Harbor Style Harbor Style Oct 2017 : Page 99

in Nature At the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key, world-class artists nurture their creativity in a rustic, “Old Florida” setting surrounded by nature. Story by Tom Watson I Photography by Max Kelly Imagine being alone for days or weeks on the west-facing shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine you are an accomplished artist with more to conceive. There is a gentle breeze coming in off the water, and you notice there is not a sound in the air other than that of nature. Wind flows through the reeds of the dune and an occasional gull calls out for attention. Each night a miraculous sunset paints the sky just for you as you contemplate the scope of its grandeur. You realize you are alone with your artistic genius within. You get to go deep into the channels of your creativity unencumbered by outside influence. It is all you. You are tapping the deep gift that lies within you. It is here that genius flows as you pour out your gift on canvas, paper, a violin or a lump of clay. You are the piece you are birthing. You are one with your talent… Welcome to The Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key, a small but amazing pearl of coastal property just over the Charlotte County line. It is here that a select few of the world’s most gifted artists come to create and explore their talents as they unfold their genius for others to experience and enjoy. It is here that Florida-centric history is being preserved in an environment suited to serenity, meditation and creation. For those not familiar with the term “hermitage,” it simply reflects the habitation of a hermit – or secluded residence or private retreat. Here on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, this golden piece of waterfront property has become a haven of creativity attracting some most accomplished and gifted cultural creators. The Hermitage rotates world-class creators of diverse disciplines through modernized (air-conditioned) living spaces that have been restored to bring about the feel of “old Florida.” Artists are carefully and thoughtfully selected by the Hermitage National Curatorial Council. Once selected, each artist has a reserve of six weeks of time and two years within which to use it. The Hermitage maintains connections with some of the most renowned cultural institutions, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, just to name a few. ³ H ARBOR STYLE | 99 Artistry

Artistry In Nature

Tom Watson

At the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key, world-class artists nurture their creativity in a rustic, “Old Florida” setting surrounded by nature.

Imagine being alone for days or weeks on the west-facing shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine you are an accomplished artist with more to conceive. There is a gentle breeze coming in off the water, and you notice there is not a sound in the air other than that of nature. Wind flows through the reeds of the dune and an occasional gull calls out for attention. Each night a miraculous sunset paints the sky just for you as you contemplate the scope of its grandeur. You realize you are alone with your artistic genius within. You get to go deep into the channels of your creativity unencumbered by outside influence. It is all you. You are tapping the deep gift that lies within you. It is here that genius flows as you pour out your gift on canvas, paper, a violin or a lump of clay. You are the piece you are birthing. You are one with your talent…

Welcome to The Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key, a small but amazing pearl of coastal property just over the Charlotte County line. It is here that a select few of the world’s most gifted artists come to create and explore their talents as they unfold their genius for others to experience and enjoy. It is here that Floridacentric history is being preserved in an environment suited to serenity, meditation and creation.

For those not familiar with the term “hermitage,” it simply reflects the habitation of a hermit – or secluded residence or private retreat. Here on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, this golden piece of waterfront property has become a haven of creativity attracting some most accomplished and gifted cultural creators. The Hermitage rotates world-class creators of diverse disciplines through modernized (air-conditioned) living spaces that have been restored to bring about the feel of “old Florida.” Artists are carefully and thoughtfully selected by the Hermitage National Curatorial Council. Once selected, each artist has a reserve of six weeks of time and two years within which to use it. The Hermitage maintains connections with some of the most renowned cultural institutions, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, just to name a few.

“There are some significant works of art, from all of these different disciplines, which are being created and inspired by this place, this environment here,” said Executive Director Bruce Rodgers when we visited in mid- August. “The public, with our free programs, has the opportunity to have access to the people who are creating them…all of our artists engage in free programs for the community in return for the opportunity to be here. Just this past Friday we had a program on the beach given by Ralph Ferris, who is a violist with a string quartet called ETHEL. He was writing music for them while he was here and did a beach concert open to all.”

The facility has two areas able host inside events for artists display and recitals. While the acoustics inside are amazing, The Hermitage tries to do most of its events on the beach.

“The public brings their beach chairs and beverages of choice. It’s an hour before sunset, and every program ends with the ‘great show’ we get every night,” said Rodgers, referring to the remarkable crepuscular light seen nightly to the west. “It’s one of these situations where you are in your own kind of hometown and you are in a relatively, at least physically small space that has this national and international impact that people don’t realize.”

The Hermitage’s modern history dates back to 1907 when a Swedish immigrant purchased a parcel of the land and built a homestead for his family. They lived in the house until about 1916; the house sat vacant for the next 15 years. It was acquired in the ‘30s and with the isolation available was even being promoted as a nudist resort. However that business failed and the property was sold. In the early ‘40s an engineer named Alfred Whitney built a retreat for himself adjacent to the property. The “hurricane proof” house he built is now part of the compound. In 1947, Otto Thurston Alexander bought the Hermitage along with the Whitney property and combined the two parcels. Eventually, the Director of the Sarasota County Arts Council, Patricia Caswell rallied the locals and raised the funds and interest to make the artist retreat a reality. Sarasota County Parks and Recreation is assigned oversight responsibility for the property.

“This is a major place to come for people who are creating their major work,” Rodgers said. “The mission of this organization is to nurture creativity, preserve Florida history, protect the native ecology and serve our Gulf Coast communities.”

It’s quite an undertaking. The core mission is to support creative people by providing the gift of uninterrupted time to create. The absence of such modern stimulations as traffic noise, digital toys, cable TV and ambient chatter actualizes a vortex of artistic flow that inspires the guest artists. “Such a gift,” noted The Juilliard School graduate violist Ralph Ferris, “this magical place.”

The renovation and restoration process took 10-12 years to get the retreat to its current state. The units are comfortable and quiet, and the artists have both the solitude they seek and interaction with other accomplished peers who are at the top of their disciplines. Being able to mastermind and commune with each other gives the guest artists access to each other to share ideas and provoke creativity.

“There are two parts to it here,” explained Rodgers, regarding the guests’ experience at the Hermitage. “One is the isolation – you’re in your studio doing your work. But then you also have contacts with the other artists. In the evenings, and when you are not working, you are here with different artists from different disciplines. They are not all composers here at one time. It might be a composer, a couple of visual artists, a sculptor and a playwright. That interaction and the stimulation they get by being with each other. So it's an intense period of being alone, but intense period in a community of other artists of high caliber and high accomplishment.”

Aside from graduating from The Juilliard School and serving as artistic director of ETHEL, guest artist Ferris’ accomplishments are indeed noteworthy. He played the famous violin solo heard in The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” at Carnegie Hall for Roger Daltrey’s 1994 A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who. He is also no stranger to other New York circles as an original member and assistant conductor for the Broadway production of Disney’s The Lion King.

New York and Chicago are proving to be quite fruitful for The Hermitage. They’ve conducted two awareness/fundraising excursions to these cities and have another scheduled for May. The excursions are open to any who would like to come.

“That gives people who come with us access to artists and art that they wouldn’t otherwise get. We’ve had more than 25-33 people at a time. We’ll visit other hermitage studios and see them, see the artists speak. We go to performances by other hermitage artists so you get access to them in their own homes and in their own situations. The tours are very popular, very cool. You just can’t get that kind of connection,” Rodgers explained of these excursions.

Lisa Rubinstein of LdR Creative recalled the experience of meeting an esteemed composer during a recent trip. “When we went to New York to see Two Boys at the Metropolitan Opera House,” she reflected. “Nico Muhly, who was the composer, came out to talk to us afterwards. It was incredible…here we are in this big hall where he gets a standing ovation by thousands of people, and then he comes back to speak to us personally at our little cocktail party!”

The Two Boys opera was composed at the Hermitage.

Other significant talents have found their way to The Hermitage Artist Retreat as well. The Vienna Opera House has seen works performed there that were composed at The Hermitage. “The resident composer for the Chicago Symphony, Anna Clyne, comes here. The conductor for the Atlanta Symphony composes here…we’ve had the Poet Laureate for the United States, Natasha Threthaway, come and work here,” Rodgers said. Indeed, the Hermitage has access to some of the nations’ most talented people.

And the surroundings will become even more attractive when the next phase for the property is complete. Plans are in place for a master landscape architecture design that will create a replication of Florida’s three major ecosystems. Rodgers is very excited about what is in store for this amazing wellspring of creativity.

“That ecological element of (our mission), what it feels like to be in native Florida and in these historic buildings, all of that works to create the kind of environment that really inspires the artists while they are here,” he said. “They all leave saying that have created much more work than they ever thought they could in the time that they had here.”

Balancing and scheduling each artist’s bank of time at The Hermitage, Rodgers admitted, “That's the hard part.”

The Hermitage also has to overcome the challenge of having zero ticket sales for the events it hosts. Rodgers’ background is in theatre, so he had to adjust to the idea of having zero income sources from ticket sales for events The Hermitage hosts. “Theaters and almost every other art from and other cultural organization get their income from two places…one is ticket sales and admissions. The others are donations, contributions, grants and other contributed income. We don’t have those tickets and those admissions. We get all of our operating funds from the community,” he noted. There are endowment funds in place to finance operations, and The Hermitage is quite proactive in keeping the operation fiscally healthy.

The community has responded by continuing to help underwrite the efforts of the arts. The Hermitage has many valuable alliances, including the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Alliance of Artistic Endowments and the Community Foundation of Sarasota

These alliances help keep the retreat in the forefront of activity within the art community. One of their most exciting alliances exists with their “STAR” program. This gives Floridian art educators from the secondary and high school systems access to the Retreat for their own evolution of personal creativity. So far, they’ve had art instructors from 19 counties around the state participating in the program. The disciplines vary among music, visual art, sculpting, composing and digital art. This creates a cascade of ideas that germinate at the Hermitage and are brought back into the classrooms to eager young creatives.

“The teachers who come here are able to take their experience back to their classrooms and it all comes full circle,” Rubinstein added.

Fortunately, for citizens of Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota counties, The Hermitage offers many avenues of access to its gifts and treasures. Multiple outreach events are available to the general public. More private access is available as well and some have taken advantage of the sponsorship opportunities.

“Artist Residency” sponsorships begin at $5,000 and can be shared between two people or entities. This level of sponsorship allows donors to receive private interaction with the artist. The donors also receive customary sponsorship recognition in all of the publicity associated with the resident artist.

The Hermitage also relies on traditional fundraising to support the expenses necessary to maintain the institution. One such major fundraiser occurs each spring. The Annual Greenfield Award Dinner features a national cultural figure as a keynote speaker, and the winner of the Greenfield Foundation Award is announced. The Greenfield Award comes in the form of a $30,000 prize as a special commission for a new work. Each year at the dinner, the previous year’s winner’s work is on display.

And coming up in November is The Artful Lobster, a gourmet lobster buffet by Michael’s on East spread along the dazzling Gulf Coast historical setting. It’s a great time for networking and engaging in easy conversation with other friends of the arts and the talented artists.

This year, Hermitage fellow and flutist Clair Chase will be back by popular demand to entertain attendees of the Artful Lobster. This fall, Chase was appointed as Professor of the Practice in the Music Department at Harvard University. As with many of the musical guests at The Hermitage, she has performed at elite venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She was the 2012 winner of the prestigious MacArthur Fellows Program, or Genius Grant, received for “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” There is no application for a MacArthur grant. Winners are nominated and invited to be reviewed for selection.

More recently, Chase received the 2017 Avery Fisher Prize, an award given to American musicians for outstanding achievement in classical music. It is regarded as one of the most significant awards for American instrumentalists. It is administered by the Lincoln Center and one must be nominated.

Rodgers and Rubinstein are looking forward to a superb event on Saturday, November 11th. Tickets are available online at hermitageartistretreat.org. All proceeds from The Artful Lobster support the Hermitage core residency program, the event will include a paddle raise in support of a specific annual project.

Rodgers stated that the cultural community has been quite supportive of the Hermitage efforts. He attributes a lot of that support to the artists’ and Hermitage’s give-backs to the Gulf Coast communities.

“We have a number of programs occurring right on the beach,” he said. “It’s an amazing setting for people to enjoy. People are finding value in what the public programs provide. It gives them a chance to have contact with the creators who are coming here. The community has stepped up in supporting us. That’s one reason you know the community wants you here.”

The Hermitage, like the creation process itself, continues to be a work in progress. The landscape design project will keep Rodgers and his team in a growth mode.

Those interested in learning more about The Hermitage Artist Retreat may visit hermitageartistretreat.org. There are numerous opportunities to connect with The Hermitage and attend one of its many events. Because of the property’s secluded nature, there are no accommodations for random visits to the property. This way the artists and composers are free to roam their own inner landscapes of creativity and produce even more outstanding projects for the rest of us to enjoy!

Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/Artistry+In+Nature/2878116/437192/article.html.

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