Sarasota Insider

By Various May 1, 2010

Sarasota Museum of Art Halfway to $22-million Goal

By Charlie Huisking

On a brisk Saturday morning earlier this year, more than 100 people crowded into a classroom in the former Sarasota High School building to hear renowned installation artist Judy Pfaff give a talk.

Pfaff was captivating, funny and insightful in this Artmuse lecture , which was sponsored by the Sarasota Museum of Art. The audience was buzzing after she concluded. But no one was more exuberant than SMOA president Wendy Surkis. For while SMOA is in the conceptual stages now, the museum’s permanent home will soon be the red-brick, Gothic Revival-style high school building. This lecture was a hint of exciting things to come.

“This was the first time we used this building for an actual art program,” Surkis says. “It really gave people a preview of the depth and quality of what’s going to be happening once SMOA is up and running.”

SMOA was started in 2003 by 13 art patrons who felt Sarasota needed a museum of modern and contemporary art. Two years later, the organization merged with the Ringling College of Art and Design. Ringling will use the first and third floors of the 57,000-square-foot high school building for studios and classrooms for continuing education programs. The museum will take up the entire second floor.

The ADP Group of Sarasota won a design competition for the project. Its plan calls for an outdoor sculpture garden, a patio, a café and a 100-seat auditorium. Museum visitors will be able to look through large windows to watch art being created in the Ringling studios below. Initially, the museum will present touring exhibitions, though a permanent collection is a long-term goal.

This is a $22-million project, with $14 million budgeted for renovation and $8 million for an endowment fund.

Surkis says half the money has been raised—a laudable achievement in this economy. Both Surkis and Ringling College president Larry Thompson say they expect the museum to be open

by 2013.

“More people are getting involved,” Surkis says. “People get it; they see this as a great addition to life in Sarasota.”


Ginger Rogers’ Neighborhood

The title of Backwards In High Heelsthe Ginger Musical refers to the famous observation that Ginger Rogers could do everything Fred Astaire did, and do it backwards in high heels. Rogers gets top billing in this show, which runs May 7-30 at the Asolo Rep. In fact, Astaire doesn’t even show up until the second act. The first act focuses on the relationship between Rogers and her tenacious, show biz-savvy mother, Lela.

“Ginger had already done 19 movies when she met Astaire; she was the bigger star,” says Michael Donald Edwards, the Asolo’s producing artistic director. “This production shows you the journey she took to get there. And it contains all the wonderful songs from the Astaire-Rogers musicals, as well as some original music. I love Ginger Rogers, and plenty of people in this city feel the same way.”

And Edwards says those too young to be aware of Rogers should come and learn “how she came to define what it meant to be a dancer, and what it meant to be a woman.”


Sarasota Music Festival Revives

In next month’s column, I’ll focus in depth on the Sarasota Music Festival, which presents the first of nine major concerts on June 3.

But I thought it was important to remind people now that the three-week chamber music festival, a staple of Sarasota’s cultural life for decades, will actually occur.

Last August, the management of the Sarasota Orchestra, which runs the event, announced that the festival would be on hiatus for a year while its future was evaluated. Management cited years of budget deficits and a 45 percent drop in attendance since 1997.

But thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Kaiserman Foundation (the late Jay and Becky Kaiserman were passionate supporters), the festival will go on. Sixty top music students from the United States and several foreign countries will be working with a stellar group of faculty artists. That roster will include returning favorites like pianist Susan Starr and cellist Timothy Eddy, as well as such newcomers as Alexander Kerr, former concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.

For the first time this year, the Sarasota Orchestra, joined by some student participants, will perform a festival concert at the Van Wezel on June 5. Other chamber and orchestral concerts will be held at the symphony’s Holley Hall and at the Sarasota Opera House. Artistic director Robert Levin has programmed a mixture of beloved pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and some less often heard works. In fact, 19 pieces on the schedule have never been performed at the festival during its 46-year history.

A task force has been formed to examine the festival’s future. But in the meantime, all those festival lovers who wrote letters to the editor decrying the possible end of the event had better turn out for the concerts, and bring a friend or two. Call 953-4252, or go to



Thomas Carabasi, Times Square

Thomas Carabasi, head of photography at Ringling College, says his “Cultural Collisions” series focuses on the abrupt intersection of people and cultures in our world. His recent collages juxtapose urban sites from Eastern and Central Europe with images from Times Square. “I never know how these collisions will work until I bring the two images together on the computer,” says Carabasi, who’s had recent shows at the Princeton University Art Museum and Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art in Sarasota.



Angela Acts

An FSU/Asolo Conservatory student scores a Web hit with her blog.

When she enrolled at FSU/Asolo Conservatory last year, Angela Sauer, now 25, began a daily blog about her experiences. Now her “Angela Learns to Act” has been named one of the country’s 100 best blogs for film and theater students. Sauer’s blog doesn’t identify the school or her 10 classmates—“I’m comfortable with having my life online, but that doesn’t mean others are”—but so many people have figured it out it’s become something of a marketing tool for the Conservatory. Like Sauer, the blog is candid, funny and irrepressibly enthusiastic about the Conservatory, from its “fabulous teachers” and individualized approach to an “incredibly supportive community.” Loose-limbed and expressive, Sauer declares she “can’t survive without theater in my life” but hasn’t yet “nailed down my type—I want to do everything!”—Pam Daniel




Our top tickets of the month, Twitter-style.

Giving Hunger the Blues,

May 2

PRT all day, noon-2-8! Bands, games, food, drnks, fun PPL on Hillview, $5 2 enter. GR8 cause—All Faiths Food Bank.

CU there!


Heyday: Photographs of Frederick W. Glasier,

May 15 through Sept. 5

Snake charmers, clowns, lions & tigers & bears; da circus comes 2 town in 60 rare historic pix. : ) Ringling Museum of Art, 359-5700,


Element Au, May 1

Fab dinner, dancng, auctions, surprises, itz all abt raising

$$$ 2 help kids and families

4 the YMCA Foundation.

7-11 p.m., Ritz-C,



Backwards in High Heels,

May 7-30

Luv Ginger Rogers? Watch her get props, pre-Fred & after, at Asolo Rep, some old songs, some new. OMG the dancing! 351-8000,


Forum Truth, Jonathan Alter, May 25

Newsweek ‘s Alter speaks, answers FAQ, 7:30 p.m., Holley Hall. BTW, his book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One, comes out May 18. 349-8350,


Remembering Dick Morris

In my three decades of writing about the arts in Sarasota, I don’t think I ever encountered anyone smarter, more wickedly funny or more provocative than Sarasota Film Society founder Dick Morris, who died in February at 79.

And I mean provocative in the best sense of the word. Whenever I interviewed him about an arts-related topic, Morris provoked me to look at things more deeply and to consider a perspective I hadn’t thought of.

Of course, he provoked a lot of other people to suffer from heartburn, particularly those he labeled as charlatans or phonies. He was the master of the witty one-liner, once saying Sarasota was getting so pretentious that it should be called a “valet parking capital” rather than an arts capital.

The last time I interviewed him, he told me with a smirk, “I like to talk about politics and religion at parties, which means I am rarely invited anywhere. I was an angry middle-aged man and now I’m an angry old man. I still get perturbed by pomposity and incompetence.”

That passion to make Sarasota a better place is part of his legacy, along with a film society that now numbers 12,000 members, and two movie complexes that anchor their neighborhoods, the Burns Court Cinemas and the Lakewood Ranch Cinemas.


Fit City

Workout wisdom and wellness news. By Hannah Wallace

Listen Up!

"You’ve got to take time to recover. Two years ago, the Olympic committee told us, ‘You guys are the most fit ever, but you’re not giving yourselves enough time to recover.’ We took that to heart."

Mark Ladwig, Team USA Olympic pairs figure skating, Vancouver 2010

Health Nuts

Forget Flax Seeds

Chia seeds—the same kind made famous by kitschy Chia Pets—are the new “it” superfood. Their nutritional punch includes protein, calcium, iron and potassium, plus omega fatty acids and antioxidants. Use them to top salads or granola, or add 1/3 cup seeds to two cups liquid and let sit for two hours to create a nutritious gel that can be added to smoothies, salad dressings and other recipes. Find chia seeds at Special Nutrition, 6597 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.   

Get on Trax

Sarasota Family YMCA is among the first YMCAs in the country to offer ActivTrax, a customizable software that generates a new, personalized workout every time you step in the gym. After setting up an account and taking a brief strength test, ActivTrax users can print out the day’s workout from an in-gym kiosk. Exercises conform to your abilities and fitness goals. Says a local trainer who uses ActivTrax for his own workouts, “It’s like getting a Christmas present every day.”

Fashion Fit

For its slimming activewear, SOMA by Chico’s advertises, “No gym required.” The extensive line (predominantly yoga pants and tank tops) features plenty of compression fits to hide those hips and trim that tummy. But the built-in sports bras have support enough for your weekly Zumba class, too. Isn’t it easier to go to the gym when you feel skinnier to begin with? 443 John Ringling Blvd., (941) 388-1704

Flex your lexicon

obesogens: natural or manmade chemical compounds that disrupt hormones and affect metabolism, leading to weight gain. According to Men’s Health editor-at-large Stephen Perrine, author of The New American Diet, high-fructose corn syrup and soy are two ubiquitous obesogens.

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