For 22 years, the lobby at the Feld Entertainment corporate headquarters, in Vienna, Va., hosted a two-story, 22-foot-by-42-foot mural featuring iconic Sarasota Ringling Circus performers from the 1970s to 1980s.
In 2012, crews began the extensive removal of the mural from its wall in Virginia. Kenneth Feld decided to donate the mural when Feld Entertainment relocated to Ellenton from its Virigina headquarters. “The Greatest Show on Earth’s” new home, at the Ringling Museum’s entrance to the Tibbals Learning Center, is a significant contribution representing the modern circus legacy of Sarasota.
The mural would have been out of place in Virginia, if Feld Entertainment were not the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Commissioned artist William Woodward featured Feld as the Ringmaster in the mural, placing him among familiar-faced jugglers, clowns and aerialists such as Dolly Jacobs, Peggy Williams, the flying Padillas and Lou Jacobs.
Woodward began the six-month process to paint the acrylic mural in 1989 and finished it in 1990. For two decades, Feld would pass by the mural that captured the excitement of the circus, and he would greet each of the painted figures as if they could talk back to him.
But more excitement took place Jan. 17, at the museum, with the Sarasota unveiling of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” one of the largest circus murals ever painted. Woodward, Feld, his employees and supporters of the museum and circus attended the event.
And, as the mural’s white-curtained cover was slowly pulled back, the performers featured in the painting, also in attendance, were recognized. It was a special ceremony reuniting many of the famed performers and celebrating Feld Entertainment’s move to Sarasota.