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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 5 years ago

A+E Year in Review

Take a look back at some of our favorite moments from 2016.
by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

As New Year's Eve approaches, it's time for fond reflection on the last 12 months. In Sarasota's arts and entertainment world, there's no shortage of occasions to look back on. We've picked a handful of our favorite moments from this year. Here's to an equally eventful 2017.


Don’t Call it a Comeback

It’s been a banner year for Chef Darwin Santa Maria. A year after closing his downtown restaurant and resigning from his namesake brewery, Santa Maria announced he was returning to the local food scene.

With a new restaurant and brewery under his belt, Santa Maria is back — in a big way.

This May, the restaurateur opened CeviChela on Siesta Key, a grab-and-go Latin street food eatery with a focus on his signature dish — ceviche — and on-the-island delivery.

Three months later, he announced the launch of his new brewing company, Chela Brewing, which is an extension of the restaurant brand.

The brewery contracts with a Florida-based brewery to brew, can and keg its beers and a Miami-based distribution company to distribute the beer heavily in the Miami market. He also serves the beer in CeviChela and is exploring distribution opportunities in Sarasota.

Chela Brewing Co. continues to focus on Peruvian-inspired flavors and ingredients, as well as barrel-aged varieties. Two flagship recipes include PIPA, a Peruvian India pale ale and Boa, an orange wheat ale.

Santa Maria says the experience, while trying, was an opportunity for self reinvention and allowed him to rediscover his passions.

"My love and respect of craft beer, as well as my knowledge, has only grown deeper," he says.


Eastward Expansion

You can’t miss it. With 2,736 wavy, jade green terra cotta tiles embellishing its exterior, The John and Mable Ringling Museum’s new Center for Asian Arts stands in bold contrast to the rest of the museum. And for good reason.

Opened this May, the center marks a geographic and cultural shift for the museum, which is traditionally known for its Baroque and Renaissance art. The new center represents a dedication to a more global vision — and a fulfillment of John Ringling’s original vision to house his vast collection of ancient Asian art.

“The Ringling is not only dedicated to European art,” says Fan Zhang, the center’s curator. “We’re dedicated to showing off the talents of artists from all parts of the world. This new center is all about connecting cultures.”

The 25,000 square-foot, $11.5 million facility, comprised 6,800 square feet of gallery space, lecture halls, a print and study room and a seminar room, displays 1,300 pieces from the museum’s permanent collection, and more than 400 pieces on loan.

Director Steven High says he embraces the step toward a more global vision.

“This brings in an entirely new dynamic for us,” he says. “We’ve been primarily known as a European institution, but this opens the door to something completely new. And being able to fulfill John Ringling’s original vision means a lot.”


Bayou For You

New restaurants aren’t an unusual sight in Sarasota. So when one generates this kind of buzz, there must be something to it.

Veronica Fish and Oyster, the latest eatery from Mark Caragiulo, the restaurateur behind Caragiulo’s, Owen’s Fish Camp and Shore Diner, opened this summer — after much anxious anticipation by hungry customers.

“I’ll put it this way,” says Executive Chef Mark Majorie. “We had to hire a guy to wash the face and handprints off the windows every day.”

The restaurant, located in Southside Village, brings New Orleans flair to the neighborhood, courtesy of Majorie, who relocated from the Big Easy to Sarasota to head up the restaurant.

The new dining spot features nautical décor and some seriously stylish furniture, but the food is the main attraction. Combining his background in Cajun cooking and training in classical French cuisine, Majorie’s menu specializes in classic and modern seafood dishes, including whole fish and crudo, as well as some of the freshest oysters Sarasota has to offer. 

“It’s about more than just putting pretty food on a plate,” says Majorie. “You’re orchestrating a whole culinary experience. I wouldn’t do anything else.”


Second Act

As development in the Lakewood Ranch area continues to explode, a mainstay arts organization made the surprising announcement it would follow suit.

After more than 40 years in its downtown location, at 838 N. Tamiami Trail, The Players Theatre, now rebranded the Players Centre for Performing Arts, revealed this spring it would sell its property and relocate to a 4.5-acre campus at the new Waterside at Lakewood Ranch development.

The move will mean a new artistic home for the 86-year-old organization — and the oldest community theater in Sarasota. The 55,000-square-foot property will include a 480-seat main stage auditorium, a 125-seat black-box theater and a 100-seat cabaret theater, as well as classroom spaces. Players officials aim to complete the first phase of construction within three years.

“Our mission’s going to stay the same,” says Managing Director and CEO Michelle Bianchi Pingel. “But it’s going to allow for growth. We can’t grow where we’re at, unfortunately.”


Star Gazing

It seems celebrities are beginning to figure out what residents have known for years: Sarasota is the place to be.

This year, some film-industry veterans even came here to work.

In February, actor Dyan McDermott teamed up with Ringling College for his locally shot and cast web series, “Sugar,” which follows the story of a young runaway to spotlight the issues of human trafficking.

But McDermott wasn’t the only silver-screen star to make a stop in Sarasota. Jon Voight, Helen Hunt, Kevin Smith and Justin Long also paid a visit to the suncoast.

Justin Long and his brother Christian, also collaborated with Ringling College students and alumni, as well as Semkhor Productions,  to film their satirical web series, “The Real Stephen Blatt,” which takes aim at our social-media-saturated lives.

At a wrap party following the series’ filming, Justin Long said he was impressed with Sarasota and its local talent.

“Even though these are all students or recent graduates, mostly in their 20s, I was impressed with how professional they were,” he says. “I would put them on par with any of the biggest Hollywood movies I’ve done. You learn from them in a lot of ways.”

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