Social Studies: Susan McLeod


Social Studies: Susan McLeod


Date: June 4, 2014
by: Heather Merriman | Black Tie Assistant Editor


The semi-annual exhibition of the monumental structures has once again left the bayfront (only to return again in November), so there is no better time to take one last look at the installations and to get to know more about the woman behind it all. After strolling the exhibition with Season of Sculpture board Chairwoman Susan McLeod, we escaped the heat inside O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill, grabbed some iced coffees and talked about the loves of her life, her passion for the arts and, of course, Season of Sculpture.

Like most people here, I have a Midwestern background. I was born in Michigan, moved to Tampa when I was in junior high, went to Plant High School and Florida State University. I moved back to Michigan when my husband got his M.B.A., then back to Florida. I moved to Sarasota in 1971, and at that point I became a single mom and the three of us have lived here ever since, well, until they graduated from college. My oldest son lives in St. Petersburg and my youngest son and his family live here. I have a golden; I always have a golden retriever. She’s 5 years old and her name is Samantha.

I have been involved in some level of artistic pursuit for most of my post-college life. I spent summers in Penland, N.C., sculpted with clay, I’ve blown some glass, had a small gallery on Siesta Key in the ’70s, had a major glass gallery on St. Armands in the ’80s, right in the beginning of the popularity of the American studio glass movement — it’s not new to me to be involved in the arts.

Community involvement is something that has also always been very important to me. In terms of the length of time I have been in Sarasota, I’ve been on the board of the Humane Society, I’ve served on the Asolo board, the Mote Marine advisory board, I initiated the capital campaign for the Children’s Rainforest Garden and, of course, Season of Sculpture.

I was asked to be on the board of Season of Sculpture
and I have been involved since Season II. I have been so impacted by the statement it makes and how loud we are able to make a statement of the artistic appreciation in our community and about the strength of the arts and culture core of Sarasota. For the last two years, the organization has functioned solely on volunteers. We’ve been through a period where visual arts enjoyed more financial support than we are seeing today, at least on a local level. Upwards of 80% of the funding required for this to exist is from personal donations. It’s one of the ways we know the public and the local people enjoy this exhibition. It’s very tough to be a tourist driving down U.S. 41, seeing the sculptures and not understanding the essence of what we are as a community. I think that’s why we’re all so passionate and dedicated to it. It’s a lot of work and it costs a lot of money, but it’s worth it.

I’m a realtor and you know, real estate is a 24/7 job, but it makes it easier for me to be able to do both real estate and Season of Sculpture. The phone is always ringing and the computer is always open, but I can fluctuate my time back and forth. 

When I have the time, I paint, mainly with watercolors. When things get really hectic, that’s how I cocoon, the paintbrush. Reading, films, going to museums, I enjoy all of that — it pretty much all stays in the art world.

I also love to cook. I love to have intimate dinner parties and cook for everyone. I like experimenting with food. A kitchen is a studio — where I paint is a studio, my kitchen is also a studio. It’s a fun place to experiment, but with foods instead of paints.

Traveling is another thing I love. I enjoy getting away and do a lot of exploring. I’ve had a wonderful trip to Africa, trips to Europe, trips to the islands and I’m planning a trip to the Bahamas soon. It will be a nice little getaway.

My two grandchildren are the loves of my life. They are little artistic creations themselves. When my granddaughter was younger, she would borrow my camera and take photographs — she loved taking photographs, at such a young age. She’s now studying photography and has even won awards for her work. It’s been my pleasure to have been an initiation in that. My grandson, whatever we are doing involves the water, most likely a fishing pole. We draw together in my studio, we are always painting and drawing. In fact, most of my office walls are covered in their artwork.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the evolution of Season of Sculpture. I think it’s a turning point for us — I’ve been involved with it for a long time and we have some new avenues to explore, and who knows. I just know that I’m definitely going to the Bahamas soon.

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