Charlotte and John Suhler
The view from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the downtown penthouse of Charlotte and John Suhler presents a scene that could inspire any artist. Or anyone who loves art.
The Suhlers, who celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary on December 30, 2019, have shared a love of art for all of their married lives. “When John and I first met, we talked about how we would someday like to have a modern house filled with antiques and contemporary art. That was 53 years ago, and here we are,” said Charlotte. “Twentyplus years ago, Charlotte introduced me to contemporary art,” said John. “She had the interest and bought a few of our earliest pieces. My interest grew out of that,” he said.
Both majored in advertising, John at Kansas and Charlotte at Southern Illinois University. John’s career was in media, mainly buying, selling, and investing in companies, though he also helped launch Psychology Today, later serving as its publisher. He was also president of CBS Publications, the magazine and paperback book publishing unit of CBS. Charlotte’s career also included magazines, such as the illustrious New York Magazine, where she worked with Gloria Steinem and Gail Sheehy, among others.
They live in Darien, Connecticut, but have a history with Florida’s West Coast. For 20 years, they and their three daughters have spent weekends and vacations here. That family has grown to now include five grandchildren. Two years ago, they moved to their beautiful downtown pied-a-terre.
Though they had heard of Ringling College of Art and Design and its many accomplishments, they first learned about the Ringling College Museum Campus and the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College through their friend Brooke Callanen, one of the Museum’s Founders. In 2012, they created the Charlotte and John Suhler Sarasota Art Museum Endowed Fund to support the operations of the Museum. In 2019, they made another gift to support its construction. In recognition of their support, the third-floor gallery as you step off the elevator is named in their honor. John and Charlotte’s support for Ringling College extends beyond their giving; John is an active member of the Museum Advisory Committee, a standing committee of Ringling’s Board of Trustees that provides input on what needs to be done and suggestions for how to do it, but which has no governing responsibilities.
“We had both been involved with several non-profits in Connecticut, and we hadn’t gotten very involved down here. The Museum was our initial way of getting involved in the Sarasota community,” Charlotte said. “The cement of our interest in the College and its Museum was stimulated by the College’s Art Tours and Curatorial Trips,” John said. “We went with groups of about 15–20 people on three trips; one to Dallas/Ft. Worth, then a trip to Chicago, and this past summer a Museum trip to the Hudson Valley area in New York. The trips were fundraisers, but they also served to build a sense of community among potential donors.” The tours included visits to private homes of some of each destination’s most significant collectors and to public museums, where the group would receive curated tours of the collections.
“Many of the people who went on these tours ended up being donors to the College, including gallery spaces in the new Museum,” John noted. “They also became our friends. It has been such a joy for Charlotte and me to meet these people from all over the country who share this common interest.”
John noted that both he and Charlotte have immense admiration for both Dr. Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, and Anne-Marie Russell, executive director and chief curator of Sarasota Art Museum. “Anne-Marie is just special. She has a magnetism that is undeniable and has been a fun, interesting, talented leader through this whole experience,” John said. “With Larry and his team working so hard to make the College the pre-eminent college of art and design in the world, I don’t see any limits to what we can do. Larry is the heartbeat of both the College and its Museum. He exudes so much enthusiasm and energy that you can’t help but get caught up in it,” Charlotte added.
Both John and Charlotte dabble as artists themselves, Charlotte in sculpture and John in painting. Both say they plan to take classes offered through the Ringling College Continuing Studies program to hone their artistic skills.
“The future is so exciting. Sarasota already had such an established cultural base and the new Museum is an added gem, along with all our other cultural treasures,” John said. “Here we have The Ringling, and now the new Sarasota Art Museum. It brings such stature to Sarasota,” Charlotte added.
By Gayle Guynup