Welcome to Arts Advocates

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:

  • Any Given Child
  • Art Center Sarasota
  • Asolo Repertory Theatre
  • Education Foundation of Sarasota County
  • Face Autism
  • Hermitage Artist Retreat
  • Jazz Club of Sarasota
  • The Sarasota Ballet's Dance - The Next Generation
  • The Sarasota Film Festival
  • Sarasota Art Museum
  • Sarasota Orchestra
  • Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
  • WEDU Public Television
  • Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe


Winnifred Clarke, Emily Holmes, Adrienne Robbins, Annamae Sandgren and Marion Storm


Althea Blake, Winnifred Clarke, Emily Holmes, Paula Schmidt, Marion Storm and Rusty Truog 


1969 - 1972  Marion Storm                                              
1972 - 1974  Annamae Sandgren                          
1974 - 1976  Virginia Dunn                                          
1976 - 1977  Alice Hammond                                        
1977 - 1979  Betty Larsen                                                         
1979 - 1980  Jane J. Johnson                                       
1980 - 1982  Elsie Woodruff                                                     
1982 - 1984  Fran Roach                                                     
1984 - 1986  M. Winnifred Clarke                                 
1986 - 1987  Ellen Nantz    
1987 - 1988  Ann Davidson                                                             
1989 - 1991  Carol Kopeck                                           
1991 - 1992  Helen Learned                                         
1992 - 1994  Judy Fiala                                                 
1994 - 1996  Barbara Diehlman                                    
1996 - 1997  Rhea Andrews                                                            
1997 - 1999  Rhea Betzel                                              
1999 - 2000  Connie Moore                                             
2000 - 2002   Martie Lieberman                                                   
2002 - 2004   Barbara Sanandres /Dorothy Thomas  
2004 - 2006  Marcia Soundground /Nancy Zeman
2006 - 2008  Joan Endrizzi /Nancy Skukenbert
2008 - 2010   Alice Allen      
2010 - 2011   Reva Van der Heym/Ellie Schweigaard-Olsen
2011 - 2012   Reva Van der Heym                  
2012 - 2014   Kathleen France
2014 - 2015   Nancy Andrews                                                   
2015 - 2016   Nancy Andrews/Carole Crosby                      
2016 - 2017   Carole Crosby                                 
2017 - 2019   Vern Weitz
2019 - 2021  Donna Maytham

“Every artist was first an amateur.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc.
PO Box 1432
Sarasota, FL 34230-1432

The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc. is a “501© (3) Nonprofit Tax-Exempt Organization licensed in 1969- a charity for Education/School Systems services.” PURPOSE: The organization promotes, encourages, supports and generally furthers the best interests of the arts in Florida and in particular, recognizes, honors and perpetuates the fine arts, creative products and works of Florida artists.


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