Rendering of Museum facade by Keenen/Riley Architects
Rendering of Museum interior by Keenen/Riley Architects
Renderings by Keenen/Riley Architects

Building a new museum—from first conception to ribbon-cutting—often takes decades. But that’s a fine investment of time for an institution that will be around for centuries, serving your great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren. Museums are marked by a concept of permanence. Unlike businesses, projects, and alternative art spaces, museums are built with the intention of being around forever, housing and stewarding humankind’s greatest achievements and highest aesthetic aspirations. 

The design and construction of an institution of this caliber is also complex, as art museums are categorized as “high performance” buildings from an environmental conditioning standpoint. But good design in a high performance building, if done right, won’t be visible to the visiting public. What you’ll experience from the visitor perspective is a seamless flow of interactive and generative experiences that will entice repeat visits.

Art museums today, like libraries, are no longer simply repositories to house and exhibit works of art; they are dynamic social hubs, or “third spaces” in the language of urban planning (first and second being home and work). Art museums are exciting community centers of activity where friends and family can come together to experience art in all its guises—film, performance, installation, sculpture, painting—but also to play, learn, shop, and eat! 

Imagine a typical visit to the Ringling College Museum Campus

You enter the sculpture courtyard and find art installations, people sitting at the outdoor café enjoying coffee or lunch, kids playing, and people sitting on the steps discussing an interesting OLLI lifelong learning class that just ended. 

You enter into the new lobby through the newly K/R-designed east façade, echoing the industrial “factory for learning” history of the M. Leo Elliott 1926 historic Sarasota High School and encounter site-specific wall murals on your way to the reception desk. There you will find informational material about the wide range of interesting things the Ringling College universe has to offer: travel trips, courses, PreCollege, lifelong learning, culinary events, films, etc.

You purchase your ticket to see the Museum exhibitions (or, better yet, you become a Museum member and your admission is free!) You head upstairs to see the new exhibitions. After you’ve toured nearly 10,000 square feet of art, you take a break on the second floor loggia, catching some fresh air and watching the bustling activity on the plaza below. 

Then you head to the third floor for the final 5,000-square-feet of exhibition space and marvel at the site-specific installation in the Tower Gallery. The exhibitions have been so interesting, you’re keen to learn more, so you head down the hall to the library/reading room and spend some time in a comfy chair browsing art books. 

Having found a book you’re particularly interested in, you venture further downstairs once again to the shop and discover a host of interesting books, periodicals, jewelry, design items, and fun items for kids—all related to the mission and vision of the Museum.

Next stop, you’re drawn to the site-specific installation in the fully restored historic lobby en route out the historic entrance to the Great Lawn. There you’ll find sculpture, art installations, and maybe even catch a performance or a movement class—tai-chi, yoga, dance—in full swing. 

You’ll meander down the serpentine path to the entrance and, having worked up an appetite, you will head toward the Museum café and enjoy lunch with friends and family, reminiscing about all of the interesting things you encountered at the Museum and making plans for your next visit—or artist’s talk or art travel tour or ceramics class, or…

…oh, the possibilities! 

The Ringling College Museum Campus and the Sarasota Museum of Art will provide endless opportunities for you and your crew—we can’t wait to welcome you in December 2019!

By Anne-Marie Russell
Anne-Marie Russell is the Executive Director of the Sarasota Museum of Art