Best of Sarasota

Best of Sarasota 2021: Arts and Entertainment

Murals! Innovative programming! Outdoor entertainment! Our arts community sure got creative this year.

By The Editors May 3, 2021

Best New Public Art Trend

In 2020, it seemed like murals were popping up everywhere, searching our history (as with two murals at the Lido Beach Pavilion and two marking the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce centennial on their downtown HQ), celebrating our diversity and our arts (at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s home) and exploring the power of myth (1526 Fruitville Road). They join Second Street’s Sarasota Heroes, which Sarasota Magazine was proud to partner on last spring. More to come.

Best New Arts Pivot

The pandemic made just about every arts organization in town quickly become adept at filming, recording, livestreaming, YouTube videos and any other way you can think of to stay connected and present their music, theater, visual art and more, safely. While nothing can replace in-person entertainment, in dark times it was a comfort to sit before our screens and share what local arts has to offer.

Best New Outdoor Entertainment

We’ve always been lucky that our climate means we can enjoy a show or concert outside. Covid-19 concerns made outdoor gatherings even more popular. To name a few: The Sarasota Orchestra teamed with area parks for small-scale performances; Asolo Rep constructed its outdoors Terrace Stage, kicking off with a welcome holiday show; and hosting spots like Selby Gardens and the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s beach added natural beauty to the mix. A trend worth keeping.

Best New Dialogue on Diversity

The Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative, a nonprofit promoting the unifying power of the arts, is not brand new, but several of its initiatives are, including its Arts and Racial Justice Panel series—“courageous conversations” that bring together arts leaders for frank discussions of where we are and where we need to be when it comes to inclusion. Not only are the panels thought-provoking, they’re free.

Best New Arts Marriage

Sometimes when an idea is a win-win, it’s just obvious. That was the case with the merger of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and Historic Spanish Point last May. Selby, with a burgeoning number of visitors, was able to expand its footprint into South County, and Historic Spanish Point gained from Selby’s financial support. And we’re all the beneficiaries of more great nature and history programming at two locales. Somewhere, Marie Selby and Bertha Palmer are smiling. Downtown Sarasota campus, 1534 Mound St., and Historic Spanish Point campus, 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, (941) 366-5731;

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