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The Hermitage Artist Retreat is pleased to announce that Michael A. Gilkey Inc., a Sarasota county landscape architectural firm, has been hired to create and implement a landscaping plan for the gulf-front campus. The goal is to restore the property with native Florida plantings, create intentionally inspiring outdoor space for artists to work and to join the historic and administrative campuses in a way that is purposeful but not evident.

“The addition of the Palm House to our campus in 2015 was a game changer,” recalled Bruce E. Rodgers, Hermitage executive director. “The much-needed space allowed us to separate the offices from the artists, giving them more privacy, and us the room to do our work, increase the staff and host programs when the beach was not accessible. Now that we have realized the best uses for the two properties, we wanted to address the environment and how to join an historic property with a more modern one in a seamlessly and meaningful way. We feel very fortunate that Michael Gilkey was available and anxious to use his expertise to help us achieve this goal.”

The new Hermitage landscape will utilize a native, indigenous palette of materials to create areas of beauty and privacy for artists, as well as gathering spaces for small and large groups. The plan will revise the circulation of the retreat, providing a sense of separation between artists and the public without isolating the groups completely. This project will be broken down into workable phases. The first phase will include a complete, accurate survey of the retreat, the restoration and renovation of the landscape at The Palm House, and the planting of a native buffer along Manasota Key Road.

Gilkey’s concept was informed by the mission of The Hermitage: to nurture creativity, to preserve Florida history, to protect native ecology and to serve the Gulf Coast community. The redesign aims to restore a sense of place that defines the word Hermitage itself: a secluded retreat, inspired by its native landscape. To preserve native ecology, the new concept will nourish the four ecosystems that are native to the Hermitage site: primary dune system, secondary dune system, mangrove swamp and coastal hammock. The new landscape plan will culminate in the final piece of the mission statement—serving the community. There will be spaces for the internal community of artists to engage with each other and with the ecosystems of the site, as well as spaces for the Gulf Coast community to gather and glean inspiration from the work produced at this special retreat.

Gilkey explained, “The mission of The Hermitage is so clear and strong, and resonates throughout every facet of the retreat—except the landscape, which includes two unrelated land parcels which have now come together. Our concept is to create a sense of place consistent with the vision and mission of the Hermitage; a place of artistic inspiration that celebrates the rich history of the retreat while restoring its native ecosystems. We envision a stronger connection between the existing structures and the coastal hammock, mangroves and dune systems, uniting all elements of the project through a plant palette that is 100% native and indigenous. We are honored and excited to be a part of such a special project. We can’t wait to watch it evolve and inspire.”

  The entire plan was unveiled this weekend at the annual Hermitage fund-raising event, the Artful Lobster. With the generous help of sponsors and patrons, a paddle raise brought in its goal amount, enough to begin the first phase of The Hermitage Artist Retreat’s new site plan. It is projected to have a three-year timetable.

“This year’s Artful Lobster kicked off this amazing project,” Rodgers continued. “Serving the artists and our community is foremost in our mission. This plan helps us to make our space more contemplative, more inspiring and more functional. What could be better for a Hermitage?”

The Hermitage is a not-for-profit artist retreat located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood, FL. It invites accomplished painters, sculptors, writers, playwrights, poets, composers and other artists from all over the world for residencies on its beachfront historic campus. Many of these artists are Pulitzer Prize, Tony, Emmy, Grammy and MacArthur “Genius” Award winners. Artists are asked to interact with the community during their stay and as a result, Hermitage artists touch thousands of Gulf Coast community residents with unique and inspiring programs each year. Hermitage community programs are partially sponsored by the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of Arts and Culture and the State of Florida (Section 286.25, Florida Statutes). In addition, the Hermitage awards and administers the prestigious Greenfield Prize, an annual $30,000 commission for a new work of art, rotating among visual art, music and drama. The Hermitage also partners with the Aspen Music Festival and School to award the annual Hermitage Prize to a composition student during the Festival. For more information about The Hermitage Artist Retreat, call 941-475-2098, ext. 5, or visit the website at www.HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

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