Artists from around the world recharge at retreat in Sarasota

A retreat in Sarasota is giving artists suffering from fatigue a place to rest and get their creative juices flowing again. It's called the Hermitage Artist Retreat and a Tony Award winner is singing its praises. 

Singer-songwriter Gavin Creel is using the space to work on a new song.

"This place is like Shangri-La. It's insane… I'm in my third week right now, and when I got here on Tuesday, when we walked up, the sun was setting over the gulf and the waves are lapping up. And I thought someone's going to tap me on the shoulder in a minute and tell me I have to leave because this can't be real," Creel said. 

The non-profit artist retreat in Sarasota County invites accomplished artists from across multiple genres to stay at their beachfront campus.

Andy Sandberg, the artistic director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat said artists come to work on projects that are just in the beginning phases or that have neared completion.

"They come here to create so six, eight, 10, 12 years before something has its premiere or its first production or first gallery exhibit," Sandberg explained. "They are here working on it, developing the seedling of that idea and then the DNA of that carries on all around the world." 

Michael R. Jackson, the recipient of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in drama, is making his second trip to the retreat. 

He says the downtime is important for his creative process. 

"Getting juices flowing again… like the tide coming in or something like it. It's just very conducive to the artistic process for me," he said. 

The secluded historic resort is a creative haven for composer and musician Amir ElSaffar. He travels the world with his 17-piece orchestra. 

"It's a combination of the gulf, the sun, the beautiful palm trees. The wonderful staff that makes us all very comfortable. We don't have to worry about the day to day, our usual lives at home," he said.

The artistic retreat was started almost 20 years ago and provides an uninterrupted space to inspire artists to come up with fresh ideas. 

"We hear over and over artists who say in two weeks at the Hermitage, ‘I got more done than I do in any two years back home,’ and they come here and they come to write a chapter and they walk out writing a novel or a play sometimes," Sandberg added.

For Gavin, it's been time well spent. 

"This is my first artist retreat ever. I've never had the opportunity to be able to be in a space that encourages sort of total process. So as an artist, to be able to have the space and the time to concentrate on just the nitty-gritty of creating, it's a gift. It really is a gift," he said.