On December 7, 2019, the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College unveiled their new gallery to the public, hosting an exhibit space within the walls of the historic Sarasota High School building. Donald Hagan of Day Hagan Asset Management and other sponsors were invited to a tabled event before exploring the new gallery’s massive exhibit space.
Donald Hagan was one of more than five hundred people in attendance at the new Sarasota Art Museum opening, a project of the local Ringling College. After more than a decade of back-and-forth planning and failed negotiations, the gallery finally opened in December of last year. It aims to highlight the cultural diversity of Sarasota and offer an exhibit space for modern art.
The idea behind the museum was first proposed by residents more than 15 years ago as a solution to the lack of modern art exhibits in town. While Sarasota boasts a number of art galleries, few museums offer truly modern pieces that represent the iconic period in art history. What began as excited chatter among residents became a $22 million fundraising effort to turn the site of the historic Sarasota high school into a permanent art house.
Sarasota has gone through a number of noticeable transitions over time, exchanging ownership between indiginous people, Spanish colonists, other European explorers and eventually the American government. Museum curator and executive director Anne-Marie Russell believes the city’s rich past will serve as a guide for developing its programs and exhibitions. Sponsors of the nonprofit museum like Donald Hagan hope the Sarasota Art Museum will highlight the spirit of contemporary art both in the area and afar as it impacted people and culture around the world.
Donald Hagan and others invited to the opening gala were able to tour the inaugural exhibitions, which included a retrospective of Brazillian-born VIk Muniz, the art of Sheila Hicks, and works by Kara Walker and Christian Sampson among others. In the future, the Sarasota Art Museum will feature pieces that highlight the work of the Sarasota School of Architecture in the city and outside county lines. It also plans to host a collection demonstrating Sarasota’s role in avant-garde art as well as projects that use oral histories, commissions, and public programming to celebrate the area’s history.
The high school building the museum is situated in was originally built nearly a hundred years ago and encompasses an area of 57,000 square feet. It was designed in 1926 as a school by M. Leo Elliot but quit accepting new students onto its property in 1996. An addition was added onto the building in 1960 by Paul Rudolph, who was a respected leader at the Sarasota School of Architecture.
“The project has been a longtime coming, but we are very proud of what the museum has become and what the gallery means for the contemporary art and the historic architecture of our city,” said sponsor Donald Hagan.