Debbi Benedict joined the Hermitage Board in 2010 and will become President on July 1. She has been active in Hermitage events, both as an audience member and as chairperson running the show. You might also know Debbi from the scores of events she attends each year as the social columnist for Scene Magazine and for her popular blog The Civilized Life in Sarasota.
Debbi and her husband Jan moved to Sarasota County 1n 1982 from Michigan, where they still spend their summers. Jan had come down here with his family since he was a child but it was the job market and the arts scene that lured them here. “I try to attend all the major cultural organizations at least once a year, if not more, and get in as many of the smaller venues as I can,” said Debbi. That doesn’t even count all the events she attends for her work.
In addition to chairing and attending the Artful Lobster for four years and the Greenfield Dinner in 2014, Debbi said she has plenty of memorable Hermitage moments. “I think every beach reading I attend is memorable, but I really enjoy the ones I bring my grandchildren to. I think the absolutely most special time was the Hermitage trip to New York City in 2013. The behind the scenes places we were able to visit and the opportunity to see Nico Muhly and Craig Lukas’s opera at the Metropolitan Opera House was extraordinary.” Debbi added that every special exhibit or performance where a Hermitage artist shares their creative process has proven interesting and enlightening.
If you live in the Sarasota area, you also might know Debbi from her years in the Junior League and shepherding many big events including the Selby Foundation’s 50th anniversary and Tidewell Hospice’s Clowning Around Town. “For the Selby Foundation anniversary, we planned for almost a year producing 48 events/community collaborations and Tidewell’s outdoor art project of 50 artist-decorated fiberglass clowns placed all over downtown Sarasota, was a two-year project with scads of different activities.”
Debbi will be shifting her energy from chairwoman to president to focus on “increasing the Hermitage’s visibility and relevancy locally by educating the community and by bringing more local folks into the family”. “It seems like we are better known nationally and internationally than we are right in our own backyard,” she said. She also plans to enhance the sense of place through the ecology and landscape of the Hermitage campus, fitting right in with the “protect native ecology” part of our mission.
Debbi and Jan, now retired, were high school sweethearts and will celebrate their 40th anniversary in August. Their daughters Kristin and Holleigh and their families, including Debbi’s four grandchildren, live close by and Debbi says she loves being a part of their daily lives. If you come to a beach reading there’s a chance you’ll meet them. “It does my heart good to see them experiencing and enjoying all the different art forms during these enriching times on the white sand beach during the colorful setting sun,” said Debbi. “It is almost spiritual in the greatest sense of the word.”