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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Jul. 28, 2015 6 years ago

Hermitage Artist Retreat presenting STARs arts education recipients on August 7

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Recipients of the STARs residency represent arts educators from across Florida including Joanna Fox, Mandy Mathieu, John Stiles and Nerissa Street.
by: Nick Reichert Arts & Entertainment Editor

Summer is a time where school is out and students can relax and recover from the arduous school year. But the teachers themselves get a much needed vacation and for four Florida public school arts educators, this summer break has provided a relaxing and artistically productive experience for where artists from all over the world escape: the Hermitage Artist Retreat. 

Joanna Fox, Mandy Mathieu, John Stiles and Nerissa Street were selected by the Florida Alliance for Arts Education as recipients of the Hermitage's annual summer program State Teacher Artist Residencies (STARs). Created by the two organizations, the STARs program nourishes the artist within the hundreds of art teachers working the Florida public school system. Open each year to four to five teachers of any artistic discipline, recipients are given a four-week residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat's beach front campus on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida where they live and work without deadlines or assignments as artists working on their craft. This year's STARs will present a free public exhibition of their work developed during the residency at 6 p.m. on August 7 at the Hermitage campus where they'll discuss their recent work and the progress they've made in the classroom. 

“Peer into the minds of original poetic thinkers, who, because they are teachers, naturally and effortlessly clarify the mystery of art," says Patricia Caswell, Hermitage program director in a prepared statement. "When you come to the STARs showcase you will have a smile on your face, a song in your throat, and light bulbs going off in your head.  You can record your own song on a CD, see and buy original art, and enjoy readings on the beach.  You will be entertained, engaged and inspired to sing, think, change, and remember it."  

This year's educators are a diverse collection including the first teacher from Sarasota County being honored. Joanna Fox teaches creative writing and literary arts at Booker Middle Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School. Her Dragonfly Cafe program that offers students to study, write and perform their own poetry. The cafe has been recognized and honored by the Library of Congress and Carnegie Hall. Her writing has been published in "Postcards and Pearls," "Write from the Heart" and "The Florida English Journal." 

Mandy Mathieu teaches IB theater, acting, musical theater and humanities at Lecanto High School in Lecanto, Florida in Citrus County. A self-described singer-songwriter, actor, director and entertainer, Mathieu says she'll focus on music composition while at the Hermitage. 

John Stiles is a visual artist who instructs high school and college-level courses at Clark Advanced Learning Center in Stuart, Florida as well as teach graphic design at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida. A veteran of the screen-printing industry and artform for 14 years before teaching, Stiles is an active member of the Martin County arts community and will focus on visual arts during his residency.

And Nerissa Street instructs drama at Bethune Elementary School of the Arts in Hollywood, Florida. This last school year Street directed 110 third, fourth and fifth grade students in a theatrical adaptation titled "Alice @ Wonderland" at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. "During my residency," says Street, "I'll be researching and writing about how the principles of storytelling and theater can transform environments and with the environment, the people in them. Environment inlfuences learning, and I want to give even my most impoverished students the power to change theirs."

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Nick Reichert writes about Sarasota fine arts, including theater, dance, opera, music and visual art. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2013. Follow @TheNickReichert on Twitter for regular updates.

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