Hidden in Plain Sight: Art Center Sarasota

Art Center Sarasota, though often overlooked by visitors and Sarasota County residents, boasts provocative exhibitions from international artists. The building is one of the city's oldest cultural attractions but one of it's most active present-day establishments as well.

Hidden in plain view, just off the stretch of Tamiami Trail that winds along downtown Sarasota's palm tree-dotted bayfront, resides one of the city's oldest cultural attractions. It's an active modern-day arts establishment - and yet Art Center Sarasota somehow remains one of the city's best kept secrets, often overlooked by both visitors and long-time locals. Provocative special exhibitions, juried local art shows, hands-on art instruction for all ages, and a variety of regular programming that connects nationally and internationally-known artists with the public are just a sampling of what Sarasota's oldest art institution has to offer these days.


The Art Center galleries are open, free to the public every Monday through Saturday. During exhibition season, which extends from November through April art classes and lectures occur on a near-daily basis at the Art Center, ensuring a different activity on almost any given day of the week.

Inspired artists and art connoisseurs of all ages and skill levels have ample opportunity to take part in hands-on, interactive educational programs at the Art Center throughout the year.

Between the months of October and May each year, the Art Center hosts a rotating schedule of adult art classes, taught in six, weekly three-hour sessions, by local instructors from the Ringling College of Art and Design. Topics include printmaking and book art, jewelry making, drawing, photography, painting and mixed media. Class details and schedule may be found at the Art Center's online education catalogue.

Offerings For Adults and Kids Alike

Adults are not the only ones invited to explore the hands-on creative and educational offerings at Art Center Sarasota. The organization also provides a diverse array of youth programming that makes art appreciation and creation just as exciting for the kids.

An ongoing youth program at Art Center Sarasota, Slice of Art, provides interactive art tours of the galleries to students in grades K-12 and helps to open a comfortable dialogue about art.

For updated information about upcoming exhibitions and ongoing programming at Art Center, visit the organization's website at artsarasota.org.


The history of Art Center Sarasota extends nearly 90 years into the past, when the Sarasota Art Association, the first arts organization in the area, was established in 1926 to promote contemporary arts and education in the community through monthly meetings and exhibitions. Following two decades of holding exhibitions in rented facilities, the Art Center found a permanent home at its current location, where it was erected in the Sarasota School of Architecture style, popular in the years immediately following World War II.

Over the next several decades, the Art Center continued to grow and maintained its role as a prominent arts organization, committed to providing the public with affordable access to original art and education, though it seemed to fade somewhat into the background — a dated historical landmark — as downtown Sarasota blossomed around it.

In 2011, however, renovations to the 65 year-old building and its outdoor sculpture garden provided a 21st century face-lift that breathed fresh life into the Art Center. The organization responded by ramping up the content in its galleries to include eclectic, thought-provoking exhibitions by nationally and internationally-recognized artists, paired with creative, educational all-ages programming relevant to the exhibitions. The result is an arts organization reborn with the cultural chops to rival its contemporary peers, all the while maintaining a sterling reputation for inclusive, public accessibility.