Sarasota Museum of Art



Sarasota Museum of Art

Changing perspectives through contemporary art. 

The Sarasota Museum of Art, a division of Ringling College of Art and Design, will serve as a catalyst for appreciation and understanding of world-class contemporary art by artists both established and emerging. A platform for education and exposure, SMOA will be a haven of the avant-garde for audiences of all levels of experience with contemporary artwork. Having no permanent collection, the museum will be flexible and timely through an endless rotation of transformative, relevant, and pioneering new exhibitions and programs. At its core a learning institution, SMOA will host community education programs and courses to immerse audiences in the conceptual power of contemporary art.

Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA)


A History of SMOA




The Vision

A place for contemporary ideas to converge.

In 2003, a group of 13 forward-thinking Sarasotans came together to further their goal of enhancing Sarasota’s rich cultural landscape with a 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.

As the region's first museum dedicated to contemporary art, SMOA will offer visitors from around the world a place to see thought-provoking, boundary-pushing exhibitions, participate in educational programming, and take community courses with Ringling College instructors. The facility will be a resource for learning about contemporary concepts and deepening appreciation for 21st century art and artists through world-class gallery spaces, an auditorium, an outdoor sculpture garden, a cafe, and a number of classrooms and work spaces for students and visiting artists. 

Much more than a museum, SMOA will be a site for contemporary creation and dialogue.


The Venue

Breathing new life into an architectural landmark.

Built in 1926 in the Collegiate-Gothic style, the Sarasota High School was designed by esteemed Florida architect, M. Leo Elliott. The 57,000 square foot building opened its doors to students from the 7th-12th grade in the fall of 1927 and flourished for almost 70 years. In 1984 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Although the school closed its doors in 1996, members of the community felt attached to the building and inspired to find its new purpose.

Fast-forward to 2002, the start of a two-year process of community involvement and consensus-building known as the Sarasota High School New Life Initiative. Funders of the New Life Initiative included the School Board, the City of Sarasota, Sarasota County, the Selby Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and private donors. More than 200 potential uses of the historic building were considered.

In October 2004, the School Board voted to lease the historic Sarasota High School to Ringling College of Art and Design to transform the building into the Sarasota Museum of Art. 





Thanking our Community

We applaud the pioneers who made SMOA a reality.

To get a project of this magnitude off the ground took the unwavering support and dedication of the entire community. An organic initiative, SMOA began as a vision of the visual arts community who wanted a world-class museum of contemporary art and design in the region. That same group garnered support and led an extraordinary and successful fundraising campaign, raising over $22 million to start the new museum.

The founding 13 members, worked tirelessly for more than a decade to take the idea from conception to reality, raising community awareness and support, teaming with Ringling College of Art and Design, committing countless hours and donations to the initiative.

Since that time, the SMOA Board, led by Wendy Surkis, collaborated with Ringling College to inspire community contributions and engagement. To reach their lofty goal, 54 donors made gifts of $50,000 or more, along with 460 new donors to Ringling College and hundreds more people donating their time, effort, and expertise.



Support SMOA here