A metal sculpture of dragons from the Royal Taste - On View through January 10. Photo courtesy of The Ringling

Art Exhibitions in Sarasota County

From fine art to folk and crafts, Sarasota County features an eclectic diversity of artistic outlets and exhibits.

Art is a year-round affair in Sarasota County, the vibrant heart of Florida’s Cultural Coast. From fine art to folk and crafts, the region features an eclectic diversity of artistic outlets and exhibits. Sarasota County is home to the State Art Museum of Florida, internationally-recognized arts colleges, scores of galleries, art fairs and festivals, and a prolific population of talented local artists who capture the spirit of Sarasota in their work.

The art scene in Sarasota is so lush, in fact, it can be a challenge to keep up with all the artful happenings in town. We’ve outlined the highlights from the upcoming and current exhibition schedule across Sarasota County.

Ringling Museum of Art

Florida’s State Museum of Art, the Ringling Museum of Art, anchors the Sarasota art scene with its permanent collection of works from European Masters of the Baroque and Renaissance eras. The Ringling’s special exhibitions galleries rotate exhibitions seasonally, with thought-provoking exhibition themes that range from ancient to contemporary art from across the globe.

This season, the Ringling’s special exhibitions galleries features Paul Rudolph: The Guest Houses, a collection of photographic and architectural material highlighting the guesthouses designed and built in Sarasota by the Modernist architect in the early 1950s. Rudolph, a former naval architect, moved to Sarasota in the 1940s and became one of the hallmark founders of the innovative and airy architectural style known as Sarasota Modern. The Guest Houses exhibition at Ringling highlights some of the earliest examples of Rudolph’s pioneering and daring style. Paul Rudolph: The Guest Houses runs through Dec. 6, 2015.

Also featured in the Ringling’s special exhibitions this fall and winter is Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China. The exhibition features more than 140 pictorial, sculptural and decorative arts pieces that offer a glimpse into the decadent lifestyles of Chinese royalty from the mid-Ming era (1368-1644). The pieces in the Royal Taste exhibition illustrate lesser-known aspects of Ming princes’ lives, including religious patronage and afterlife beliefs— long considered a mystery by archaeologists until their recent discovery. Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China runs through Jan. 10, 2016.

In addition to the art galleries, the Ringling Museum is also home to one of the most extensive circus museums in the world. The Ringling Circus Museum will also feature a circus-themed art exhibition this fall and winter: Clowns! (through Nov. 30) examines representation of clowns in circus advertising from the 1850s through the present day.

Ringling College of Art + Design

While the Fall 2015 exhibition schedule at the Ringling Museum highlights influencers and tastemakers from the history of art, the Ringling College of Art and Design looks toward its future. The small private arts college is home to approximately 1,300 students of the visual arts, and features seven on-campus galleries, as well as two off-campus arts centers. Here’s a peek at what to look forward to in the RCAD exhibition schedule this semester.

Veterans: The Art of Bravery runs through the month of November in the RCAD Christ-Janer Gallery. For the exhibition, Ringling students and faculty drew the portraits of several local war veterans to honor and thank them for their service. The stories in these intimate portraits are told from veterans of World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and currently enlisted troops.

The Ringling College madeby gallery also features a veterans-themed exhibition for the month of November. A Salute to Our Veterans ecompasses a multimedia variety of work created by award-winning RCAD students and alumni who served in the Armed Services.

Cuban Art from the Collection of Jorge Reynardus runs in the RCAD Selby Gallery from through Dec. 9. More than 30 works from renowned Cuban artists, including Wifredo Lam, Jose Bédia, and Augustin Fernández, are featured in the exhibition amassed from Reynardus’ comprehensive private collection. The works on display explore themes of freedom and expression, national pride, Cuban culture and personal identity of the artists living and working under the rule of Fidel Castro.

Art Center Exhibitions

Art inspired and created by Sarasota County locals is the highlight of several public Art Centers located throughout the area. Each Art Center hosts its own variety of local talent and exhibition themes.

The Winter exhibition calendar Art Center Sarasota runs Dec. 10, 2015 through Jan 16, 2016 with four exhibitions. Gallery 1 will feature the Paintings of Hugh Davies, a local abstract artist and instructor at RCAD. On display in Gallery 2 will be Chalk it UP, a community-created installation that uses the gallery walls as a chalkboard canvas. Gallery 3 will feature the Art Center Sarasota Instructors Annual Show. In Gallery 4, the winter season’s juried exhibition features the theme, What Lies Beneath.

Local artists can submit to the Venice Art Center work for the juried Art in Motion exhibition that takes place Nov. 27 through Dec. 30, featuring work in all variety of media that depicts motion. Another themed and juried exhibition, Simply Sensuous, a Feast for the Senses, runs from Jan. 8 through Feb. 12, 2016.

The Englewood Art Center (EAC) and the Longboat Key Art Center (LBKAC) are satellite galleries of the Ringling College of Art and Design that focus on education and events. This fall, the Englewood Art Center partners with local artist collective, SARTQ to present Fifty Shades of Green. The exhibition through Dec. 16 in the EAC’s Mitchell Gallery, featuring a diversity of multimedia works from SARTQ artists that explore the concept of “green”, from color to environmental symbolism.

At the Longboat Key Art Center, The Interpreted Landscape runs through Jan. 16, featuring a collaborative exhibition by artists Cindy Mason and Malcolm Robertson. Mason and Robertson take a multimedia and sculptural approach to breaking down the landscape and reimagining their surroundings through unique abstractions.

Unique and Noteworthy Art Exhibitions Around Sarasota County

In neighboring Manatee County, the State College of Florida presents Phantasmagorical: The World of Elisabeth Stevens in its Fine Art Gallery at the Neel Performing Arts Center. Phantasmagorical is an exploration of the graphic and illustrated works of Sarasota-based writer and artist, Elisabeth Stevens. The exhibition runs through Dec. 9, 2015.

The Venice Museum and Archives (VMA) honors its innovative 1920s city planner, John Nolen, in Design for Living: John Nolen and the Renaissance of New Urbanism. The exhibition opens in November, and includes original plats and plans from the VMA’s collection and current examples of New Urbanism in the cities of Venice and Sarasota. Explore the inspiration behind Nolen’s original plans and how his planning principles resonate nearly a century later with the modern movement in New Urbanism.

Rob Tarbell: Smoke Screens opened at Alfstad& Contemporary Gallery in Sarasota on Nov. 11, and runs through Dec. 4, 2015. The exhibition features 30 works by Sarasota artist, Rob Tarbell, using his signature process of transferring smoke to paper. Tarbell uses unconventional methods and materials, including burning plastic credit cards and 35mm slides to create images on paper surfaces suspended overhead.

Art Walks and Festivals for the Holiday Season

Although art exhibitions are often confined to gallery walls and display cases, it is not unusual for Sarasota County to take to the streets with its art in art festivals and art walks.

Monthly art walks take place throughout arts districts in Sarasota, including along gallery row on Palm Avenue on every first Friday of the month, as well as in the neighboring Towles Court Artists’ Colony every third Friday of the month.

Rounding out the holiday season exhibition schedule in Sarasota County is the annual Atomic Holiday Bazaar, taking place the weekend of Dec. 12-13 at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium. The annual Holiday Bazaar draws dozens of artists and quirky crafters from across the state of Florida who pack the Municipal Auditorium to capacity in one of the largest and most eclectic art fairs in the region. From contemporary artwork and fashion to vintage goods and accessories, the Atomic Holiday Bazaar features a dynamic collection of affordable local art and craft—just in time for holiday gift shopping.

Find Time for Art

Need a quiet place hide away from holiday stress? Spend an afternoon soaking in the sumptuous art (and silence!) in the Ringling Museum galleries … Or perhaps it’s a little creative inspiration you seek — in which case, take a stroll through the bustling galleries and shops of Palm Avenue and Towles Court during a monthly art walk, when artists and art lovers are on the prowl.

In Sarasota, there’s something to enjoy for art lovers of all kinds. What inspires you? Explore Sarasota’s eclectic exhibitions this fall and find out!