Editor’s Note: We spoke with Andy Sandberg, who was recently selected as Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key. He’s an accomplished director, writer, and Tony Award-winning producer born and raised in Manhattan. Visit HermitageArtistRetreat.org.
Andy, what’s your initial perspective on the potential of the Hermitage?
The Hermitage has tremendous potential, and our aim is to ensure that the Hermitage is more widely recognized as a leader and a vital player in both Sarasota County and the broader artistic landscape. I often get asked how we measure ourselves against other arts organizations or other artist retreats, but that is not the lens through which we approach our mission. As a cross-disciplinary artist retreat serving the top artists in their respective field, we are collaborating with multiple arts organizations throughout the county, as well as around the country and abroad, rather than competing against them. What makes the Hermitage so special is that it is truly one-of-a-kind in the experience we offer, both for our artists and the members of our community.
What makes the retreat experience at the Hermitage meaningful for accomplished artists?
We offer artists the opportunity to focus on the advancement of their work and their artistry without the pressure of presentation, while finding inspiration from the Hermitage’s extraordinary campus. Our artists frequently describe their experiences as “magical” and “life-changing.” I cannot tell you how many of our artists tell us that they’ve accomplished more in two weeks than they otherwise might in two years, thanks to the nurturing and supportive environment to create and develop. Once invited, artists are given the flexibility to schedule six weeks spread over two years. Moreover, they are working alongside fellow artists in other fields – musicians and playwrights co-mingling with novelists and visual artists, sharing stories with photographers and poets. Many build lasting friendships resulting in creative collaborations. The community programs we offer – whether free public performances or school programs – are meant to be as valuable for the artist as they are for our audiences. The goal is to provide an environment where our artists can advance themselves, their work, and their art. Our dedicated staff goes out of their way to provide the resources and environment that each individual artist needs.
How does the Hermitage benefit our community in terms of special events and public outreach?
We are bringing world-class artists at the top of their game to Sarasota County to offer free public programs to our community. These have included nine Pulitzer Prize winners, seven MacArthur Genius Grant recipients, and multiple Oscar, Tony, Grammy, and Emmy winners, plus leading musicians and visual artists who have presented at the top galleries, museums, and concert halls around the world. Our community gets to experience this all for free. Moreover, we are providing an environment for artists to create new and original work before it goes on to other major producing and presenting organizations around the world. Members of our community get to experience the genesis of their creativity, which is often inspired by the inspirational environment in which it’s created.
What was your early inspiration for pursuing a career in the creative arts?
I come from a theater background, and I’ve juggled many hats in that space as a director, writer, producer, and performer. What I discovered early in my career is that I particularly love the development and creation of new work – seeing an original idea through its development, exploration, and production. That process has always been thrilling to me, and that’s one of the main reasons I’m so excited to be associated with the Hermitage. Our organization is all about the creation and development of new and original works of art.
Who were a few of your mentors and what was their contribution to your development?
Hal Prince, who recently passed away, was a huge inspiration in my life. I had been a fan of his since childhood, and even wrote one of my senior-year papers about him at Yale. I don’t think anyone will ever have a career quite like his in the theater ever again. His contributions to the stage and what it means to be a director are immeasurable. I had the opportunity to assist him on the Broadway production of LoveMusik, and subsequently produced a show he directed in London called Paradise Found. He’s also someone who had an enormous appreciation for how the arts could cross-pollinate, marrying performance, music, and design so seamlessly throughout each of his productions.
What organizations provide funding support for the Hermitage?
We are largely supported by individual donors and private foundations, so our patrons and supporters are truly invaluable. We could not do what we do without the generosity of our donors. We also cannot underestimate the ambassadorship and stewardship of our alumni, who care so deeply about the Hermitage. In addition, we have received support and sponsorship from the local community foundations (most recently Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County), as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax Revenues, the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, The Florida Council of Arts and Culture, and the State of Florida. Arts organizations face particularly challenges in times of crisis, and an organization of our size and scale is particularly susceptible. Amidst this challenging international pandemic, donations are more critical and meaningful than ever. We appreciate donations on the Supporters page at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.
What are a few of your current projects in theater, film or television?
I was recently directing a production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre (Jupiter, Florida). It was originally scheduled to run March 17-April 5 but has sadly been postponed to the fall due to Corona-19. I’m also writing a couple of original television movies that are still in early stages. I also have a few theatrical projects that are in various stages of adaptation for film or television, and a number of other original plays and musicals in development as writer or director.