The town of Longboat Key and Ringling College of Art and Design are working to create plans for a future cultural center as part of a new town center.
For the past eight months, Town Manager Dave Bullock and Cheryl Loeffler, chairwoman of the Ringling College of Art & Design board of trustees and Longboat Key resident, have been engaged in a not-so-secret discussion about a future Longboat Key cultural center.
But Bullock and Loeffler finally confirmed their ongoing discussions at the Longboat Key Town Commission’s regular meeting Monday night.
They announced the Jan. 29 signing of a memorandum of understanding between Ringling College President Larry Thompson and Bullock “on a partnership for the purposes of achieving various aims and objectives relating to the establishment and maintenance of a Longboat Key Art and Cultural Center.”
Bullock said the purpose of the memorandum is to provide the framework for a future contract between the town and Ringling for the cultural center.
The town will work on potential site plans for a cultural center while Ringling develops plans for building, funding and operations/maintenance.
“This stops short of contractual negotiations but lays out the framework we can work toward,” Bullock said.
The concept calls for the town owning the future building and Ringling operating it under a long-term lease.
The center’s future spot sits between Bay Isles Road and Bay Isles Parkway on a 2.8-acre parcel behind Longboat Key Publix and SunTrust that the town purchased for $1.5 million in 2014.
Loeffler said the center will likely offer diverse art classes, such as painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, woodworking, jewelry and photography.
“It’s also possible the center could serve as a hub for lifelong learning and may include a small performance space for a variety of productions, exhibitions, film screenings and concerts,” Loeffler said.
Discussions are also ongoing about a potential partnership with the Longboat Key Education Center, but Bullock and Longboat Key Education Center Executive Director Susan Goldfarb said it’s too early to discuss ways in which the current education center based at the Centre Shops could be incorporated into a new cultural center.
Also unknown is what the plans mean for the Longboat Key Center for the Arts in the Longbeaach Village, which is a division of Ringling College.
“It’s just too soon for comments on those issues because decisions haven’t been made yet,” Loeffler said.
The next step is for the college to draft a case statement about what the potential project and partnership would entail. That case statement will be further refined by the Longboat Key Foundation and the Ringling College Office for Advancement because there are significant opportunities for Key residents to contribute.
“This is an incredible opportunity for cultural and civic involvement,” Loeffler said. “Key residents known for contributing to arts and cultural activities on the mainland soon will have an opportunity to give back locally, and that’s exciting.”