Preservation Magazine, Spring 2020

Art Finds a Home in Two Florida High School Buildings

The former Ringling College in Sarasota, Florida.

photo by: Ryan Gamma Photography

The Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College in Sarasota, Florida, is a contemporary art museum designed to appeal to everyone. “The way the art is integrated with the architecture feels really good,” says Anne-Marie Russell, the museum’s executive director and curator. “It’s warm and welcoming. I think it surprises people.”

Opened in December of 2019, the museum spans two former Sarasota High School buildings: a Collegiate Gothic structure (shown) designed by M. Leo Elliott in 1926, and a Modernist 1959 addition by Paul Rudolph. Both retained most of their original features.

Lawson Group Architects led the $30 million adaptive reuse project, with Terence Riley of K/R (Keenen/Riley) as the design architect. The team opened up much of the Elliott building’s interior, leaving behind concrete piers where walls once stood. They salvaged the building’s longleaf pine joists and turned them into flooring for the galleries, kept the exposed brick walls, and restored the lobby’s tile floor mosaic.

The central Gothic tower is now a soaring, 28-foot-high gallery space housing large-scale artwork. The Rudolph building houses a bistro and additional gallery space.

“There’s such a mix of textures, and of the old and new,” Russell says. “It was really important that we worked with what we had and enhanced it.”

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Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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