Take a look back at some of the biggest arts and entertainment news from 2018.
Food stories are always popular on our website, so here’s a look at the restaurants that closed, opened and expanded in 2018.
Summer House (149 Avenida Messina) opened on Siesta Key this past summer, and even though the seafood and steakhouse menu and owners (Michael Granthon and Chris Brown) are new, the name pays homage to the former Summer House restaurant made legendary by Chef Paul Mattison.
Nicky’s Bistro opened in July, and the South Palm Avenue restaurant is turning into both a brunch spot and a busy dinner joint notable for its European-style food.
The Overton (1420 Boulevard of the Arts) opened with limited hours at the end of the summer in the Rosemary District, but by fall it was in full swing. The chef-driven, fast-casual restaurant is notable for its unique takes on modern favorites.
The Grove (10670 Boardwalk Loop), Lakewood Ranch’s newest restaurant and bar, opened Dec. 10 to the public. Guests at the soft opening said it’s “unlike anything else in Bradenton.”
Sarasota also bid farewell to local eateries including Sabrosa on Osprey Avenue, The Creek on South Tamiami Trail and downtown’s Mosaic, Atlantic Beer & Oyster, Bistrot Julian and Old School Bar and Grill.
Keep your eyes peeled for renovation news about downtown’s Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria, as well as Umbrella’s, a new restaurant opening in 2019 next to the Sarasota Opera House.
WELCOMING ALL ART FORMS
There’s always something new going on at Florida’s state art museum, but in 2018, The Ringling made news for several firsts.
This fall, the museum was seeking its first Keith D. and Linda L. Monda curator of modern and contemporary art, a position made possible in March by a $5 million gift from Keith D. and Linda L. Monda — a donation that also helped the museum get one large step closer to reaching its goal of raising $100 million in its latest fundraising campaign.
Ola Wlusek has since taken on the full-time position, and the first exhibit she’ll curate is “Order Systems,” a solo show by Canadian artist Natasha Mazurka on view March 18 through Sept. 8.
The museum is also hosting its first resident performing arts group, Moving Ethos Dance, as part of its push for a focus not only on visual art, but performance art. The group had its inaugural residency performance Nov. 1 at Ringling Underground, and after a series of workshops and talks, will perform the show “girlwoman” April 12-13 at Historic Asolo Theater. The company is the first resident group at the museum to have its own dedicated studio space, which is a studio in the The Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion.
New Stages, the museum’s year-round contemporary performance series, also kicked off this year. It originally debuted with limited performances in 2017, but the full series began Oct. 19 with Grammy-winning percussionist Matthew Duvall’s “Inlets.”
The goal, much like that of the traveling circus that made the Ringlings famous, is to bring the world to Sarasota through not only local but national and international performing arts groups.
CHAMPIONING THE ARTS
As seems to be the trend the past few years, Ringling College of Art and Design had a big year. From adding another major to its list of offerings to opening more facilities on its ever-growing campus, here are RCAD’s biggest updates from 2018:
On Jan. 29, Academy Award-nominated actor Woody Harrelson came to campus to discuss and screen parts of “Lost in London,” the movie he wrote, directed, produced and starred in.
On Sept. 13, the school announced that 2018 computer animations graduate Eaza Shukla won a Student Academy Award her film “Re-Gifted.” Her win marked the 14th Student Academy Award won by a filmmaker from the RCAD computer animation department.
On Oct. 23, RCAD announced it will offer a 14th major. The entertainment design major — the fourth to be added by the college in the past three years — will focus on themed environments, meaning students will learn about the design of spaces like theme parks, themed dining areas, museum exhibitions, zoos, retail stores and restaurants.
On Nov. 27, RCAD and Semkhor Productions held the ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Studio Labs Post-Production Facility, a building that will provide an academic space for student use and a commercial facility for professional film and TV productions. The facility boasts three new 2,000 square feet soundstages; more than 5,000 square feet of post-production spaces including editing suites, dubbing bays, a private screening and final color room; and a complete Foley sound effects stage.
The Players Centre for Performing Arts announced plans May 2, 2016, to build a $30 million theater complex in the Lakewood Ranch community of Waterside.
A great deal has happened since then, particularly in the past year, so let’s review how the plans have evolved.
On April 25, Players CEO and Managing Director Michelle Bianchi, who proposed the idea for a new theater, resigned. She told the Observer “the current direction is not what I signed on for.”
On June 7, Players Board Chairwoman Donna DeFant said plans had changed and construction will now start with the new 488-seat main theater and the outside shell of the complex. The remaining major aspects, including a 125-seat black box theater and a 100-seat cabaret, will be piecemealed — all for an estimated $21 million.
On July 10, an East Coast businessman who planned to buy the downtown Sarasota theater failed to produce the money or sign the contracts as agreed upon. However, The Players had a backup buyer.
On Oct. 2, the organization sold its Sarasota theater. The then-anonymous buyer (later revealed to be Capstone Management, led by resident Ken Solinsky) purchased the theater and parcel for $9.5 million. Artistic Director Jeffery Kin said the buyer also agreed to a two-year lease for $1 per year that will allow The Players to remain in its Sarasota home for most of the time its $30 million complex is being built. If everything goes perfectly, Kin says, a fall 2020 opening of the new Lakewood Ranch theater remains possible.
COME ONE, COME ALL
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus might have closed last year, but the circus arts are alive and well in Sarasota.
In May, Circus Arts Conservatory broke ground on its $4 million Sailor Circus Arena renovation project. The 40-year-old facility next to Sarasota High School is home to the nation’s oldest youth circus, but when the renovations are done, it will also be home to community health and fitness programs for seniors, children and those with cognitive and developmental challenges.
The renovations will also add air conditioning, retractable bleachers (that will be able to seat 1,500 attendees), new floors, an enlarged practice area, structural enhancements to improve safety and ensure ADA compliance, updated restrooms and more to the Bahia Vista Street arena. Once completed, CAC will offer schools, businesses and organizations the chance to rent the building, which will have the necessary amenities to host national and international events.
CAC Marketing Manager Beth Graves says the organization has reached its $4 million goal (ahead of schedule), but is now hoping to raise an additional $500,000 for new lighting and sound systems and to cover labor, concrete and steel construction overruns. The renovations are expected to be completed by March.
CAC says in a release the goal is to bring the facility into the 21st century as a state-of-the-art student learning and performance center engaging youth in nontraditional ways.
A planned April 4 ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony will reopen the arena and coincide with the 70th anniversary of Sailor Circus. When opened, it will become the nation’s first structure built specifically for youth circus programming.