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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 2 weeks ago

Hermitage Artist Retreat's Andy Sandberg putting best foot forward

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New CEO, artistic director plans on keeping a high profile — for himself and the retreat
by: Klint Lowry Arts + Entertainment Editor

Less than a month after becoming the artistic director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat Andy Sandberg was making the rounds.

“I made it clear that I want to hit the ground running,” Sandberg says in a conference room at the Arts and Cultural Alliance offices, shortly before a public reception in his honor. It’s the second such event that week, following a similar event held at the Hermitage.

Actually, he says, he started working his way into the job back in November, before his appointment was publicly announced.  it gave him the opportunity to work with his predecessor, Bruce Rodgers, and the rest of the Hermitage staff and its board behind the scenes before officially taking the reins.

Now, after a couple of weeks on the job, it’s time to step out as the face of the retreat.

He knows people have been curious about him. Some of it is out of comparison to Rodgers, who was the Hermitage’s first and, until now, only artistic director. The difference that jumps out first is that, at 36, Sandberg is just a little over half Rodgers’ age, — literally the next generation.

He’s made the most of those years. Sandberg is a Yale University graduate, with a degree in English and theater studies. He’s an accomplished director, writer, producer and “lapsed actor,” as he puts it. When he was 25, he became one of the youngest producers to win a Tony Award, for a revival of “Hair.” He’s gone on to collect several other awards and nominations for other productions in New York and London.

Most of that was in the press release when his appointment was announced. Sandberg says the question he’s hearing most is, with all that going for him, why take the job at the Hermitage? The way some people ask, he says, it sounds like they think he’s retiring.

“I'm not moving here to take this job to slow anything down,” Sandberg says. He knew he wasn’t coming to a sleepy retirement community, but to a city with an exciting arts scene and a community that strongly supports it.

Andy Sandberg chats with Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota Jim Shirley and flautist Claire Chase prior to a public introduction event at the alliance's offices.

He fully intends to continue his theatrical career. He’s already signed on to direct a play in Jupiter, Fla. in the spring.

“One of the things I said upon arrival to my team and my board was, listen, I love being in a rehearsal room too,” Sandberg says. “And I'm not prepared to give that up in perpetuity. I'm still keeping my hand on the pulse of the theater world, but I think there's a way to do that and marry it with the full time nature of this job.”

In fact, he says, he thinks he’ll be able to do his job at the Hermitage better doing it from the perspective of fellow artist.

Make no mistake, he says, his priority will be the Hermitage. One natural trait that Sandberg and Rodgers seem to share is that they are both artistic-minded people who also have a head for organizing and running creative ventures.

“I’ve always enjoyed wearing multiple hats on the creative and business side, and developing new work is my passion,” he says. To run an organization like this, what could be more satisfying?

The Hermitage Artist Retreat has done tremendously well in establishing its reputation as a retreat, Sandberg says. But the danger with success is stagnation.

“I think everyone involved with the organization, including my predecessor and as well as the current staff and the current board all recognize that this is an opportunity and a time for ‘chapter two,’” Sandberg says. That doesn’t mean some pull-the-rug clean sweep, but a time to reassess and recalibrate.

But there was one thing that Sandberg want to jump on right away. Locally, people know of the Hermitage. But instead of thinking of it just as a remote, isolated patch of reconstituted Old Florida, he wants people to see how interactive the retreat is with the community.

“The level of artists that we're bringing into Sarasota is extraordinary,” Sandberg says. “We want to make it clear that we're serving the full county. I think it's important that we clarify that though we are an artist retreat, we are not reclusive from the service of the community.”

That is why he decided on having the two receptions, north and south.

Andy Sandberg tells the crowd he plans to be active in the community, and he wants the Hermitage Artists Retreat to keep a higher profile from now on.

Sure, Sandberg says, people are interested in him, for the time being anyway. He wants people to see he plans to be an active, visible member of the arts community. But he wanted to share his coming out party. What’s more important to him is resetting the Hermitage Artists Retreat’s image so that it is also seen from now on as an active, visible member of the arts community.

They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. That's true, but you can always keep making new impressions, too.

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