Sarasota’s first museum of modern and contemporary art will be a dynamic center for exhibiting innovative and compelling visual art of the 20th and 21st centuries. A vital part of Sarasota’s rich cultural legacy, the museum will interweave exhibitions, educational programs and community outreach initiatives to engage a diverse audience and serve as a destination for creative discovery and discourse.

The shape of things to come.
SMOA will occupy the entire second floor of the 57,000 square-foot Visual Arts Education Center. Overlooks and bridges will provide visual access between floors to allow visitors to experience the relationship between the creative process and the finished product. The Museum will include a double-height grand gallery; large, open galleries; smaller galleries for more intimate, focused installations; a 110-seat auditorium; and educational resource and meeting spaces. Amenities will include a gift shop, outdoor sculpture garden, and a café with indoor and patio seating. Areas will be designated for exhibition support and administrative offices. New contemporary spaces, architectural finishes, lighting, HVAC/electrical systems and ADA-accessible ramps and elevators will be designed to meet American Association of Museums (AAM) accreditation specifications and to accommodate the needs of an exceptional 21st century art museum.

Economic and community impact.
The Sarasota Museum of Art will represent a vital part of the economic, cultural, and social fabric of Sarasota County. Thousands of people of all ages will be served year round through the Museum’s exhibitions and the education programs provided by the VAEC and SMOA. In addition, the Museum will attract additional visitors to the area and engage visitors who are already here. SMOA will also be responsible for hiring art museum professionals, full-time and part-time employees, and consultants. The Sarasota Museum of Art will create a lasting legacy of cultural richness and strong economic support for the future of Sarasota.

From vision to visionary partnership.
The Sarasota Museum of Art/SMOA came into being in 2003 when 13 forward-thinking Sarasotans dreamed of enhancing Sarasota’s rich cultural landscape with a modern and contemporary art museum. After a two-year dialogue with area arts, educational and community leaders, SMOA partnered with Ringling College of Art and Design to transform the historic Sarasota High School into a state-of-the-art visual arts destination with the art museum as its centerpiece. The comprehensive campaign to renovate the high school, create the Visual Arts Education Center (VAEC), establish SMOA, and endow the Museum, is one of Ringling College’s strategic initiatives and part of the larger campaign, “Pathway to Preeminence.”

Why here? Why now?
Sarasota County is recognized as the cultural capital of southwest Florida with its own opera and ballet companies, an acclaimed symphony, numerous theaters, and arts festivals. The area is also rich in the visual arts, with Ringling College of Art and Design, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, and numerous art centers, artists’ colonies, and galleries. The region has long been home to a community of established and emerging visual artists. There is no better place than Sarasota or better time than now to establish a destination devoted to modern and contemporary art.

Bold. Inspired. Diverse.
The overall objective of SMOA is to bring to Sarasota bold, inspired, and thought-provoking collections and exhibitions that reflect a wide breadth of cultural and aesthetic diversity. Some exhibitions will be on loan from other museums; others will be planned by SMOA’s professional staff and guest curators. With several distinct gallery spaces, the Museum will be able to present a variety of exhibitions simultaneously. In this way, visitors will be able to see familiar works by well-known artists, as well as new work by emerging artists, in a single visit.

Honoring Sarasota’s legacy.
The visual arts have always played a vital role in Sarasota, contributing tremendously to the quality of life and economic and social development of the region. SMOA’s offerings will honor that legacy. In a time when older structures are often torn down to make way for new buildings, this project is about keeping and bringing to life an important part of Sarasota’s history. In addition, the transformation of the historic Sarasota High School into the new Visual Arts Education Center will preserve this important icon of Sarasota’s architectural and educational heritage. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this landmark building will regain its stature as one of the area’s most significant and recognizable structures. The transformation of this building, which includes a glass structure iconic in its modernity, invokes the past, the present and the future.

Join the conversation.
Modern and contemporary art can be shocking, challenging, empowering, and awe-inspiring. By engaging community involvement through educational programs, lectures, docent tours, classes, and workshops, SMOA will strive to foster dialogue that will explore the profound connections between art and civic life. Collaborations with local school systems, area cultural organizations and other not-for-profits will showcase the vital interplay between music, film, performance, literature, and the visual arts. In this way, VAEC/SMOA will serve as a significant destination for learning, discussion and creative discovery.

A learning museum for the 21st century.
Imagine the Visual Arts Education Center and the Sarasota Museum of Art as a destination where people will be able to do much more than just view art. The Museum will offer a creative mix of meaningful, rewarding, and educational experiences for the general public and art professionals alike. Within its walls, visitors will not only be introduced to the great art of this and the previous century; they will also have the opportunity to meet many of the artists who create this work. The visiting lecture series and outreach initiatives will showcase the talents of regionally based and nationally acclaimed artists, scholars, curators, critics, and historians who will illuminate the cultural and intellectual forces that have informed modern and contemporary art and ideas. This destination will feature Ringling College’s continuing education classes, workshops, and studio spaces for creating art. In addition, the Museum will be a learning laboratory for Ringling College students via internships, volunteer opportunities, and employment. As a community partner in arts education efforts, SMOA will reach out to area students and educators, offering valuable programs and resources.

Building Overview:

  • Total Square Footage: 57,000
  • SMOA Square Footage: 21,000
  • 3-story Contemporary Atrium addition
  • Number of Galleries, Double-height: 2
  • Number of Large Galleries: 4
  • Number of Smaller Galleries:  5
  • Grand Gallery, Double Height
  • Viewing areas to see artists-at-work: 2
  • Outdoor Sculpture Court
  • Office and meeting spaces
  • Passenger and freight elevators

Renovations are underway.

To help support SMOA, click here to get started.