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Wendy Surkis is looking forward to Sarasota Museum of Art's opening day, when the Sarasota community will be able to witness art in the making at the city's first modern- and contemporary-art museum.
Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 7 years ago

7 in 11: Wendy Surkis

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

Wendy Surkis watched as the artist pulled the fragile corners of Japanese paper through the printer, red ink streaming across it.

Last year, Surkis and the founding members of the Sarasota Museum of Art brought in internationally renowned artist Judy Pfaff to talk about her creative journey for its ARTmuse program.

“Judy does many things but is known for her gigantic prints that are 8 feet by 3 feet,” Surkis says. “You saw the red print before your eyes, and it was amazing, like watching a dance. It was a fascinating learning experience to see how the ink was put down, how the actual print was pulled and to hear Judy
talk about it.”

Surkis has been president of the SMOA project since its inception in 2003, when 13 people discussed Sarasota’s need for a modern- and contemporary-art museum. When she retired 10 years ago and moved to the area after spending 25 years in advertising, Surkis planned to prop her feet up and take it easy. But the workaholic realized she couldn’t change her ways and decided to give back to the community by getting involved with SMOA.

“We do not have an art museum that is totally devoted to 20th- and 21st-century art,” Surkis said. “The rebirth of the historic Sarasota High School by transforming it into a new, vibrant visual-arts destination will have wonderful benefits for the entire community.”

In the past three years, SMOA has met half of its fundraising goal of $22 million. Ideally, Surkis would like to raise the remainder of the money in the next year or two. Because the design and development drawings for the renovation are already completed, construction, anticipated to take 14 months to 18 months, can begin as soon as funding is secured.

In the meantime, SMOA is keeping busy with ARTmuse. This month, the museum will bring in glass sculptor Seth Randal.

“He began by working at Tiffany and mastered color and light to create unique glass sculptures,” Surkis said. “He’s going to do a hands-on demonstration of the lost wax process, and pieces from his New York City gallery will be on display here at the high school, which will be a learning experience for our

The second floor of the three-story building will be the centerpiece of SMOA. With an airy, open feel and glass windows for walls, museum-goers will have the opportunity to look down into the sculpture garden and see art in the making.

“We hope to have collaborations with nonprofits and use the auditorium for rental revenue,” Surkis said. “We will have space available to organizations and to people for private functions. SMOA will be created both as a cultural asset and a new cultural destination. It will be the new bustling space in Sarasota. I look forward to opening day — it will be a moment in time I will never forget.”

: 60
Hometown: Cedarhurst, Long Island, N.Y.
Family: Peppi Elona, significant other of 30-plus years; three nephews and their families; Elona’s four children and their families
Education: Bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland; master’s degree from University of Louisville
Occupation: President and founding member of SMOA; 25 years in the advertising business growing a one-office advertising agency into an international firm with 18 branches

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]






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