Sarasota has a great arts scene, and it’s one that’s driven both by deep-pocketed snowbirds and adventurous year-round locals. Although the winter definitely brings a sense of hyperactivity to the town’s art scene, it manages to maintain itself quite well throughout the year.
A great way to get a sense of the arts community is to take part in one of the monthly Art Walks through the art and theater district downtown. They take place on the first Friday of every month, and galleries, boutiques, and restaurants downtown stay open late to accommodate the curious. These walks are popular, but they’re never overcrowded.
If you’re on your own, the area around South Palm Avenue downtown is where most of the galleries are located. Galleria Silecchia (12 S. Palm Ave. and 20 S. Palm Ave., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.) is Sarasota’s largest gallery, and it has a pronounced focus on sculpture, art glass, and ceramics.
The Dabbert Gallery (76 S. Palm Ave., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat.) features works by modernist and realist painters from throughout the United States as well as works by sculptors.
A block or so off Palm Avenue is Art Uptown (1367 Main St., 941/955-5409, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 6–9 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.), a co-op gallery that features works from local member artists. Pieces range from abstract to realism, with a large number of porcelain and ceramic pieces too.
Selby Gallery (2700 N. Tamiami Tr., 941/359-7563, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon. and Wed.–Sat., 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.; 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri. May–Aug.; closed second half of Dec.) is one of six galleries at the Ringling College of Art & Design and is firmly focused on daring contemporary art.
The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall (777 N. Tamiami Tr., 941/953-3368, www.vanwezel.org) is the crown jewel of the Sarasota arts scene, hosting touring Broadway productions, classical music, and pop concerts firmly aimed at the blue-hair demographic. The exterior is a sight to behold, and the interior acoustics are nearly flawless.
Florida Studio Theatre (1241 N. Palm Ave., 941/366-9000, www.floridastudiotheatre.org) is actually composed of three different on-site venues. The Keating Theatre is the main stage, where Broadway and off-Broadway plays are performed, while the slightly smaller Gompertz Theatre is dedicated to more cutting-edge live theater fare. The most unique among the three is the Goldstein Cabaret, which, as the name implies, is a great place to catch big and brash musical numbers.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition