Best of Sarasota 2015: Arts & Entertainment

Our editors' and readers' picks for the best arts and entertainment in Sarasota for 2015.

By Sarasota Magazine May 1, 2015 Published in the May 2015 issue of Sarasota Magazine


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Best Architectural Restoration: Sarasota High Building No. 4


Give an A-plus to the Sarasota County School District for its $8.5 million restoration of Sarasota High’s historic Building No. 4, designed in 1959 by master modern architect Paul Rudolph, who spent his early career here. The newly gleaming bright white, low-slung geometric building that houses SHS’s science department teaches us a valuable lesson about preserving our architectural heritage. 1000 S. School Ave., Sarasota.


Best New After-Theater Hangouts: The Green Room at FST and The Starlite Room


Theater aficionados have two new places to mingle post-show. Florida Studio Theatre’s Green Room Late Nights (Friday and Saturday until midnight) offer a full bar and after-hours menu. The Starlite Room, which replaced the Broadway Bar, welcomes guests to its Sardi’s-like space, which includes a bar transformed from a bowling alley lane. The Green Room, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-9000,; The Starlite Room, 1001 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota, (941) 702-5613,


Best New Science Playground: Suncoast Science Center


Don’t call it a museum: The Suncoast Science Center is an educational playground, where kids and adults alike can explore science, technology, engineering and math through an ever-changing collection of hands-on exhibits—including the “Fab Lab” for fabricating anything you can dream up. It’s in the old SCTI building, but organizers plan to relocate to a permanent 60,000-square-foot space soon. 4452 S. Beneva Road, Sarasota, (941) 840-4394,


Best New Home Tour: Sarasota MOD Weekend


The Sarasota MOD Weekend presented last October by the Sarasota Architectural Foundation brought lovers of modern architecture to our town for three days of lectures, workshops, trolley and boat tours, all in celebration of the Sarasota School of Architecture. We’re already looking forward to this fall’s event Nov. 6-8, which will focus on the work of modern architect Paul Rudolph.


Best New Arts Facility: Venice Performing Arts Center


This $15 million arts venue on the Venice High campus lived up to all expectations when 1,000 people swarmed into the lobby after the ribbon cutting. A state-of-the-art home to concerts by the Venice Symphony, Venice Concert Band and choral group Exsultate! as well as the school’s performing arts programs, VPAC is a proud addition to Venice and Sarasota County as well. 1 Indian Ave., Venice, (941) 480-3191,


Best New Festival: SaraSolo Festival


You’ve got to admire the guts it takes to stand up, all alone, on a stage and perform your heart out. This new festival,

the brainchild of Sarasota actress Ann Morrison and former Sarasotan Blake Walton, started small, celebrating the art of the one-person show with about 15 different acts at the Crocker Memorial Church. You were bound to find something you liked. Stay tuned for news of next year’s event at (941) 323-1360.


Best New Edgy Theater: Urbanite Theatre


Even before it opened its doors just a couple of weeks ago, theater fans were buzzing about this new downtown space, founded by two FSU/Asolo Conservatory grads to provide an intimate spot for the kinds of shows (think brand-new, cutting-edge works, often with adult themes) they felt couldn’t be seen elsewhere locally. Fingers crossed enough audience members are ready. 1487 Second St., Sarasota, (941) 321-1397,


Best New Sports Event: Sarasota Music Half Marathon


Billed as a “13.1-mile moving party,” February’s Sarasota Music Half Marathon gave runners and spectators a unique treat: Fifteen live bands, from hip-hop to country, lined the route, adding up to more live music than any other half marathon in the country. The kicker? A 65-piece high school marching band played on the Ringling Causeway. It’s almost time to start training for next year’s event: Feb. 7, 2016.


Best New Architectural Energy: The Center for Architecture Sarasota


More to celebrate for lovers of our rich architectural heritage: The Center for Architecture Sarasota has polished up the midcentury modern Scott Building and turned it into the new home of the UF School of Architecture’s CityLab-Sarasota, which will bring graduate students here to study “issues of emerging technology, culture and climate responsive architecture” that relate to the Sarasota School of Architecture. 265 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota, (941) 350-5430.





Best Festival or Special Event


Sarasota Chalk Festival


Forks & Corks, Sarasota Film Festival


Best Fund-raising Gala


Van Wezel Foundation Gala


Firefly Gala; Wine, Women & Shoes


Best Performing Arts Group


Asolo Repertory Theatre


Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe


Best Place to Hear Local Bands


5 O’Clock Club


Blue Rooster, Gator Club


Best Place to Meet Singles


Libby’s Café & Bar


Social on First, White Buffalo Saloon


Best Controversy




Roundabouts, Unconditional Surrender statue


Best Tourist Attraction




Mote Marine Aquarium, The Ringling Museum of Art


Best Local TV Personality


Bob Harrigan


Scott Dennis, John Scalzi

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