Unity Awards

Michele Redwine Shines a Spotlight on Black Artistry

“We will not allow what’s happening in Tallahassee to take away who we are—and I believe the arts play a strong part in making that happen.” 

Photography by Megan McDonald January 1, 2024 Published in the January/February 2024 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Michele Redwine

Michele Redwine

Image: Barbara Banks


Behind every great  organization is a founder working tirelessly behind the scenes. At the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative, a nonprofit dedicated to highlighting diversity in the arts, that person is founder and president Michele Redwine.

A longtime executive and arts advocate, Redwine, 80, grew up in New York City and attended the prestigious Dalton School, where, she recalls, she was drawn to art classes. “My teacher saw this creativity in me,” Redwine says. “She convinced my parents that I should apply to the High School of Music & Art in Harlem.” (The school is now called the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.)

While there, Redwine became an accomplished painter and sculptor who was recognized for her talent, and she went on to major in fine arts in college before starting a career in arts education. “My father said, ‘I know you’re getting awards for painting, but think about your future,’” she says. “I’m glad I did. My career has given me opportunities to work in education, in the community—to engage not only students but families with a focus on diversity and opportunity.”

In 2018, after many years working in education and serving on boards for which she was recruited by people like New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker Jr., Redwine founded the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the work of Black artists. Signature programs include the Arts and Racial Justice Discovery Series, a forum for artists and arts and civic leaders to participate in a dialogue about diversity, equity and inclusion, and the Syllabus of Color, a program in which the collaborative works with community partners to implement principles of diversity and inclusion in art education for middle and high school students and local organizations. The collaborative also organizes exhibitions like its annual Visions in Black show, which features work by artists of color.

Right now, Redwine is hard at work on a collaboration with The James Museum in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Museum of Art to “enrich and provide opportunities for emerging artists and professional artists to exhibit at a higher level,” she says. “We are calling it The Importance of  Culture Transformation, and it includes artists of African descent and from the BIPOC population. These museums are committed to building community. We need to look at not just exhibition attendance, but also if there are artists in the community, how do we help them become professional in their craft so that they are able to have an exhibition in a museum?”

Right now, the initiative is in what Redwine calls its “listening phase,” in which she’s working with focus groups to have “courageous conversations” about the challenges underrepresented artists are facing and how to build sustainable art careers. She hopes to mount an exhibit in 2026.

Of course, there are challenges. “Our governor has put some restrictions on how this could be done more smoothly by eliminating programs and support at our colleges and schools,” she says. “Then there’s the picture of history. I am very proud of the work ASALH is doing throughout the state, particularly in Sarasota and St. Pete, with its Freedom School, enriching and exposing students to Black history.” (For more on that, read about Redwine’s fellow Unity Award winner David Wilkins here.)

“I’m in the talking stages now about how to collaborate with the programs teaching our history with what I’m doing with the arts,” says Redwine. “We will not allow what’s happening in Tallahassee to take away who we are—and I believe the arts play a strong part in making that happen.” 

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