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About the Museum


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, the Sarasota Museum of Art 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, the Museum 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, the Sarasota Museum of Art will be a site for contemporary creation and dialogue.


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.

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