Sarasota Heroes by Karen Chandler

Sarasota Heroes by Karen Chandler

Image: Staff

Creating a magazine during a pandemic is something we’ve agonized over the last two months. Editorial calendars are often planned a year in advance and story deadlines occur weeks before we ship an issue to the printer. How do we remain relevant to our readers when the news of the COVID-19 crisis changes from day to day? It’s been difficult to predict the course of this virus and impossible to predict government response. Will the number of cases finally be going down? Will businesses be open? Will we get more testing? Will the warm, humid summer months slow the spread of the virus? As I write this just a week before we ship to the printer, I can’t be sure of what our world will look like.

But I can be sure that whatever happens, our city will have a lasting reminder and tribute to the selflessness that so many showed, in Sarasota Heroes, the mural by artist Karen Chandler that you see on our front and back covers this month.

These covers grew out of our desire to recognize and honor those who are sacrificing so much to keep us safe. The idea was born when creative director Gigi Ortwein told me a story her sister, a psychiatric nurse at a suburban Detroit area hospital, had just shared. As health care workers ended their shift one day and wearily took the elevator to the parking garage, they were greeted by a chalk mural that symbolized the gratitude the community had for their sacrifices. Doctors and nurses, who had spent so many hours trying to save lives, broke down in tears. “We should do something like that on our cover,” Gigi suggested.

The idea evolved. Why not commission a Sarasota artist to create a mural to show our gratitude to health care professionals and essential workers? Sarasota is known for its public art, and our residents and visitors take pride in the city’s collection of 86 murals, fountains and sculptures.  But we needed help in finding a venue, an artist and funding.

Publisher Kelley Lavin called Jim Shirley, the executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, who knew where to find local artists and potential sites for a mural. Elliot Rose of Coldwell Banker Commercial had told Jim about a year ago that he knew that Ronnie Shugar and Donda Mullis, owners of Raw Sugar Living, a national company producing organic, plant-based personal care products, were interested in a mural for their building. The Shugars embraced the idea of a permanent piece of art as an inspiration and as a reminder of the love and caring that make a community whole, and the project began to build momentum. 

Chandler, known for her vibrant, pop art style, won the commission and quickly produced ideas and sketches. By the time you read this, the mural, on 1717 Second St., will be a lasting piece of public art. Every time we walk by we will be reminded of the humanity and healing that inspire all the workers who have toiled during this pandemic, often risking their own lives. They range from doctors and nurses to cleaning crews, EMTs and paramedics, law enforcement officers, grocery store workers, drugstore employees, and the small business people who switched gears to make masks, hand sanitizer and deliver food to hospitals and to all of us. We salute them all.

We once again thank our partners, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County and Raw Sugar Living. And a special thanks to everyone who worked to make the mural a reality, including The Helming and Knies Family Foundation for its generous donation, and contributions from Elizabeth and Elliot Rose, Jenne Britell, Michael Knee­land, PPG Paints, The Bazaar on Apricot and Lime, and Williams Parker.

Our previously scheduled cover story for this issue was on summer staycations, highlighting great places to stay and things to do during our slower months. Not the best choice for a time of social distancing, so editor Kay Kipling instead penned a story about summer reading. The angle: Every suggestion is a book—fiction and nonfiction—that features Sarasota. Our annual Top Doctors story, a list of the top 274 peer-recommended Sarasota and Manatee physicians, is perfectly in synch with the times. Never have we needed outstanding doctors more.

And even though businesses are closed right now, our Best of Sarasota annual list of readers’ and editors’ picks for favorite places to eat, shop and experience will serve as a reference for better times ahead. Many of these businesses have found innovative ways to stay open and keep us going with online orders and delivery.

We hope you’ll enjoy the issue; even more, we hope you’re staying safe and healthy.

Susan Burns
Editor in Chief

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