Why Sarasota is the Cultural Capital of Florida

Why Sarasota is the Cultural Capital of Florida

Sarasota, once a mere fishing village, transformed over time into a cultural gem. The city now boasts several cultural institutions such as the Sarasota Opera, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, the Asolo Repertory Theater Sarasota Ballet, and the Sarasota Orchestra. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, one of the most prominent art museums in the state of Florida, only adds to the cultural scene here. This collective group of cultural venues draws tourists and residents alike with continually evolving exhibits and live performances.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Sarasota was originally a fishing and farming community. However, in the early 1900’s a transition began as a consequence of a decision John and Marble Ringling made to make Sarasota the winter home of their entertainment empire known as the Ringling Circus. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, also known as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” would spend the winter months of the early 20th Century in Sarasota, rehearsing and preparing for their upcoming tours. The city played a significant role in the development and growth of the circus.
These Circus winter quarters included buildings and facilities such as animal barns, a circus museum, and a training center. Today, the Circus winter quarters enshrine aspects of Sarasota’s history and culture. The Circus Arts Conservatory offers training and education in circus arts. The annual Sarasota Circus Festival celebrates the circus heritage of Sarasota offering an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and influence the arts and culture scene.

John and Mable Ringling

John Ringling, one of the five brothers who owned and operated the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, used his wealth to become a prominent art collector. Mable Ringling shared her husband’s passion for collecting. They founded the museum in 1927. John and Mable Ringling made significant contributions to the arts and culture scene by amassing and showcasing an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative art.
Their impressive collection includes works by both Old Masters and contemporary artists such as Rubens, Velázquez, Titian, James Rosenquist, and Syd Solomon. Upon their deaths, they donated their art collection and mansion, Ca ’d’Zan, to the state of Florida. This property became the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Their generosity further established the significant role of this couple in the development of Sarasota. Their enduring legacy continues to inspire and influence the city’s cultural institutions and events.

Sarasota Art Center

The Sarasota Art Association Art Center, a nonprofit organization founded in 1926, promotes and supports the arts. The Art Center houses several art galleries, classrooms, and studios allowing artists to create, teach, and exhibit.
In addition to offering educational programs, the Art Center hosts exhibitions and events throughout the year, including the annual “Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous” exhibition, which displays the work of local artists who have made significant contributions to the Sarasota arts community. The Sarasota Art Association Art Center stands as a vital, dynamic hub for the arts and continues to support and inspire artists and art lovers in the community.

“Chick” Austin builds the Ringling Museum

Charles “Chick” Austin, a prominent figure in the development of the Ringling Museum of Art, served as a museum director and curator after being hired by John Ringling in 1939 to oversee the museum’s operations. Under Austin’s leadership, the art collection grew significantly as he played an instrumental role in establishing the museum’s reputation as a world-class art institution.
Austin also oversaw the design and construction of the museum’s galleries and exhibition spaces, which were modeled after the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, Italy. His legacy continues to be felt at the Ringling Museum of Art whose development and growth significantly shaped Sarasota’s arts and culture scene.

Sarasota Orchestra

The Sarasota Orchestra made its debut performance in 1949 under the direction of conductor Ruth Cotton Butler. The orchestra started as a group of volunteer musicians who came together to perform classical music for the Sarasota community. Now, both professional and volunteer musicians perform a variety of music from classical to pop. As this vital cultural institution grew in both size and reputation, the Sarasota Orchestra performances appeal to residents and tourists of all ages and backgrounds.

Florida Studio Theatre

Florida Studio Theatre, a professional theater company founded in 1973, produces a wide variety of plays and musicals – including new works, contemporary pieces, and classics. In addition to its mainstage productions, the theater also hosts a variety of educational programs and community outreach initiatives. This highly respected and influential theater company has earned a reputation for producing high-quality, innovative, and thought-provoking theater.

Van Wezel Performing Arts

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, a 1,700-seat theater located in downtown Sarasota, opened in 1970. This major cultural institution in the city hosts a wide variety of performances, including Broadway shows, dance performances, and concerts.
Known for its distinctive architecture featuring a large purple dome and a unique sail-like structure that spans the front of the building, the hall banks Sarasota Bay, which provides a beautiful backdrop for performances and events. Over the years, famous performers – such as Tony Bennett, Carol Burnett, and Jerry Seinfeld – graced the stage. An enduring commitment to bringing world-class performances to the Sarasota community, as well as promoting and supporting the arts in the region, positions the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center as a cultural hub.
If you are interested in renowned performing art and culture venues, Sarasota might be the perfect town for you. Whether you are thinking about a vacation or planning to invest in Sarasota real estate take a little time and explore many of these arts and culture venues that our town has to offer.
For more information about properties in Sarasota and Manatee or the coastal haven for arts and culture, give me a call today at 941.266.0529 or email me at [email protected]

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