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.