Sarasota has a dazzling array of sophisticated cultural opportunities: symphony, opera, ballet, four theater companies, numerous arts and music festivals, an art college, an antique district, fine restaurants, and year-round events. The 24-hour ArtsLine 953-4636, ext. 6000, lists what's happening every day. There's lots to do for the kids, too. Young artists can enjoy the many engaging art festivals and kid-oriented activities

Ringling Museum of Art
by Pat Keeche

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota was created by circus impresario John Ringling who collected works by Rubens, Poussin, Hals, Van Dyck, Guercino and other major artists who worked primarily from 1500 to 1750.

The Old Master collection, now including approximately 750 paintings, is the most important area of the Museum's holdings which now consists of over 10,000 objects.

They are housed in several buildings left to the state of Florida by John Ringling when he died in 1936. The bayfront estate is a 31-acre property which Ringling purchased for a winter vacation residence in 1912. In 1924, he began construction of his mansion, Ca d'Zan, and in 1927, the Museum. He later established the circus winter quarters in Sarasota.

The museum complex consists of the Art Museum, Ca d' Zan, the Ringling mansion, the Circus Museum, the Historic Asolo Theater, the Art Library and 66 acres of landscaped grounds.

The Museum grounds also include the historic Asolo Theater building which houses an Italian Baroque theater interior purchased in Italy and reassembled at the Museum.

The beautifully landscaped grounds contain over 400 species of exotic Florida trees, plants, flowers, sculptures and a rose garden. The Museum is located at 5401 Bay Shore Road.

Visual Arts
Dozens of art galleries and the Sarasota Visual Arts Center dot the downtown district. Towles Court, a thriving artist colony features gallery walks the third Friday of every month. The Ringling Museum contains 22 galleries of Baroque painting, a Circus Museum, a rose garden and the Ringling Mansion, which served as the backdrop for the recent feature film, Great expectations. Speaking of film, the Sarasota Film Society is busy with year-round presentations and events such as the Sarasota French Film Festival and the Cine-World Film Festival.

Performing Arts
Performing Arts are alive and very well in Sarasota. The distinctive 1,761-seat Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, is known for outstanding acoustics as well as exceptional fine programs. The 1,000 Sarasota Opera House was lovingly restored from a 1926 theater. The 500-seat Asolo Theater, the only winter repertory theater in North America, contains the interior decor from the turn-of-the-century Dunfermline, Scotland Opera House, plus a 161-seat Conservatory stage. Besides these large venues, Sarasota also has the TheaterWorks, Florida Studio Theatre, the 72-year-old Players of Sarasota, Venice Little Theater, Golden Apple Dinner Theater, plus facilities at the University of South Florida's New College Campus. Click here for our listings of Performing Arts venues and organizations

Photos courtesy of the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau