At the stunning, secluded beachside spot on Manasota Key that’s the Hermitage Artist Retreat, seabirds wheel, waves splash and white sand makes for peaceable strolls. It’s a haven for artists fortunate sufficient to obtain a residency there, and it’s additionally a spot the place locals can attend talks, performances and different occasions that includes these artists—usually at little or no value.
Issues weren’t so peaceable on the campus in September, when Hurricane Ian struck the Hermitage and devastated a lot of the Englewood group. Whereas a lot of the buildings on the campus remained standing after the storm, the hurricane brought on vital harm to the property, and repairs are anticipated to value greater than $1 million.
That information reverberated far past Sarasota County’s seashores. For the reason that Hermitage’s founding about 20 years in the past as a spot the place particular person artists have the time and freedom to create, greater than 600 makers of music, dance, theater, literature and visible artwork have discovered inspiration there. And the work they’ve executed on the retreat has gone on to levels and museums around the globe.
Only a few examples: Playwrights Bess Wohl (Grand Horizons), Michael R. Jackson (A Unusual Loop, White Woman in Hazard) and Paula Vogel (How I Realized to Drive, The Mom Play); screenwriter Roberto Bentivegna (Home of Gucci); composer Vijay Iyer (Bruits); flutist Claire Chase (Density 2036); and visible artists Trenton Doyle Hancock and Sanford Biggers are only a handful of the professionals who spent a few of the best occasions of their careers on the Hermitage. (A fast peek on the Hermitage web site reveals many extra extremely acclaimed names over the a long time.)
Hermitage chief government officer and creative director Andy Sandberg, who has labored on the Hermitage since 2019, says the retreat usually hosts between 75 and 80 artists a 12 months for various lengths of time, including as much as 4 weeks every over two years. On common, 5 or 6 artists occupy the Outdated Florida historic cottages and houses of the location at anyone time.
“It’s such a life-changing expertise for them,” Sandberg says. “We have to inform their tales higher. Folks see our packages right here, however the work created right here goes on to [be enjoyed by] a whole bunch and 1000’s, if not hundreds of thousands, of others.”
As a way to inform these tales, the Hermitage is hiring a full-time alumni coordinator so as to add to a employees that has already blossomed prior to now couple of years, with seven different staff moreover Sandberg.
The journeys the artists embark on on the Hermitage “are fairly epic,” Sandberg says. “Typically, the work doesn’t come to fruition for years.” However within the meantime, “they’re a part of our household and ambassadors to the world.”
Sandberg says the Hermitage expertise is a “likelihood for an artist to strive one thing out, generally for the primary time, or in a brand new format.” Typically, it’s simply simpler to create in Sarasota than, say, New York or London.
Bess Wohl, for instance, was unable to rehearse her new present, Camp Siegfried, elsewhere throughout the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. However right here, the Hermitage related her with actors from Florida Studio Theatre with whom she was capable of rehearse and workshop the present—which is now included within the upcoming season of New York’s Second Stage Theater.
Sandberg admits that a few of the artists “have by no means heard of Sarasota” earlier than they arrive right here. “However they go away singing the track of Sarasota,” he says, particularly after they collaborate with arts teams right here. “There are a number of hundred untold tales we don’t even know ourselves,” he provides.
One such story comes from Tony Award winner Gavin Creel (Hey Dolly!, Hair and, most lately, the revival of Into the Woods on Broadway). Creel was on the Hermitage to workshop and develop the unique musical piece Stroll on By means of, a fee from the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork. This set the groundwork for Creel to get the piece to the following stage on the Eugene O’Neill Competition, the place, he says, “we tore it aside and constructed it again up.” He’s now prepared for that piece to maneuver on to a backers’ audition in New York Metropolis.
“It couldn’t have been prepared [for that] with out the Hermitage,” Creel says. However he spent the primary of three weeks right here final January, and says the place gave him “time, area and quiet” to work.
“After I’m in movement is when my concepts are available,” he says. “On the Hermitage, I walked 5 to 9 miles day-after-day on the seashore in my bathing go well with. The Hermitage gave me an unbelievable launching pad and permission to take dangers.”
For composer Jeanine Tesori (Totally Fashionable Millie, Enjoyable Residence), her keep on the Hermitage got here when she was feeling blocked. “I hadn’t been capable of write for weeks,” she says. “I used to be panicked and late with a deadline.” Then, “between the welcoming spirit of Andy and the employees, the group, the soothing sounds of the waves, I used to be lastly capable of put notes down.”
Tesori not solely wrote a significant portion of the second act for a musical model of George Brant’s play Grounded (as a result of premiere at Washington Nationwide Opera in 2023, earlier than a manufacturing on the Met in 2025), she additionally wrote the tip of the primary act to the present Broadway musical Kimberly Akimbo whereas on the Hermitage. “It was a pivotal time for me, as I hear it has been for all artists who’re fortunate sufficient to spend time there,” she says.
American Ballet Theater dancer and choreographer James Whiteside spent two weeks on the Hermitage adapting his autobiographical e book Heart Heart for the stage. “My time there was so productive, I ended up with drafts of two completely different performs,” he says. “Each morning I awoke, made espresso and began writing. I’d take a break to take a dip within the ocean and make meals, then I’d get proper again to work. There have been no distractions, and it was the proper place to let the artistic juices circulate.” Moreover all that, Whiteside was additionally capable of take a ballet class each different day in a dance studio arrange by the Hermitage employees. One model of Heart Heart, a solo dance piece, is meant for efficiency at Theatre Aspen quickly.
“I can’t consider a greater place to work on what I’m doing,” says visible artist Amanda Williams, who labored on preparatory sketches for the following iteration of her sequence What Black Is This, You Say? whereas in Englewood. The sequence started in 2020 throughout the pandemic lockdown as a response to media methods elevating consciousness round racial injustice, resembling Blackout Tuesday. Watercolors have been a small, quick medium used as “placeholders” till Williams might return to the studio. A big-scale model of Williams’ challenge can be exhibited as a part of Artwork Basel Miami Seashore with Rhona Hoffman Gallery.
Williams was additionally impressed with the Hermitage’s Household Residency program, which supplies babysitters for artists’ kids throughout their keep. As a mom of younger kids, Williams thought residencies would by no means work for her. “For me, it was invaluable to have my household with me,” she says. “They’d full consolation right here. That will be a lot tougher again in Chicago.”
“I feel numerous artists come, and right here they unlock new concepts and prospects,” says Sandberg. “Typically they do the work they got here right here to do actually shortly, after which open their minds to start out one thing new,” usually with a multidisciplinary hybrid strategy. “We’re the one main arts group right here dedicated to creating new work, and we’re shining a global gentle.”