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The Art & History of Sarasota – Top 8 Sites to See
Sarasota’s History of Art
It’s hard to talk about the history of Sarasota without discussing this charming city’s art scene. The two have been entwined for decades. In fact, much of the city was founded and built around the love of the arts, both visual and performing, so to talk about the arts in Sarasota IS to talk about its history. From circus performers and avid art collectors to artists’ colonies and live stages, Sarasota has it all.
When you stay at the Best Western Siesta Key, be sure to carve out some time in your visit to venture into Sarasota’s art scene and encounter the heart of Sarasota’s unique culture and diverse background. You’ll find plenty of great photo ops and insta-worthy pictures.
The Arts in Sarasota
The art scene is Sarasota ebbs and flows over time, but one thing is consistent: the city is saturated with all forms of artistic expression and has been for over a century. Here are just a few of our artistic staples to consider visiting while you’re in the area.
- Sarasota Art Museum / Ringling College of Art and Design: Founded in 1931 by the area’s leading art benefactors of the same name, this private college offers degrees in computer animation and game design, as well as traditional fine arts and illustration. Visit one of their many galleries while you’re here to experience one of the many exhibits by students and professionals known worldwide. Also, visit the recently opened Sarasota Art Museum that features modern art installations from today’s hottest national and international artists.
- Towles Court/Gillespie Park/Rosemary District: The artist colonies of Sarasota are eclectic experiments in live-in-studio communities. These hidden treasures of Sarasota extend their hours for ArtWalks once a month to allow the public to enjoy the galleries, studios, and businesses in the districts, including live music and fresh hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants.
- Asolo Repertory Theatre: With a history as rich as the performances they produce, the Asolo Repertory Theatre began as a fledgling acting company from Florida State University (FSU). Eventually, it became the first State Theatre in Florida, and now serves as a major force in the Sarasota arts scene. For more great live performances, including ballet, symphony, opera, and live theatre, check out the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, Sarasota Opera House, and the Florida Studio Theatre.
- Clyde Butcher Venice Gallery and Studio: Catch a rarely-seen glimpse of Florida’s Everglades and wildlife at its finest when you visit Clyde Butcher’s studio. This world-renowned photographer and preservationist presents the rugged side of Florida like you’ve never seen in black-and-white photographs that have been compared to Ansel Adams’ work.
History in Sarasota
While the art scene brings a rich culture to Sarasota, the history of the area is just as illustrious and steeped in art, as well. Most of this is due in part to the Ringlings making Sarasota their winter home and bringing their creative genius with them. Here are some historical sites to visit while you’re here.
- The Ringling Museum & Ca’ d’Zan: If you’re thinking of the famous circus by now, you’re thinking of the same people. John and Mable Ringling’s estate features their extensive European art collection, their 5-story winter home (the Ca’ d’Zan) and their circus museum which highlights their history under the Big Top, all on one campus, along with Mable’s award-winning rose garden. Don’t forget to stop by the Muse at the Ringling for lunch before you leave.
- St. Armands Circle: Now a hot-spot for dining, shopping and strolling, St. Armand’s Circle was bought by John Ringling after being homesteaded by Charles St. Armand. Amidst the boutiques, souvenir shops and dessert parlors are statues from Ringling’s private collection.
- Historic Spanish Point: For a bit of native history that predates the Ringlings or any other modern civilization, visit Historic Spanish Point. See how the Seminoles lived after migrating south in Florida and learn about early pioneers, ranchers, and farmers that first cultivated the area.
- Unconditional Surrender Statue: Before you leave, you’ll want to snap a photo in front of the famous Unconditional Surrender Statue. This enormous rendition of the famous photo of a sailor kissing an unknown nurse in the Times Square V-J celebration after World War II marks the corner of the Sarasota Bayfront. Found on Island Park Drive, it’s easy to stop by for a quick photo or spend time walking the marina and enjoying the sunshine.
Class up your next visit to Sarasota and Siesta Key when you add a visit to Sarasota’s cultural scene to your agenda. You’ll find something new every time you stop by and feel inspired and rejuvenated as you learn about the rich history and art scene that makes Sarasota unique. To learn more about Florida’s Culture Coast while you’re here, talk to the professionals at Best Western Siesta Key. We’ll share our favorite spots with you and help you unearth new treasures while you’re here.