Nov. 13, 2008                                            

Ceremony to celebrate ‘new lease, new life’ for historic Sarasota High

            SARASOTA — The School Board of Sarasota County will hand the keys to the  historic 1926 Sarasota High School building to Ringling College of Art and Design in a  10 a.m. ceremony, Monday, Nov. 17, in front of the local landmark. The symbolic key exchange will mark the beginning of a new era for the iconic building, which the School Board has leased to Ringling College for 99 years at the rate of one dollar per year to house the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA), a division of the college.

            In the ceremony, large new banners will be revealed on the building, signaling another step in the transformation from historic Sarasota High to the Sarasota Museum of Art. School Board Chairwoman Kathy Kleinlein, Ringling College President Larry Thompson and Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA) President Wendy Surkis are scheduled to be on hand for the event, as are other School Board members and Ringling College and SMOA board members. Invited guests include current Sarasota High Principal Jeff Hradek, state, county and city officials, and supporters of the efforts to save the historic building.

            “This is a great example of organizations working together to benefit all our citizens,” said Kleinlein. “After the School Board selected Ringling College and the museum proposal, everyone connected with this project has worked diligently to make sure this vision becomes a reality. We’re proud that the historic Sarasota High School building will continue to be a central part of this community and that it will continue to focus on education.” 

About Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA)
            When completed, SMOA will visually juxtapose a collegiate gothic architectural exterior, with a contemporary three-story glass enclosed entryway to the rear of the building. The project preserves and celebrates the past while exposing visitors to the present and leading them on the pathway of contemporary arts education in the future.

            SMOA will be housed on the second floor of the historic Sarasota High School and will be a dynamic center for exhibiting modern and contemporary art of the 20th and 21st centuries. The museum and the Visual Arts Education Center (VAEC) will interweave exhibitions, educational programs and community outreach initiatives to engage a diverse audience and serve as a center for creative discovery and discourse.

 School Board-Ringling College key transfer at old SHS
“I am eagerly anticipating the new life that we will bring to the halls of this iconic treasure,” said SMOA President Wendy Surkis. “Both the historic Sarasota High School and the visual arts are integral parts of Sarasota’s distinguished heritage. This new ‘center for visual learning’ with SMOA as the centerpiece will have immeasurable benefits for people of all ages. We are working hard to make it happen.” 

            A comprehensive fundraising campaign is underway for Ringling College of Art and Design. The target amount includes a $22 million goal to fund the transformation of the historic Sarasota High School into VAEC/SMOA and an operating endowment for the museum. To date, $9.5-million has been raised toward that goal. A specific opening date has not been set, but the museum is expected to welcome visitors 14 to 18 months after the funding goal has been met.

            “The passion the SMOA board members have for this project is energizing,” said Ringling College President Larry Thompson. “To get to this stage – with nearly half of the funding raised in just a few years – is evidence that Sarasota has embraced the idea of this exciting new museum.”         

Restoring historic Sarasota High School
In October, 2004, the School Board of Sarasota County voted to lease the historic Sarasota High School to the Ringling College of Art and Design for an adaptive re-use of the facility as the VAEC and SMOA. The vote followed a two-year process of community involvement and consensus-building, the Sarasota High School New Life Initiative, in which over 200 potential uses of the historic building were considered. 

            The school board stipulated that any adaptive reuse would include the preservation of the defining characteristics of the 1926 structure. Since that time, the school district has continued to maintain the building and, with the state grant, is restoring elements of the building.

State grant helps prepare old SHS for new life
            To prepare for the rebirth of the building as SMOA, Sarasota County Schools completed an initial phase of the restoration of the historic 1926
Sarasota High School in preparation for its rebirth as a visual arts center and art museum, thanks to a $350,000 grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources.

            The grant funded the construction of an accessible entrance to the Collegiate Gothic-style building in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the restoration of a bank of lockers to their original appearance, the removal of barriers to mobility into classrooms on the first floor, and the opening and restoration of four loggias (covered walkways with exterior arches) in the back of the building’s first and second floors.

            It is believed that the loggias were designed to be open to a courtyard when the school was built. The loggias were enclosed in concrete soon after the school was opened in 1927 in the year following its construction, to protect the building from inclement weather. The grant project allowed for the loggias to be opened for the first time in almost 80 years. Large sheets of tempered glass now encase the open area to protect the building from the elements.

            More information is available at The historic Sarasota High School is located at 1001 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.



©1999-2009  by Marshall K DuBois