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A+E Year in Review

A look at some of the top moments from 2015

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  • | 6:00 a.m. December 24, 2015
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Things move fast in the world of Sarasota arts and entertainment. With so much going on, it can be easy to lose track — and 2015 was a big year, filled with some great moments. As the year comes to a close, we reflect on its biggest moments.


Maestro Victor DeRenzi
Maestro Victor DeRenzi

Veni, Verdi Vici

Sarasota Opera kicks off the final season of its Verdi Cycle.

Thirty years is a long time to commit to anything. The average person can barely stomach a 30-second ad before a YouTube video without jumping ship. But for the better part of the last three decades, Maestro Victor DeRenzi and the Sarasota Opera have dedicated themselves to performing every one of the more than two dozen operas composed by legendary Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi. No other opera company in history has accomplished something like this. To put things in perspective, when DeRenzi started this endeavor, the Berlin Wall was still standing.


Urbanite Theatre founders  and co-artistic directors Brendan Ragan and Summer Dawn Wallace
Urbanite Theatre founders and co-artistic directors Brendan Ragan and Summer Dawn Wallace

Black Box Breakout 

Urbanite Theatre lifts its curtains.

Say what you will about Carly Rae Jepsen, but the Canadian songstress was onto something with the lyric, “Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad.” Since opening this April, Urbanite Theatre has been the subject of Sarasota’s own love song. The 50-seat black-box theater has filled a void in Sarasota’s performing arts scene by providing contemporary, edgy live theater. And if its string of sold-out shows says anything, local theater-lovers are more than happy to have Urbanite in their lives.


Bottoms Up

Sarasota’s craft-beer scene taps into success.

It was a big year for beer in Sarasota. JDub’s Brewing Co. and Big Top Brewing Co. both celebrated their one-year anniversaries, and Calusa Brewing Co. announced plans to open an 8,500-square-foot brewery and taproom at the intersection of Clark and McIntosh roads. Much to the dismay of happy hour aficionados and pork-taco devotees, Darwin’s on 4th closed its doors this summer, and Darwin Santa Maria resigned from his namesake brewery in Bradenton, which continues to operate under the same name. Downtown also enjoyed the addition of Mandeville Beer Garden and a World of Beer on Main Street — we’ll cheers to that.

Jeremy Joerger, owner and founder of JDub's Brewing Co.
Jeremy Joerger, owner and founder of JDub's Brewing Co.


New Strokes 

Steven Strenk screen prints a shirt at an S/aRt/Q print party.
Steven Strenk screen prints a shirt at an S/aRt/Q print party.

S/aRt/Q Returns

After a two-year hiatus, this artist collective, founded in 2008 by Tim Jaeger and Joseph Arnegger, returned as an official 501c3. After founding members moved, started families and got busy, the group fell by the wayside. But this year, Jaeger decided to revive it with new artists, a new board of directors and a focus on education. To celebrate, S/aRt/Q hosted an exhibition, called “Here and Now,” and invited the public to one if its popular screen-printing parties.


Changing of the guard

Michael Dunaway takes over Sarasota Film Festival programming.

When it comes to film festivals, programming is top priority. Securing the newest, most buzz-worthy films is essential in creating a successful festival. After Director Tom Hall announced his departure last year, he left big shoes to fill. But when Dunaway was named the new programming director, any concerns about the future of the Sarasota Film Festival quickly subsided. Dunaway, former film editor for “Paste” magazine and a frequent Sarasota Film Festival juror was a natural fit for the job, and he and a new team of programmers led a successful first year.


A Catered Affair

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and The Ringling form new catering partnerships.

What’s a great view without an equally great meal to go with it? Marie Selby Botanical Gardens signed an exclusive catering contract with Michael’s On East, effective Dec. 1. The partnership also means the restaurant will take over Selby House Café and potentially open a waterfront banquet space in the future. The Ringling also welcomed a new culinary face this year, as TableSeide restaurant group won the bid to take over the museum’s restaurant and catering duties with its new restaurant, Muse, which replaced the former Treviso.

Patrick Seidensticker, manager of Muse restaurant
Patrick Seidensticker, manager of Muse restaurant


Scholastic Strides

Ringling College of Art and Design continues to grow.

There’s a reason Ringling College of Art and Design attracts students from all over the world. The arts college has always boasted impressive facilities and programs, and its alumni are represented in just about every major creative company in the industry. This was a year of growth for the school: It surpassed its $16 million fundraising goal (a year early!) for its new 48,000-square-foot, three-story library; broke ground on its new soundstage and post-production facility and closed its Selby Gallery to make way for the Richard and Barbara Basch Visual Arts Center, a new $10 million state-of-the-art visual arts facility.


Museum News

The Sarasota Museum of Art is on its way to becoming a reality.​

After construction began in late 2014 on the former Sarasota High School building, SMOA and the Sarasota Architectural Foundation reached a compromise this February to maintain the majority of the historic Paul Rudolph Walkway Canopies during renovations. SMOA also appointed Anne-Marie Russell as the museum’s executive director. The museum, which is a division of the Ringling College of Art and Design, is scheduled to open early next year and will feature 60,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 110-seat auditorium, a sculpture court, an indoor and outdoor café and classrooms and studios for educational programs.


Practice Pointe

A new donated rehearsal space gives Sarasota Ballet room to breathe.

The only thing Ernie Kretzmer and his late wife, Alisa, loved more than the Sarasota’s arts community was each other. This year, Kretzmer immortalized their love with a donation to the Sarasota Ballet. Kretzmer, a local philanthropist and longtime supporter of the Sarasota Ballet, donated funds for a new rehearsal studio, titled The Ernie and Alisa Kretzmer Sarasota Ballet Studios. The facility will be a two-level studio space with a front facade made entirely of glass, to allow passersby to watch visiting dancers and the company rehearse.


Ringling Roundup 

The bayfront arts complex gets a new entrance and keeps its eye on Asian art.

First impressions are everything. And soon, visitors to The Ringling will experience a whole new greeting, thanks to a major gift of a new pavilion entrance and permanent gallery for studio glass art. The Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion, gifted by Philip and Nancy Kotler and Warren and Margot Coville, will serve as the new entryway into The Ringling, the arts complex that houses the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Ca d’Zan, the Historic Asolo Theater, the Circus Museum, Education Center and Bayfront Gardens. The Ringling also continued to make strides this year toward opening its Center for Asian Art in the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art in early 2016. The Selby Foundation donated $250,000 toward the completion of the gallery space, in addition to Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt’s pledge of $30 million and 1,700 pieces of Asian art from her estate.


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