Talking to Anne-Marie Russell, Executive Director of the New Architecture Sarasota
Big news for area fans of architecture and its history in Sarasota: the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) and Center for Architecture Sarasota (CFAS) are joining forces to become Architecture Sarasota, and will be led by former Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College executive director Anne-Marie Russell, who will hold that same title for the new entity.
While the news may come as something of a surprise, it only makes sense that in a city the size of Sarasota, two organizations devoted to the same mission should unite. “We’re obviously thrilled, and hope the community will be,” says Russell, “to see the two unite and share resources—doing more together. Architecture Sarasota will represent the mission and interest of both entities.”
Sarasota Architectural Foundation was founded in 2002 and has focused on advocating for the preservation and scholarship of the Sarasota School of Architecture movement structures, presenting numerous tours, film screenings and educational events. Sarasota MOD Weekend has been SAF’s signature program.
Meanwhile, Center for Architecture Sarasota, founded in 2013, has provided a meeting space and destination for people who care about design, offering exhibits, tours and special events frequently in the restored Scott Building, on downtown’s Orange Avenue. That space can now serve an expanded purpose with the joining of the two nonprofits.
“It’s what Sarasota deserves as a powerhouse of architecture and design, especially considering it’s such a small community,” says Russell. And the emphasis on the Sarasota School of Architecture’s innovations, she adds, is so relevant today, “with issues of site specificity, sustainability and environmental concerns. We can continue the stewardship of those structures and the scholarship of their legacy while also bringing us into the present day and those architects and designers working now.”
For Russell, who departed her position at the Sarasota Art Museum a week ago but will continue to consult for a period on coming exhibitions there, the Architecture Sarasota leadership role is natural. She says she originally wanted to study architecture, but ended up receiving a B.A. in cultural anthropology, followed by an M.A. in art history. At a previous position she held in Tucson, Arizona, serving in the development and opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art there, she became acquainted with Christopher Domin, who had just published the book Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses, at the time. Russell says she learned about Rudolph’s work specific to Sarasota through Domin and his book.
In a press release announcing the joining of the two organizations, CFAS board chair Ryan Perrone said, “Sarasota's architectural legacy has been championed by the SAF and CFAS separately, achieving incredible interest and success. Together, Architecture Sarasota, under the leadership of Anne-Marie, will exponentially magnify our impact to our community."
SAF board chair Anne Essner added that “Anne-Marie’s entrepreneurial cultural leadership, combined with a deep commitment to mission, has produced a significant legacy of institutions, programs and projects...we look forward to experiencing the power of her transformational leadership as we position the Sarasota School to achieve its proper place in the global architectural conversation.”
Stay tuned for more announcements of programs and events ahead as Architecture Sarasota plans its new future.