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Sarasota Museum of Art nears goal with $1 million challenge grant
By Susan Rife , Herald-Tribune   |   Monday, March 24, 2014 

An anonymous philanthropist has issued a $1 million challenge grant to the Sarasota Museum of Art, urging other donors to complete the $22 million campaign to turn the historic Sarasota High School building into a modern art museum and education center.

The donor came through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation with the challenge grant, which was announced March 22 at the Ringling College of Art and Design's annual Avant-Garde fund-raiser. SMOA must raise $1.45 million by May 31.

The grant continues to build on the momentum created in January when Elaine Keating, a SMOA board member whose million-dollar gift to the museum campaign kicked off fund-raising seven years ago, issued a million-dollar matching grant. Donors sprang forward, donating $1.3 million in less than two months.

As of March 24, the total stood at $19,551,896.

"If we make it, and reach $21 million by May 31, then the donor will give the $1 million," said Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College, parent organization of the Sarasota Museum of Art.

"As I look at it, all of this reinforces the risk that we took in 2004 when we entered into the first agreement with this separate entity that was SMOA," Thompson said.

The capital campaign — $14 million to renovate the building and an $8 million endowment — began in 2007, just as the economy began to slide, "not exactly the best timing on our part," Thompson said.

Still, the dollars came in. 

But Keating's gift, and her desire to push the fund-raising to completion by the end of the college's fiscal year on May 31, lit a fire under other donors. Within a few days of her gift, $300,000 had been pledged. Within six weeks, the million dollars had been matched.

"We're working hard," Thompson said. "We're very optimistic and it's put us on overload to get there, because it's not a huge amount of time."

Wendy Surkis, SMOA's president, said the anonymous challenge "was very exciting.

"First of all, it's thrilling and deeply gratifying to have this level of support with the kind of gifts, Elaine's gift and people coming forward and having met that match, and now this anonymous donor coming forward with this challenge gift. My feeling is that people in this community want to see this happen. The momentum is strong and I believe we're going to do it."

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Sarasota Museum of Art/SMOA: Imagination in Action! 

SMOA will be Sarasota’s first art museum devoted to modern and contemporary art. It's slated to be a dynamic destination for exhibiting innovative visual art of the 20th and 21st centuries. The museum will interweave exhibitions, educational programs and community outreach initiatives to engage a diverse audience and serve as a stimulating hub for creative discovery and discourse. This will be a lively and interactive destination for our community. 

Together, Ringling College and SMOA will transform the former Sarasota High School, a 57,000 square foot landmark building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, into a museum complete with a 110-seat, multi-purpose auditorium, sculpture court, indoor/outdoor café, classrooms and studios, educational resource and meeting spaces. According to Wendy Surkis, president of SMOA, this new use is history-making in its own right. 

“The building will regain its stature as one of the area’s most significant and recognizable structures," she says. "The reinvention of this building, which includes a glass structure, iconic in its modernity, invokes the past, the present and the future. The rebirth of the high school is exhilarating." 

SMOA has made incredible strides toward achieving its $22 million fundraising goal—$14 million renovation and $8 million operating endowment—and is increasing in momentum. To date, the project has raised $19.9 million. Donations of all sizes make a meaningful difference. Thank you for considering SMOA and helping to get to Opening Day even sooner.

  • Imagine experiencing the best in contemporary art and community education, designed to inspire and engage people of all ages.
  • Imagine preserving a landmark architectural icon and bringing historic Sarasota High back to life as a hub for creativity, discovery, and lifelong learning.
  • Imagine how meaningful it will be to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come how meaningful it will be to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.

We are imagination in action. Join us on our journey to make this amazing endeavor a reality! 

Sincerely,

Wendy G. Surkis
President, SMOA