Art Matters

Dr. Thomas McGuire is both an artist and art enthusiast. As a child growing up poor in the South Bronx, McGuire was drawn to the visual world, especially color. At the age of 12, he saw an advertisement for an art correspondence course and submitted an application. His parents could not afford the course, and thought art was an impractical career choice. Those financial practicalities influenced McGuire’s education and career decisions. He chose to study medicine, reasoning that he could have a satisfying career helping others and turn to art later. Even so, art was always an important part of his life. As an intern at Northwestern University, homesick and a little blue, he visited a gallery and saw a painting that matched his mood. That painting became the first in his extensive collection and hangs today in his New York City apartment. “Collecting became a passion,” he says.

     When McGuire came to Sarasota 20 years ago, he sought opportunities to add to his collection by purchasing art from Ringling students. “I buy art from students whenever I can,” he says. He has purchased many pieces over the years—at the College’s sidewalk sales, from students whose work appeared in Best of Ringling exhibitions, and at campus art sales. McGuire is delighted by the growth and direction he has seen at Ringling. “The progress has been amazing,” he says. “We’re happy to have Ringling in our town. When people talk about other art colleges as being the best, I say, ‘No, it’s Ringling!’”

     McGuire’s homes, including his house in Santa Fe, New Mexico, are testaments to his love of art and his passion for collecting. Art is everywhere. However, not all of the pieces were purchased. McGuire created some of them himself. While his medical career flourished, McGuire made time to take art classes, even during his army service. Today he paints regularly, always keeping a set of watercolors with him. He especially enjoys taking classes.

     When Sarasota Museum of Art’s (SMOA) president, Wendy Surkis, shared Ringling and SMOA’s idea to turn the historic Sarasota High School building into a destination for visual learning with a museum as its centerpiece, McGuire was captivated. The project brought together his passion for art, for Ringling College, and for expanding opportunities to study art. “The idea of a dual-purpose museum and studio setting is wonderful,” says McGuire. “It will provide opportunities for people like me to take classes in a first-class academic setting.” Through his boundless enthusiasm, his desire to ensure that all members of the community have access to art, and his exceptional generosity, McGuire has contributed to the creation of a new vision for artists and art lovers in Sarasota.

     The Thomas F. McGuire MD Studio, named in honor of McGuire’s donation of $1 million to the project, will exemplify the architect’s vision for the center—to design a building in which those creating art and those viewing art will have a shared experience. Spanning two stories, the studio will have windows on the upper level that will allow museum visitors to view the process of making art as community members take classes in the studio below. The artists, in turn, will be able to look up into the museum. Through those windows, the process of creating and viewing art will come together.

     “Art is important in a person’s life. If you’re ever looking and can’t find me, I’m probably in a gallery or museum,” laughs McGuire.

     One day soon, you will find him taking a painting class in the studio he made possible as SMOA visitors look on appreciatively.