Sarasota has had a long and spectacular love affair with the arts. Dating back to the 1920’s, the Ringling family and other esteemed citizens of the area laid a strong foundation for art appreciation and inspiration. Lucky for us, this ensured our enjoyment today and tomorrow. Commonly called the Culture Coast of Florida, Sarasota’s art scene rivals that of larger, urban cities. A single stroll through Downtown or a drive up the Tamiami Trail presents large works of art, sculptures, statues, theatres, and art galleries – some of which boast a bay view in the background. Whether you wish to attend the ballet, see a show, gallery window shop, or even get your tourist-on posing in front of the famous kissing statue Unconditional Surrender, there’s so much artistic diversity you can choose one or choose them all!
Here are some of The Duo’s top art attractions:
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Van Wezel Performing Arts Festival: www.vanwezel.org
This purple Sarasota landmark plays home to concerts, theater productions, musicals, comedy acts, events, and more.
Sarasota Opera: www.sarasotaopera.org
Built in 1926 to showcase vaudeville-style theater and movie screenings, the Sarasota Opera underwent a $20 million renovation and restoration in 2008. This investment restored the theater to its original grandeur without sacrificing 21st century amenities.
The Circus Arts Conservatory: www.circusarts.org
Much like the snowbirds who prefer Florida’s winters, John Ringling moved his circus winter quarters to sunny Sarasota in the 1920’s. Sarasota’s residents have been staking claim to “The most spectacular show in the world” ever since. Beyond professional performances, classes are offered for those who’ve ever dreamed of running away and joining the circus – for the day at least.
The Ringling Museum: https://www.ringling.org
The Ringling family had a profound respect and obsession of all things art. The Ringling Museum, located on the grounds of the Ringling’s winter estate, houses the famed family’s extensive art collection and more.
Florida Studio Theatre: www.floridastudiotheatre.org
Located Downtown, Florida Studio Theatre is a village of small contemporary theaters offering intimate and engaging cabarets, children’s theater, plays, and other performances.
Asolo Repertory Theatre: www.asolorep.org
Located near the old Ringling estate and recognized as the first State Theatre of Florida, the Asolo encompasses history and future. Popular musicals or classical works, they both prefer to take center stage at the historic Asolo.
Players Theater: www.theplayerstheater.org
If being surrounded by Sarasota’s arts has you itching to explore your inner artist, you must visit the Player’s Theater, a non-professional community theater. Who knows, maybe you’ll uncover a flair for acting!
McCurdys Comedy Theatre & Humor Institute: www.mccurdyscomedy.com
Sit down with a beverage and enjoy some stand-up comedy at McCurdys! Or, if you’re feeling brave, partake in a workshop and step up to the mic yourself. Have fun being funny!
Sarasota Ballet of Florida: www.sarasotaballet.org
Recipients of rave reviews from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Dance Europe, The Sarasota Ballet is an athletic and artistic troupe of talented dancers, all of whom live and perform in Sarasota. Performances and events take place at various theatres around town so you’re truly able to indulge in all the local art scene has to offer. Have a budding ballerina in the family? Detailed and intensive training is available at their Conservatory.
West Coast Black Theatre Troupe: www.westcoastblacktheatre.org
Founded in 1999, the West Coast Black Theatre Troupe is the only professional black theatre company on Florida’s west coast. From musicals to Broadway hits to both original and adapted works, this theatre company consistently sells the house out.
Sarasota Film Festival: www.sarasotafilmfestival.com
Never mind the South of France, the Gulf has its own prestigious film festival. The Sarasota Film Festival, held annually, showcases the best in cinema with more than 180 features, documentaries, shorts, and kid-friendly films. Don’t miss out on this silver screen celebration.
Chalk Festival: www.chalkfestival.org
Launched in 2007, the Chalk Festival is the first and only internationally acclaimed festival in Sarasota County. Free admission, the event is sustained by large and small donations. Captivating both cosmopolitan critics and curious on-lookers, seemingly basic chalk transforms an artist’s vision into a street masterpiece. Don’t miss this one.