Since 1999, the Season of Sculpture has made its mark on Sarasota’s arts scene with unique and striking sculptures on the Sarasota bayfront from artists across the world. Now that arts group, which was once just a biennial presence, has a new home (the Rosemary District), a new name (Sarasota Sculpture Center) and a new mission: to be more impactful in the public art scene.
The Season of Sculpture began about 16 years ago with the goal of bringing sculptures to the bayfront every two years for six-month residencies. With such an extensive break between each season, the all-volunteer, nonprofit group only received limited funding from local and state government grants, which generally go to year-round organizations. Individual donations made up 85% of the organization’s budget.
“When we put together our last public show, Season VII, we were exhausted and broke,” says Susan McLeod, chairwoman of the Sarasota Sculpture Center. “We tried to figure out if and how we could keep this going.”
Last summer, after their seventh season closed, McLeod and the 10-member board of directors decided to revamp and restructure the organization to place it at the forefront of public art in Sarasota. The nonprofit added three new board members (Steve Seidensticker, Glenn Weiss and Sam Alfstad) and switched to year-round operations. Alfstad, a career creative director and digital marketer, offered his gallery space on Fifth Street to the organization for free. In addition, McLeod was elected to the International Sculpture Center’s board of trustees, which allowed the Sarasota Sculpture Center to enjoy increased networking opportunities.
According to McLeod, the restructuring of the organization stimulated an influx of donations from its original Season of Sculpture supporters. McLeod and the board plan to lead a major fundraising drive culminating in their eighth bayfront sculpture show in fall 2016.
“We tried to strengthen our weaknesses before asking for more money,” says McLeod, “and that added financial support improved our board, created a base of operations and staff.”
The added funding and stability of a central location will be the foundation for the board’s ambitious future programming. Its bayfront sculpture series will continue as usual, but the Sarasota Sculpture Center also aims to build initiatives, events and exhibits around its core program to increase its art sculpture pedigree.
Bright and spacious, the center’s new home opens up to a gallery space on the main floor used for exhibits of sculpture and prints that are smaller than the towering pieces in the organization’s main bayside exhibition. Above the gallery lies loft/office space for the staff of Alfstad & Productions, which operates and organizes the shows presented in the space. Beyond the office space is a lounge area that will be turned into the sculpture center’s educational space, where it will host public symposiums and educational presentations from artists and experts on public art.
For its inaugural exhibition, “Rubber, Metal & Stone: Small Works, Sculptures & Drawings,” the Sculpture Center is bringing in works from artists who have showed in past Season of Sculpture exhibits, including Chakaia Booker of Newark, N.J., Boaz Vaadia of Israel and Hans Van de Bovenkamp from the Netherlands. The show runs from Jan. 24 to Feb. 20.
McLeod says that Sarasota is at a crossroads in regards to its implementation of public art, and that the Sarasota Sculpture Center hopes to play a major role in educating Sarasota residents about public sculptures.
“With this new facility, we have the ability to keep our name out there,” says McLeod. “Ideally, I’d like the Sarasota Sculpture Center to play a strong and powerful role of public art in this community. With the present stability and strength, we can make the correct curatorial and artistic statements for the future public art of Sarasota.”
IF YOU GO
‘Rubber, Metal & Stone: Small Works, Sculptures & Drawings’
When: Jan. 24 through Feb. 20
Where: 1419 Fifth St.
Info: Call 928-4445