Across the north bridge, Sarasota’s downtown offers a vast array of arts and attractions. Featuring classical and modern dance, the Sarasota Ballet performs throughout the year while the Asolo Theatre’s regional theatrical company unveils their lineup November through June. In October, the John and Mable Ringling Museum hosts an International Arts Festival. This six-day cultural celebration of music, dance, theater and visual arts is performed at the Ringling and its 66 acre waterfront property.
Sarasota and Bradenton feature two large artist communities called Towles Court and the Village of the Arts. Both locations offer a colorful collection of “Old Florida” bungalows housing galleries, studios and cafes. These artists live, work and feed off the enthusiasm of their counterparts, in pursuit of their own individual style.
Towles Court has an evening art walk the third Friday of every month while the first Friday and Saturday of each month is assigned to the Village of the Arts. Check their sites for details.
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If art is your passion, the Ringling Museum houses fine baroque period paintings including the oversized works of Rubens as well as numerous sculptures from John and Mable Ringling’s collection. Stroll the bay-front grounds and tour the rose gardens on your way to Ringling’s waterfront home, the Ca d’Zan. This is the last of America’s Gilded Age mansions. Constructed in 1924-1925, at a cost of $1.5 million dollars, this home is 36,000 square feet with 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms. Then see memorabilia and artifacts at the nearby circus museum where visitors at any age are able to experience the magic of the center ring. Tickets are discounted on Thursdays after 5:00pm.
Head to Sarasota’s Season of Sculpture, an International Invitational Exhibit. The shaded walkway offers a series of large pieces along Sarasota’s Bayfront where large installations are on display for only six months. This non-profit organization reviews and selects new artists every fall.
Housed in an exceptional structure along the bayfront of St. Petersburg is the Surreal Artistry of Salvador Dali. High-profile architect Yann Weymouth (who worked with I.M. Pei on the Louvre’s glass pyramid) created the design to pay homage to Dalí’s free-flowing imagination. Of the 18 so-called Masterworks produced by Dali, eight are located in St. Pete’s Dali Museum.
Also in St. Petersburg is the Morean Arts Center with a fine collection of Dale Chihuly. Make sure to plan a visit to the nearby hot shop where the art of glass blowing is demonstrated.