I'm the new Black Tie reporter for the Observer — and I can't wait to get started.
Alright, I know what you're probably asking yourself: Is that a guy in charge of the Black Tie section?
To answer you — yes! I am the man covering local Black Tie adventures for the Sarasota Observer, Longboat Observer and East County Observer. And I'm the very first guy to do so, in fact.
My name's Harry Sayer and, after spending two years working the Black Tie beat in Winter Park, I've moved across the state for this new opportunity. It’s great to meet you.
A little about me: I spent most of my life growing up in Palm Beach (my folks moved to the Sunshine State as soon as they could legally drive down from upstate New York) and eventually found myself studying journalism at the University of Central Florida. I was brought into the Observer family right out of college to cover the Black Tie scene in Winter Park, Maitland and Orlando. I can’t say it was a job I expected but the best parts of life are its surprises, and covering the philanthropic scene there was no exception.
Now I find myself here in Sarasota and, after a week, I have to tell you something you already know: This is a beautiful city. I didn’t realize how much I missed relaxing on the beach until I found myself exploring this town’s sandy shores. And the ocean air! Orlando is The City Beautiful, but it’s certainly not breezy.
I know that Sarasota doesn’t play when it comes to the Black Tie scene — it was the stuff of legend when I worked in Winter Park — and I’m also aware that it's a great responsibility to cover these philanthropic endeavors.
What I can tell you is again something you already know: while philanthropy is often fun, it's always important. Beneath the grandeur of these dazzling events is some tremendous compassion and generosity on display from Sarasota's philanthropic community. And these actions and attitudes help people every day in ways it's hard for us to sometimes comprehend. But I'm so excited to chronicle these events the best I can and show what Black Tie achieves in Sarasota.
I’m also hoping to bring back my signature fashion column, which looks at some of the more unique and poppy styles that can be found in this fine city. It’s called Harry’s Styles and I think we can all get behind a name like that.
Shoot me story ideas, comments and questions at [email protected]. You can also send me tips on how to take care of a kitten — I recently became a first-time pet owner, and I’d like to do it right.
There’s something special here, and I’m excited to learn everything about it. What about you?
Having A Heart
It was a fittingly emotional affair at the Heart Gallery of Sarasota’s Art for the Heart exhibit premiere Thursday, June 13 at the Art Avenue gallery inside Westfield Siesta Key Mall.
The nonprofit uses photography and other artistic imagery to raise awareness of children in foster care awaiting adoption, and it often has traveling photography displays in community venues such as churches and libraries.
To mark the opening of Heart Gallery's new exhibit, which is a collection of photo displays and paintings of children in the foster care system, the group had more than 70 guests celebrating the various contributing photographers and painters at Art Avenue. Supporters, including Dale and Mary Ellen Vollrath from the Sarasota Southside Rotary Club, Painting for Good Causes founder Laurie Anspach, Director of Community Engagement for Church of the Palms Sarah Sobeleski and Art Avenue owner Paul Sykes, enjoyed drinks and hor d'oeuvres while listening to Heart Gallery of Sarasota President Matthew Straeb, Executive Director Allison Juceam, Director of Photography Peter Acker and others.
Adoptive father Rusty Crawford told a moving story of the first time he met the then-16-year-old foster care child he eventually adopted. Today, Rusty has two adopted children and hopes to take in four more.
“It just felt really, really good,” Rusty says. “Most people don’t know adopted kids or have never had the idea (to adopt) but maybe I gave them an idea to check into it and help these kids out.”
Bringing back the UnGala
Here’s a welcome surprise. The Ringling’s UnGala is coming back after a decade-long hiatus. 'The Evolution'-themed event will be hosted at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art courtyard on Oct. 19.
The fundraiser is also planned as a kickoff to the museum's upcoming 2019-2020 season of visual and performing arts. While UnGala was first conceived as a younger, more-relaxed alternative to many of the season’s social events, that idea fell by the wayside and the event grew more formal over time. The Ringling is going back to the original idea with this year’s dress code, for which guests are encouraged to wear whatever they feel is “comfortable.” It's always good to be creative, of course.
You won’t be seeing an event chairman or chairwoman but you might catch 25 ambassadors spearheading the show, half of which are younger figures who weren’t involved in prior UnGalas. Christina Fraser, The Ringling’s assistant director of events & rentals, will be helping plan the event.
"It's really important to keep that interest alive with the younger crowd,” event ambassador Sarah Beattie says.
Tickets will go for $375. There will only be around 700 guests this year and the word is that it’s expected to sell out. Keep an eye on this one and register on The Ringling’s website for a ticket if you’re interested in joining the show.