Hermitage and the theater of Venice begin the road to recovery | arts and entertainment

The damage is deep, but it is not irreparable.

Two local arts organizations, the Venice Theater and the Hermitage Artist Retreat, were hit hard by Hurricane Ian and will face a long road to renovating their facilities.

Murray Chase, executive producer of the Venice Theatre, wants people to know that the renovations will cost more than $3 million, but the project is not hopeless.

“Sometimes they can look much worse than they are. But they’re really bad,” Chase says of photos showing the damage to the theater. “At first glance, you think, ‘Oh, the theater is totally destroyed.’

“It’s not. It suffered catastrophic damage, but it can be repaired.”

Chase says the Venice Theater will be without its main stage, the Jervey Theater, for at least a year and likely longer. The second performance space – the Pinkerton Theater – will likely need two or three months before it is ready to return to service.

“We have our own teams on site working as fast as possible,” says Chase. “The water damage alone and the air quality, getting all that mold out and everything else probably costs a quarter of a million dollars just for that.”

Chase says the theater will need to do renovations not only to repair leaks and storm damage, but also to restore electrical service to the Pinkerton Theater.

And the main stage? Well, the Jervey Theater needs a bit of everything.

“The structure couldn’t withstand the wind and collapsed,” says Chase. “With that came the flyloft supports (the area above the stage that houses all the rigging). All the flyloft coverings followed as soon as the air entered the auditorium.

“It peeled off and flew all around downtown. Part of it flew onto the roof on the other side of our building which then caused roof damage and water in it.”

Chase says there’s a silver lining; the theater has a third building which it was about to renovate into an educational space. For now, this project is on hold.

The third building will serve as performance space until the Pinkerton Theater is operational again.

It’s a similar story on Manasota Key, where the Hermitage is beginning its own recovery.

Andy Sandberg, creative director and CEO of the Hermitage, said all of its employees were unscathed but the organization will take time to get back to business.

The veranda of the Hermitage office building was totally destroyed and most of the damage was due to wind rather than water. (Photo courtesy of Andy Sandberg)

“The good news is that the campus was not washed away,” he says. “We are looking at a question of repairs, not reconstruction. I don’t want to exaggerate the damage or minimize the suffering of others; there is a lot of work to do. Our goal is to be operational again in a few weeks.

Sandberg says the Hermitage was lucky for two reasons; first he had two days notice that the storm was going to hit and enlisted several workers to board buildings.

And second, despite being right next to the hurricane’s landfall, it didn’t experience any storm surges.

Now, however, days later, Manasota Key is still without power or water.

“It’s not the most accessible place, and we’re dependent on being able to bring in contractors and landscapers,” he says. “We are doing everything we can and the staff have refused to try to at least sort, clean and dry things so we don’t face more serious damage by leaving them unattended.”

The storm will not upset the calendar of events at the Hermitage much.

Sandberg says he had to cancel two weeks of the residency program, and he changed an event later this month to virtual rather than in-person. But by November, all events should be sold out.

Sandberg thanked the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for its help with generators and power tools, and he says the Hermitage Artist Retreat campus will need “significant and costly” repairs both immediately and in the long term to s to ensure that this does not happen again.

“We have artists and supporters who come from all over the world,” he says. “We are grateful to say there is work to be done, but it could have been worse.

“Many of us were worried that the whole campus would be swept away. We are historic buildings right on a waterfront where the storm had played out a few miles differently, it could have been a lot worse.”

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