Arts Educators Arrest their Anxiety at Artist Retreat

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY JUL 24, 2020

With infection numbers on an alarming upswing, many teachers and school personnel are understandably finding themselves in a precarious moment in their careers, torn between their desire to get back to their classrooms on the one hand and the fear of exposure on the other. But for five Florida educators, a couple weeks at The Hermitage Artist Retreat provided an opportunity to work on creative projects and, almost as important, take a break from the doom and gloom of an uncertain future.

Winners of The Hermitage’s State Teacher/Artist Residency (STARs) program, a collaboration with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education, these arts educators were selected for a two week stay at The Hermitage to pursue their own craft.

“Today I had to go off Manasota Key to get some supplies for my work,” says Gláucia Mir, a visual arts teacher at Liberty High in Kissimmee, “and I felt like I had gone back into the world; and I didn’t want to do that.” Mir, who in May completed her Master’s at University of Florida amid the pandemic, is continuing a body of work begun with her degree’s capstone project. “It’s the first time I’ve had the space to look at the whole collection upright,” she says, which means both the physical and mental spaces converged to provide her the energy to find renewed inspiration.

For others, it’s an opportunity to grapple with other aspects of the creative process. “With any new career, you have to immerse yourself to really make sense of it,” says Tara Salovitz, an English teacher at Port Charlotte High, “and that includes the business side of things.” Salovitz already self-published her first novel, but has taken this opportunity to research the complex publishing world. “I made a lot of mistakes with my first novel,” she says, “so I want some guidance for my next one.” In addition to crafting query letters to agents and working on a new novel, Salovitz has had an opportunity to chat with other writers at the retreat about their careers.

“I’m aware that this is a temporary kind of bubble” says Daniela Drazan, library specialist at Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks in Ocala. Though Drazan read the paper during her stay, she still felt removed from the goings-on of the mainland. She says that “artificial distance” helped her cultivate a creative bubble where productivity and creativity outshined the anxiety of the upcoming school year. She’s working on a novel that “follows four kids who have fallen through the cracks,” she says, something she is intimately familiar with in her work with students. “I was 30 pages in when I got here,” says Drazan, “I’m on page 73 now, so this has been a fantastic opportunity to focus on it in this kind of bubble.”

As for the fear and uncertainty of the coming school year, Mir, Salovitz and Drazan don’t know what to expect or how to feel. “I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong,” says Salovitz, “all we can hope is that our counties do what’s in the best interests of students and teachers. In the meantime, this has been an amazing experience.”

Pictured: Daniela Drazan, Lucia Morales, Tara Salovitz, Gláucia Mir, and Joy Williams pose at The Hermitage for a socially distanced photo in the shade. Photo courtesy of The Hermitage.

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