Hermitage Artist Retreat may have suffered $1 million in Hurricane Ian damage
by Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 1, 2022
The historic wooden cottages that make up the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key in Englewood are still standing after Hurricane Ian, but will probably require more than $1 million in repairs.
“It looks like the giant from ‘Into the Woods’ walked onto the campus and stomped around,” Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg said Saturday.
“It’s hard to assess the full damage as yet and we’re working to get contractors down here, but I’m guessing we’re looking at seven figures of damage repairs,” he said.
Fortunately, there were no visiting artists in residence at the retreat, which traditionally closes for a few weeks each September to refresh and repair the buildings. The Hermitage has canceled residencies for two weeks and a program on Oct. 6 at the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast’s Bay Preserve, Sandberg said.
“The grounds are severely torn up. There are trees, leaves and branches on every square inch of the property and all over Manasota Key, and it’s hard to access the key. Manasota Key seems like it’s been a little bit forgotten here on this barrier island that splits two counties,” Sandberg said.
The Hermitage has five historic buildings on a nine-acre campus where artists from around the world come up to six weeks over two years to work on new projects without the pressures of their everyday lives.
Two of the structures date to 1907, including the Hermitage House, which has served as the main gathering place for artists and some visitors on the grounds. Sandberg said those buildings were moved back 50 feet from the water’s edge during a restoration about 20 years ago. Three other buildings date back to 1941.
Sandberg said when he first drove up after the storm passed, “I was prepared to find that some of the buildings had washed away to Mexico. I was happy to see that the campus is still there. But we suffered some severe damage, some flooding. Fortunately, the storm surge wasn’t as bad as they expected, but the wind damage was pretty bad.”
A few of the doors and windows blew out on the historic structures, and a kayak shed “essentially blew away and I can’t tell you where it went,” he said. The lanai screen also was ripped away from the Palm House, which serves as the organization’s administrative offices.
Sandberg said everything is fixable and “it’s going to take quick action to make it happen. Our top priority is getting back to habitability. We can’t control when Manasota Key gets power back, but we can take action to make sure the buildings are up to functionality in that time.”
He added that some of the artists who have already been to Hermitage have offered to come down and help.
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