A Historic Commitment to the Arts: A Brief Chronology
Even though Sarasota has a long history of exploration, settlement and development, today’s current city form began to take shape in the early 1920’s. Originally, part of Manatee County, Sarasota was organized as a town in 1902 and reorganized as a city in 1913. However, it was not until 1921 when Sarasota County was formed and the City of Sarasota became the county seat.
During the 1920’s the initial seeds for Sarasota’s cultural roots were sown with the 1925 building of the A.B. Edwards Theater. The grand styled art deco venue provided a variety of top talent headliners for a number of decades but it eventually fell into ill repair, lost its luster and was closed in the early 1970’s.With the purchase of the theater in 1979, a series of minor renovations and a major $20 million restoration project in 2007-08, the A.B. Edwards building was restored to its glorious beginnings and today is known as the Sarasota Opera House.
In 1936, one of Sarasota’s most prominent developers, leaders, and citizens, John Ringling bequeathed his entire estate to the state of Florida. With this bequest, came the extensive art collections which became the foundation for The John and Mable Museum of Art, one of Sarasota’s grandest locales.
Debuting in 1949 as the Florida West Coast Symphony, todays Sarasota Orchestra is the oldest continuing orchestra in the state of Florida. With a commitment to symphonic and chamber music, youth education, and the Sarasota Music Festival, the Sarasota Orchestra is delivering classical music in a new and exciting way.
In the early 1950’s the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art purchased the 18th century Italian Asolo Theater and moved it to the Ringling Estate in Sarasota. Today The Historic Asolo Theater now functions as a performing arts center providing a wide array of dance, film, theater, music and lecture performances.
In the late 1960’s the city of Sarasota was the benefactor of another bequest, this time from philanthropists Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel. Built directly on Sarasota’s Bayfront, the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has been providing a wide spectrum of world-class entertainment for over 40 years.
In the late 1980’s/early 1990’s a “new” Asolo Theater was built on the Sarasota Campus of Florida State University adjacent to the Ringling Museum grounds.. Subsequently renamed the Asolo Repertory Theater in 2006, the Asolo is home to both theatrical performances and the Sarasota Ballet Company which was formed in 1990.
Culinary Arts: The most popular art of all!
With the largest concentration of Zagat rated restaurants in the state of Florida, Sarasota offers a wide assortment of cuisine and style from which to choose. In fact, SRQ Reviews, Sarasota’s online restaurant guide and directory lists over 500 sorted by cuisine, style, and location.
Upscale, reasonably priced, casual dining, fresh locally grown ingredients, organic/vegan menus, small plates, and wine/espresso cafes are just a few of the recent culinary trends we see being incorporated into the Sarasota dining scene.
Sarasota: Your Destination Awaits You
Beautiful white sandy beaches, turquoise blue colored water, tropical breezes, a truly defined downtown city feel with great restaurants, and warm friendly people; Sarasota: the cultural epicenter of Florida awaits you.