Rub elbows with local tastemakers at the Selby Gallery (free, closed Saturdays and Sundays) at the Ringling College of Art and Design, which was opened in 1931 by circus magnate (and art collector) John Ringling. The 3,000 square feet of dim interiors may be a welcome respite from the Florida sun, and the quality of the contemporary work on display is a refreshing change from the beach-themed kitsch found in most Gulf Coast galleries. Shows change roughly every month, with spring dedicated to juried student works. Currently on display (through April 3) is an exploration of the contemporary resurgence of abstract art among American painters and mixed-media artists.
Step inside Patrick Dougherty’s monumental “Out in Front”—a large-scale sculpture woven from twigs, trees, and vines—on the lawn of the former Sarasota High School. The historic building is the future home of the Sarasota Museum of Art, the city’s first contemporary and modern art museum, which is expected to open later this year. For now, though, take advantage of free docent tours of the sculpture on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m.
Scope out the art world’s rising stars at Madeby Gallery, a shop featuring works by students and alumni of the Ringling College of Art and Design. Located in the Rosemary Arts District, the school-run shop offers a rotating slate of limited edition designs, such as David Hammel’s skull stoneware mugs ($6.95) or surfer-themed letterpress cards by Byvik Ink ($4.95).
Stroll through moss-draped oaks in the Towles Court Artist Colony (typical visiting hours are noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday), a collection of wooden bungalows in pastel hues that was converted to an arts community in 1995. The art here generally mirrors the environment outside—tropical and sunny—but there are some oddball contemporary gems worth a closer look, such as Meg Pierce’s mixed-media collages, which incorporate found objects like sequins, bottle caps, film, and navigational charts.