New Art Museum Adds to Sarasota’s Cultural Heritage

In Sarasota, the subtropics meet the South. Pressed up in opposition to the sting of the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, this metropolis, lengthy residence to carnies and cowmen, is greatest understood as a examine in distinction. Now the brand new Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College, which opened final month, goals to highlight the town’s cultural depth and variety.

A cadre of residents solid the thought for a contemporary artwork museum greater than 15 years in the past, as a result of, whereas there was a wealth of arts organizations on the town, few venues devoted to modern artwork existed. Their conversations led to a $22 million fund-raising effort to reanimate the previous web site of Sarasota High School as a kunsthalle — a non-collecting artwork establishment exhibiting solely momentary reveals.

Residents, workers and donors hope the nonprofit museum will present a cross part of recent and modern artwork as complicated as this city.

Some of the primary Americans within the area have been of the Uzita tribe, who died or disappeared after Spanish explorers arrived within the 16th century. At the top of the 19th century, Sarasota took form via agriculture and fishing alongside the Gulf. Later, writers like John D. MacDonald, Joy Williams and Stephen King would name Sarasota residence, in addition to architects like Paul Rudolph and Victor Lundy.

“There are so many different Sarasotas,” mentioned Anne-Marie Russell, the museum’s govt director and curator, including that the town’s layered previous serves as a information for creating the museum’s exhibitions and packages.

While inaugural exhibitions embody a retrospective of the Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz, and a variety of site-specific installations, future exhibits will spotlight the affect of the Sarasota School of Architecture in initiatives past the county strains; the city’s function within the avant-garde; and a challenge that weaves collectively commissions, oral histories and public programming to rejoice the area’s historical past. A gaggle present now on show, “Color. Theory. & b/w” features a roster of artists like Sheila Hicks and Kara Walker but additionally Christian Sampson, an artist who grew up in neighboring Bradenton and studied at Ringling College.

The vary of exhibitions underscores not solely the museum’s dedication to deliver worldwide artists, curators and thinkers to Sarasota, but additionally to higher perceive those that got here of age there or now name the town residence.

“Sarasota’s been cosmopolitan for a century because of the circus,” Ms. Russell mentioned of the Ringling Brothers Circus’s presence there. “That set the stage for Sarasota being open to so many different things.”

In 1911, John Ringling and his spouse, Mable, purchased property alongside Sarasota Bay, and years later moved the circus’s winter headquarters there. The circus, coupled with a land growth, drew innumerable folks to city. After Ringling died in 1936, his artwork assortment and property would later assist set up the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum.

The metropolis’s cultural footprint grew within the following many years, with an opera home, a ballet firm, the Southeast’s largest repertory theater, an artwork faculty and now this new museum.

“That’s what set us apart,” mentioned Jen Ahearn-Koch, Sarasota’s mayor. “We had that magic from the beginning.”

Fittingly, the Sarasota Art Museum’s campus lays declare to a number of the space’s most indelible structure. The important constructing, which spans 57,000 sq. ft, was designed in 1926 by M. Leo Elliot as Sarasota High School; it welcomed its final scholar in 1996. Just behind it, Paul Rudolph — a figurehead of the Sarasota School of Architecture — designed an addition in 1960. The former, a collegiate Gothic constructing, is now related to the low-slung modernist one as a part of the redesigned museum. The challenge was led by Lawson Group Architects, with Terence Riley of Keenan/Riley working because the design architect.

The vitality and thriller sure up on this city is one thing Ms. Russell hopes to discover mirrored within the museum. “My great hope for the museum is that this becomes Sarasota’s living room and backyard. I want everyone to feel like this is their home; that there’s something here for them.”

Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College; 1001 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Fla.

Open from Wednesday until Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Sundays when it opens at 11 a.m.; Admission is $15, free to members, Ringling College students & faculty, active military and other groups.

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