Arts Advocates is a membership organization dedicated to inspiring creativity, advancing education, and connecting the community to the arts. We do this through sponsoring creative educational and cultural programs, and awarding scholarships to students pursuing careers in the arts.
We own a renowned collection of paintings and sculptures from the Sarasota Colony of artists who migrated to Sarasota from the 1930s to the 1970s. We also own five Highwaymen paintings. The Highwaymen were a group of 26 African-American landscape artists, mostly self-taught from the Fort Pierce, Florida area, active from the mid-1950s into the 1980s. The members have been recognized for their contributions to mid-twentieth century Florida culture and history. The collection is on display in the Arts Advocates Gallery and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
There are many non-profit groups that support a single art form. Arts Advocates is a member organization that supports all art forms: fine arts, music, theater, dance, and architecture.
As a nonprofit, philanthropic organization, Arts Advocates awards annual scholarships to talented students studying for careers in the arts and invites the public to attend programs with speakers from local arts organizations as well as nationally and internationally known artists.
Arts Advocates emphasizes transparency and inclusivity and welcomes all new members who enjoy sharing their passion for the arts.
Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc. committee plans an artist tour in 1973.
Organized and chartered in 1969, the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization originally dedicated to "supporting and stimulating the arts in Sarasota County."
In 2019, the organization's purpose was expanded to include all of the state of Florida, the mission was restated, "to inspire creativity, advance education and connect the community to the arts." Because the members support all forms of art, the designation "Arts Advocates" is frequently used in informational and marketing materials.
Over the years, Arts Advocates has acquired a collection of works of art. Until 2021, the over 50 pieces of art have been on display at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. In June 2021, the organization opened its first art gallery featuring a selection of paintings and sculptures by artists of the Sarasota Colony. The collection includes works dating back to the 1930s. Also in 2021, Arts Advocates was the beneficiary of five Highwaymen paintings, now on exhibit in the gallery. From the mid-1950s to 1970, these celebrated African-American painters created an estimated 200,000 works and have surpassed that number in the subsequent decades. Docent tours of the collection are available to residents and visitors.
In late 2001, the Fine Arts Society organized and presented "An American Legacy: The Sarasota School of Architecture Symposium," a five-day event including lectures by eminent architects and tours of Mid-Century Modern buildings. Over one thousand design professionals, scholars and individuals from around the world attended. The Sarasota Architectural Foundation was developed largely as a result of this symposium.
Traditionally, the Society organized and sponsored the popular "Creators and Collectors Tour." The public was invited to visit local artists in their studios, and a "Celebrate the Arts" luncheon was held to honor outstanding individuals from Sarasota's art community.
Luminaire Awards have been presented to Howard Tibbals (miniature circus creator), Howard Millman (Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe), Iain Webb and Margaret Barbieri (Sarasota Ballet), Victor DeRenzi (Sarasota Opera) and Richard and Rebecca Hopkins (Florida Studio Theatre).
Scholarships are awarded annually to talented students pursuing a career in the arts. Arts Advocates' scholars attend prestigious institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, Pratt Institute, Berklee School of Music, Columbia University and The Ringling College of Art and Design.
In the past, more than 50 community outreach grants have been made to support local art-related organizations including:
Winnifred Clarke, Emily Holmes, Adrienne Robbins, Annamae Sandgren and Marion Storm
Althea Blake, Winnifred Clarke, Emily Holmes, Paula Schmidt, Marion Storm and Rusty Truog
“Every artist was first an amateur.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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