”
Alan Sincic, Writer; “What I remember most fondly about our time together was the informal nightly ritual of gathering in the main house to compare notes, socialize, gossip, debate, share the progress we were making, joke around, and generally make fools of ourselves. We were like a little family of expatriates, gathered together on a secret island making secret plans for the future.”
Melissa Pranke, Writer: “There are no standardized tests to pass; no observations or personal development plans to construct. You experience the chance to be creative and to create solely for the purpose of whatever you wish to explore without any strings attached. I fell in love with the philosophy and natural beauty of this place and met people who truly value and cherish the creative spirit. No one will ever bond the way the first of us did. The Hermitage experience is life changing.”