Ringling College of Art and Design Announces Executive Leadership Transition at Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College
Sarasota, FL – Ringling College of Art and Design announced today that Anne-Marie Russell, founding executive director and curator of the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College, plans to step down on March 1, 2021.
“It is with a mixture of gratitude and extreme sadness that we announce a change in leadership of the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College,” said Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design. “When we were able to secure the talents of this world-class star of the art world five years ago, we knew that there would come a time when Anne-Marie would move on to new opportunities. We are so grateful for the leadership she has provided to bring the Sarasota Art Museum to fruition. Lauded far and wide as a wonderful architecturally sensitive rehabilitation of the historic former Sarasota High School, the Museum became an incredibly handsome kunsthalle (a museum with no permanent collection) worthy of significant international and national exhibitions. Anne-Marie’s legacy to the Museum and to the entire Sarasota community will be long-standing.”
Russell joined Ringling College of Art and Design in 2015 with the goal of opening a world-class contemporary art museum as an integral part of the College. Her work built upon the nearly total twenty-year effort of a group of art-loving people, referred to as the Founders, who had an idea to add a contemporary art museum to the cadre of other amazing arts and cultural experiences available in Sarasota, Florida. Russell was the College’s first employee dedicated to the new museum. Prior to her arrival, this effort was spearheaded by Wendy Surkis, honorary life trustee of Ringling College, who undertook the effort to work with the College to raise funds, redesign the high school into a museum, and create and foster a passionate and committed group of donors who shared the dream for such a museum.
With Russell’s passion, talent, and leadership, what seemed for many years to be a dream finally became a reality with the official opening of the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College in December 2019. Opened to international acclaim, the Museum’s inaugural program included exhibits from renowned international artists such as Vik Muniz, Christian Sampson, Sheila Hicks, Jean Shin, Peter Alexander, Alex Hay, JPW3 (J. Patrick Walsh Ill), Olivier Mosset, and others. The Worker Project, a permanent installation of Barbara Bank’s photographic portraits of the construction workers who renovated the Museum, is exhibited on the ground floor. It is the only art museum focusing exclusively on contemporary art in the region.
“The journey to delivering the Sarasota Art Museum was like a long, winding road, skillfully navigated with Anne-Marie’s leadership,” said Thompson. The adaptive reuse renovation to help preserve aspects of the historic Sarasota High School building, a 60,000 square-foot 1926 Collegiate Gothic structure -moredesigned by M. Leo Elliott, was complicated by the fortuitous acquisition of the adjacent 20,000 squarefoot Paul Rudolph building, both secured by a 99-year lease with the Sarasota School Board. The addition of the Rudolph building necessitated a complete reevaluation of the original design. Russell’s insights and expertise ensured the final product would reflect top-tier museum environments and best practices. Her guidance was integral to the success of the adaptive reuse project, led by Lawson Group Architects with Terence Riley, principal of K/R, as the Museum design architect. The Sarasota Art Museum’s renovation has garnered notice by The New York Times, Architectural Digest, and The Wall Street Journal for its successful blend of the historic with the contemporary.
As Executive Director, Russell worked with the architects and leadership at the College to finish the renovation of the buildings that would become the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College. Simultaneously, in her role as Curator, Russell conceived of the exhibitions and educational program for the Museum. The result was an indubitable success, with the inaugural program comprised of exhibitions and projects from globally significant artists and the three-year exhibition plan poised to deliver more of the same.
“Anne-Marie Russell has given us so much of her talent and expertise through her tireless efforts to deliver at its official opening this world-class Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College, and again when it reopened this fall after closing due to the global coronavirus pandemic,” said Thompson. “After adding this marvelous new jewel to the cultural crown of Sarasota, Florida, Anne-Marie understandably is ready to take time for a break and to consider new challenges for her future.”
Thompson continued, “We are delighted and extremely grateful that Anne-Marie has agreed to remain involved with the Sarasota Art Museum. She will serve as a curatorial consultant to the Museum to ensure the realization of an important group of exhibitions and projects, including Robert Colescott, Judith Linhares, and Daniel Lind-Ramos. In this consulting role, she will continue to contribute her keen knowledge of art and the art world to help secure our future as an exciting venue for important art installations in the coming years. She will also remain connected to the Museum Advisory Committee, advising on critical issues to ensure the continued quality of the Museum. Her relationships with artists, gallery owners, collectors, and museum directors will continue to be invaluable to building upon the reputation that Anne-Marie has established for the Sarasota Art Museum.”
“It has been a profound honor for me to help realize the vision of the Founders to create a new art museum. I remain deeply indebted to them, to the community that has so lovingly embraced the Museum, to the extraordinary Museum crew, and of course, to the artists, who remain at the heart of everything we do. We have built a strong foundation for an important institution that will continue to serve, delight, and inspire generations to come. Building and leading the Museum has been a pure joy for me, and I am looking forward to continuing to contribute to its success.”
The College will choose an executive search firm to conduct a national search for the next executive director of the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College. Ringling College of Art and Design Trustee Dean Eisner, who serves as chair of the Museum Advisory Board, will chair the search committee. The committee will be comprised of members of the Museum Advisory Committee, many of whom have extensive experience serving on other art museum boards; the president of Ringling College; and key College employees whose areas directly support the Museum.