Get Sarasota Art Smart: Venues in Sarasota County

Art-centric Sarasota County abounds with places to view art, make art, and purchase art.

Sarasota is very much an arts- and culture-based city. Perhaps it’s the area’s rich history, could be the inspiring beauty of the beaches, or possibly the vibe of the location leads to a relaxed creative outlet. Regardless of the reasoning behind the art-centric attitude, the result is a small city bustling with art venues* - places to view art, to make art, and to purchase art. Often all it takes is a strolling walk and an open eye; but for a clearer direction, look no further.

Where to view art:

Because it’s beautiful, inspiring, and often tells a tale of where you are

Massive traditional oil paintings, modern photography, Asian sculptures, sculpted glass, and circus art galore abound at The Ringling Museum of Art. This, the largest museum in Sarasota, features a spectrum of art to please any aficionado. Hundreds of the pieces are permanent in addition to their visiting exhibits. Surprisingly, it’s also extraordinarily kid-friendly.

View living art at The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, where creations inspired by Andy Warhol invite you to touch, interact, and interpret. An additional exhibit displays some of the famed Pop Artist original works, as well.

Local artists show off their skills at the ever-changing Art Center Sarasota on Tamiami Trail. The exhibits by Sarasota-centered creators – spanning from novice to professional - are free to view and demonstrate a spectrum of styles and skills.

The contemporary Sarasota Museum of Art is a division of the renown Ringling College of Art + Design. Both venues display the creations of innovative minds and creative souls. The large museum is set to be completed in early 2019 but has already begun smaller exhibits. Innovation at its finest.

At Ringling College of Art + Design, guests have the opportunity to witness budding masterful minds do what they do best. April is the perfect opportunity to behold the crème de la crème at their annual Best Of exhibit, showing the top works for each style, as well as the senior thesis exhibitions. View the works now and when they become famous, you can say you appreciated their art way back when

Who says art must be serious? A jaunt through the Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy will have you smiling and inspired as you meander through the plethora of sculptures, paintings, and fun-filled creations. You’ll know you’re at the right place when you see the massive pink flamingos flanking the entrance, a sign of what’s to come.

Where to make art:

Because sometimes you want to get your hands dirty and bring it on home

The small Floridian cottage behind the Artful Giraffe retail store serves as their pottery painting studio, where guests choose one of the dozens of ceramic items to paint and personalize to their liking. My kids and I have done mermaids, sharks, lizards, bowls, and mugs. The kind staff encourages both creativity and individuality, while providing expert assistance as needed. Once finished, they fire it in their kiln and your one-of-a-kind work is ready for display, use, or gift-giving.

Perfect your passion for creation with a class at Art Center Sarasota. Adult and youth classes in painting, drawing, photography, and collage tweak your technique and guide you towards a lifetime of artistry. Registration online.

Historic Burns Court is sprinkled with art from its muraled buildings to mosaic sidewalks. An inspiring stroll will lead you to A Craft Bar, where libations and creations go hand in hand, strolling down a happy path of art.

Where to purchase art:

Because some of the best souvenirs are hung on your wall

State of the Arts Fine Art Gallery in downtown Sarasota showcases contemporary works from local Sarasota artists and sculptors.

Amble down art-filled Palm Avenue to explore eight art galleries emphasizing various genres, from contemporary to Irish. The first Friday of each month, the neighborhood hosts gallery walks from 6-9pm with open doors and special events.

For fine art and antiques, search no further than Art + Antique Center Sarasota, definitely the undisputed destination for collectables and SRQ Auctions.

Simply known as “The Place for Art,” Towles Court Art Association is an artist’s colony, gathering 18 painters, potters, spinners, and more. Set amongst charming old Florida houses and flora, the vibe is as cool as the works themselves. At their seasonal art walks, share a chat and rub elbows with the artists on Friday nights.

The 16th Annual Downtown Sarasota Art & Craft Festival merges a stroll through Sarasota’s downtown with leisurely perusal of arts and crafts. Bring a friend and your sunscreen and make a day of it, searching out that perfect piece to bring home and remind you of your time in the Florida sunshine.

Nestled amongst the ice cream shops and Greek sculptures around St. Armand’s Circle, one will find various art galleries to search and inspire. One such is Clyde Butcher Black & White Fine Art Photography, the “foremost landscape photographer in America” and Sarasota county resident. Clyde’s photographs demonstrate a simple and string view of our natural world, much of it the Florida around you. Mr. Butcher also has a gallery in Venice, Florida.

Within downtown Sarasota’s Selby Library is a small bookstore with unbelievably discounted literature for purchase, as well as a rotating art sale from a local artist. A book and a painting? Win-win.

Strolling through the aesthetically pleasing Historic Downtown Venice, you can’t help feel the abundance of charm and history. Small local businesses and smiling faces surround the nine galleries within the neighborhood, including the aforementioned Clyde Butcher gallery. You’ll see a beachy theme, but one look and you’ll realize that Venice has much more diversity to offer.

Dive right in

Fully submerge yourself in the art world by staying at newly opened Art Ovation Hotel (as of press time, the hotel is set to open its doors at the end of March 2018). Each floor as well as the Gallery Lounge feature art from the current exhibits on display and the hotel’s calendar of events abounds with art-themed activities – improv/comedy classes, live artist paintings, backstage tours of the Opera, live music, dance classes, and art classes galore. It’s a cultural one-stop shop.

*Disclaimer: For this article, the focus was on physical wall/shelf art, not the general category of all art, such as dance, music, sand sculpture, etc.