Twice as Nice:

Richard and Barbara Basch’s Extraordinary Philanthropy

With gracious foresight and uncommon philanthropy, Dr. Richard and Barbara Basch have made two magnanimous gift commitments that will forever transform Ringling College of Art and Design and its newest division, the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA).

A remarkable combination of two irrevocable pledges comprises a transformational gift valued at nearly $5,500,000—making the Baschs the largest individual donors in Ringling College's 78-year history.

Their first generous gift is an irrevocable monetary commitment with a value well into the seven figures. It emanates from Richard’s estate and is designated to provide capital for the renovation of the historic Sarasota High School, future home of the Visual Arts Education Center featuring SMOA.

The Baschs’ second extraordinary gift to Ringling College emerged from their enthusiasm for contemporary glass art. Inspired by the College’s ideal environment for this modern medium, Richard and Barbara have pledged their world-class collection of approximately 250 glass art objects to Ringling College.

Richard and Barbara could not have imagined when they first met Wendy Surkis, president of SMOA, that they would soon create such a significant legacy.

Dr. Basch, a recently retired radiologist and active member of SMOA’s board of directors, explains their decision: “The more we learned about Ringling College, the more enthralled we became with it. What (Ringling President) Larry Thompson has accomplished in his 10 years here is nothing short of outstanding. Ringling is now one of the top three colleges of its kind in the nation—and it’s right here in Sarasota! Barbara and I are proud to be a part of that.”

“Richard and I did not initially intend to assemble such a varied collection when we began in 1993, but after exploring the wealth of American artists like William Morris, Martin Blank, and, of course, Dale Chihuly, we began to look beyond the States,” says Barbara. “During our travels to Europe we became intrigued by Italian artists such as Lino Tagliapietra and Lucio Bubacco, as well as artists from the Czech Republic, France, and Scandinavia. Glass art is a world-wide medium and we are still sampling!”

“We would like to see glass artists and collectors recognize Sarasota as a destination for their obsession,” Richard adds. “As SMOA will do for contemporary and modern art, we feel that notable glass art collections, accessible to the public, can help complete Sarasota’s cultural mosaic while providing beneficial economic impact for the area.”

“The triumph of the Baschs’ gift truly epitomizes the pleasure it gives to the donor, the recipient and to future generations. Their monetary gift brings SMOA closer to the thrill of opening day,” says Surkis.

“Of all of the museums and organizations Richard and Barbara could have committed their remarkable collection—and their funds to—they chose Ringling College of Art and Design and SMOA,” says Thompson.

“Their investment is the ultimate vote of confidence in the future of this institution, and an inspiration to those of us committed to its success.”

Photograph by Forrest MacDonald