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Palm House

Mention the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key, and what comes to mind is the assemblage of painstakingly restored historic beachfront cottages that each year welcomes dozens of nationally renowned artists—writers, painters, poets, playwrights and composers—for a few weeks of creative contemplation.

But since 2015, the Hermitage has had a second, lesser-known space for many of those visiting artists to present lectures, salons and workshops free and open to the public. Located immediately south of the historic campus, it’s a 3,500-square-foot former private residence leased from Sarasota County, dubbed the Palm House because of the grove of cabbage palms that separates it from the beach.

Among the free public events that already have taken place in the comfortable second-floor great room that can accommodate 75 to 80: historian Gary Mormino gave two lectures on Florida beaches and state history through the Hermitage’s partnership with the Florida Humanities Council; Marisa Smith, a playwright and co-owner of Smith and Kraus Publishers, led playwrighting workshops; and acclaimed pianist and composer Lera Auerbach gave a recital on the beautiful Bechstein piano willed to the Hermitage by a late philanthropist. Organizations like the Association of Florida Teaching Artists and the Florida Alliance for Arts Education have met there. And it’s occasionally used as an exhibition space—for example, to display the art created by the Englewood Art Center’s annual plein air painting day at the Hermitage.

For a schedule of this season’s events, visit