Sarasota is known as a center for music, arts and culture. Known as Florida’s Cultural Coast, one can enjoy museums, art galleries and performing art venues year round. Local residents benefit from this wellspring of talent, and many visitors choose to relocate here, in part, because of our world-class arts and culture.
As our coastal community increasingly makes it into national “Top 10” lists and sees an influx of new residents, our leaders are taking bold steps to ensure that Sarasota’s arts and cultural icons grow and thrive by investing in expanded venues and re-envisioning the future.
Here are six local treasures with grand visions of the future.
Mote Science Education Aquarium
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is now developing a new facility and campus on approximately five acres of county-owned land within Nathan Benderson Park. The new Mote SEA (Science Education Aquarium) is designed and located to serve a much greater cross-section of residents and visitors in Florida.
Mote SEA will be an iconic facility at a crossroads location for Sarasota and Manatee counties, and the entire southwest Florida region. Reaching nearly 700,000 visitors per year, Mote SEA will surely inspire the next generation of marine scientists, while serving as a major tourism and economic driver for the greater Sarasota-Manatee region. Three state-of-the-art STEM teaching labs will bring marine science to life for thousands of school children, offered at no-cost to Sarasota and Manatee county school districts.
Said Mote’s President and CEO, Dr. Michael P. Crosby, “Over the past 65 years, Mote has operated significant facilities on our campuses including in locations at some of the most iconic areas in Florida: Charlotte Harbor, Siesta Key, City Island, the Florida Keys, and now right here at Nathan Benderson Park. Our focus has long been to locate our sites where our research and our science education infrastructure can have optimal impact.”
Sarasota Performing Arts Center
A true pioneer in the cultural development of Sarasota, the Van Wezel presents a broad spectrum of the world’s finest performers representing the diverse tastes of Southwest Florida residents and visitors. The Van Wezel has carried on the long tradition of presenting spectacular Broadway musicals, top national and international performers, popular comedians, world-class symphony orchestras and a compelling mix of classical, modern and ethnic dance. The Van Wezel also hosts more than 50 performances and events presented by the Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Ballet, the Sarasota Concert Association and the Ringling Library Town Hall Lecture Series.
In 2018, the Van Wezel Foundation launched a new mission statement: “To create a world-class performing arts center that enriches the community, supports arts education and inspires young minds.” The City of Sarasota embraced the new vision by adopting a transformative master plan for the Bayfront, with a new performing arts center at the heart of it.
The new center, which may replace the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, is at the heart of the City of Sarasota’s master plan for redeveloping the parking lot around the hall into a public park.
Current plans call for construction of a 230,000-square-foot multipurpose facility that would include a 2,250-seat mainstage theater and a 400-seat flexible performance space, along with an education and lifelong learning center, outdoor performance spaces and state-of-the-art technology and design advances.
The Van Wezel Foundation is now in collaboration with the Bay Park Conservancy to execute this important project.
Asolo Repertory Theatre
The Asolo Repertory Theatre is recognized as one of the leading professional theaters in America. One of the few select theaters in the nation that performs in true rotating repertory, Asolo Rep’s highly-skilled acting company and extensive craftsmanship bring to life this unique performance method that gives audiences the opportunity to see multiple productions in the span of a few days.
Not everyone who attends an Asolo Rep production knows what goes on “backstage” at the company’s Robert and Beverly Koski Center on Tallevast Road. But it’s where much of the set, costume and rehearsal work takes place, and it’s now undergoing a major expansion. The new building will be built alongside the existing facility and will include a state-of-the-art, two-story “Super Rehearsal Hall” as well as production spaces and multiple flexible studios.
This expansion is part of Asolo Rep’s strategic plan, “Staging Our Future.” The new facilities will be able to accommodate full-size set pieces, an expanded costume shop and storage, a video/audio recording studio, conference rooms and more.
According to producing artistic director Michael Donald Edwards, “The expansion of the Koski Center now underway will give the directors, designers and choreographers who love working at Asolo Rep even more room to dream and to see those visions come alive.” Since the larger rehearsal hall is similar to actual stage conditions, the theater will be able to test bigger and more complex projects there.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens provides 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries connecting people with air plants of the world, native nature and our regional history. Established by forward thinking women of their time, Selby Gardens is composed of the 15-acre Downtown Sarasota campus and the 30-acre Historic Spanish Point campus in the Osprey area of Sarasota County, Florida.
As Selby Gardens celebrates its 45th anniversary, it looks ahead to the next 45 years with a focus on the Master Plan for its Downtown Sarasota campus. In a 4-1 vote on February 16, 2021, the Sarasota City Commission gave final approval to the applications necessary for Selby Gardens’ Master Plan to become a reality. This undertaking is vital to preserving Selby Gardens’ history, safeguarding the world’s best scientifically documented plant collections of their kind, and sustaining Selby Gardens’ future — both environmentally and financially.
Selby’s Master Plan will be implemented in three phases with these goals in mind: Realize Selby Gardens’ potential while preserving its important history for generations to come, safeguard and showcase the world’s best scientifically-documents collections of orchids and bromeliads, add more open space, become an international model for the lates green building technology, create on-site stormwater purification and solar energy plant, accommodate its visitor base, and connect the underserved families and children of the region to the wonders of Selby Gardens.
The Players Centre for Performing Arts
The Players Centre for Performing Arts is Sarasota’s community theatre, delivering quality productions and keeping the community engaged with the arts. The Players seeks to provide an artistic outlet for locals and visitors alike to experience live theatre and live theatre training.
The Players is a 92-year institution looking forward to the future in the middle of a fast-growing area filled with possibilities. By the summer of 2023, The Players will break ground at its new permanent home on four-and-a-half acres of land at Lakewood Ranch’s Waterside Place development. The new performing arts campus will feature a main stage auditorium, a black box theatre and an extension of The Players Studio. The Players Centre will be the sole performing arts organization in the area east of I-75.
Location plays a large role in the move to Lakewood Ranch. According to a study of theater attendees, more than 45% of ticket sales were from attendees located in Whitfield, central and east Sarasota while 28.5% stemmed from the I-75 corridor. Waterside Place is a central location just minutes from those demographics.
Since 1949, Sarasota Orchestra has inspired and entertained music-lovers across the region and visitors from around the world. A cultural leader in a city known for its vibrant arts community, Sarasota Orchestra’s is dedicated to exquisite performance and first-class musical education. As the oldest continuing orchestra in the state of Florida, each year the 76-member Orchestra performs more than 100 classical, pops, chamber music, and community outreach concerts.
Sarasota Orchestra is currently leading an effort to enrich lives and improve our community through the creation of a new Music Center. By providing our region with a purpose-built home for acoustic music, the Music Center will elevate Sarasota Orchestra’s work, help enable other performing arts organizations to grow, and increase our region’s economic, social, and educational vitality.