No stranger to the arts,  Rae Ramos cut his teeth in museums and galleries in New York and Connecticut before finally succumbing to that slow southern gravity that eventually brings the curious and creative to these sandy, sunny shores. But, once arrived, Ramos’ ascent in the local arts scene has been anything but slow, jumping from part-time preparator at Ringling College of Art and Design to head of Programming and External Relations at the Sarasota Museum of Art in record time, and just recently being named director of the local arts collective SARTQ. With so much in the hands of one person, SRQ steps in to meet the man behind the mystery.  

What was your first encounter with SARTQ?  RAE RAMOS: I heard about and got involved with SARTQ through Tim [Jaeger]. I was working part time back at Ringling College as a preparator and I was also working at [blank] slate gallery, and Tim and SARTQ were looking for a venue to have an exhibition. That process of creating and curating and planning the SARTQ small work show was my first interaction and experience with SARTQ. And through that process, we were talking and I got to know the artists and got to know their work and the group and more about their mission and what they do for the community. 

What was your first impression? I’m fond of artists’ collectives. I like how collectives, in general, create this kinship of like-minded people and creators and artists. And, yes, SARTQ has that kinship internally, but they also want to sustain the art scene here in Sarasota. That really appealed to me, forming that bond together and also putting art out there in the community and educating the community and making great art experiences. This whole “Art is Life” kind of thing. 

How did you know you wanted to join SARTQ? I’ve been with SARTQ for two years, and I think it’s just that casual conversation and bond—I just gravitated. And it’s so easy to get along with everyone in that group. Their embracing of me and including me, as not really an artist, per se, stood out to me and really drew me to the group.

What do you mean by not an artist, per se? When I say I’m not an artist, I guess I’m comparing. Not comparing, but, to me- I’m not a painter. Everyone in SARTQ is a painter, motion designer, sculptor, things of that nature. But everyone’s an artist, I think. I’m an artist in other ways. I fly fish, so there’s a whole artistic creative thing with fly-fishing. And I think I make pretty good latte foam, so that’s kind of like a form of art. And curating. I’m artistic in other aspects of life. You’re not just an artist when it comes to painting, sculpture, photography, fine art. 

What is your role with SARTQ now as director? First of all, I want to grow our membership. We now have 11 members, or artists, not including me. So to sustain that group and also to grow. To embrace, to bring in other artists to our kinship, so we can grow with each other and produce more unique experiences for the community. To continue the art experiences and pop-ups and our traditional exhibitions, but also to enhance community engagement and outreach, getting those audiences, from children to the elderly and everyone else in between. 

How do you increase that community engagement? The first thing is to remain active. We’ll have an art experience here one month and then not do anything for two more months. Keep that momentum going, and get our name out there. That’s key in continuing or enhancing that community engagement. 

What do you see as being the mission of the Sarasota Museum of Art? To bring contemporary art to Sarasota. And, being very lofty, we want this to be kind of like a third place for the community. You know you have the first place, where you live, and where you call home. Second place is where you’re going to work. And the third place is the place where you can relax and to get together with the community and enjoy art, go to the café, shop, experience all of these programs, and music and performances, film. And we want to reach the widest possible audience.   

You knew right away? Before I moved to Sarasota, I researched what Sarasota was all about, the art scene here. And, I came across the museum, and I knew that this was happening through the college. So I made it my goal, too. I told myself I want to work for the Sarasota Museum of Art. And, thanks to good timing and the faith of Anne-Marie, I have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I call this whole experience my unofficial Master’s in Museum Studies because I’m learning and doing a little bit of everything.

With a projected opening in December 2019, what one thing will make this institution stand out in an art-filled town? First of all we are going to museum that’s going to focus on artwork from 1950s to today. The Ringling Museum does have that, but we are really focused and specializing in contemporary art, so we have this unique opportunity to provide that to the community. And also for the community to come and learn about contemporary art. And not just learn about art but self-discovery. That’s how I got into the arts. I learned something about myself and had that “a-ha” moment. That’s what we strive for at the Sarasota Museum of Art.  

What was your a-ha moment? Growing up, the museums I would go to served as my oasis, just taking my time, going to the galleries. I would see this painting and learn something about history, but also I learn something about myself. And, if I felt that way, I know other people can feel that way. And it was a very powerful moment and so I hope that future generations—children—coming to the museum will have that moment as well.

What’s exciting you this upcoming season at the Sarasota Museum of Arts? We have an architect and scholar, Christopher Domin, and he’ll be talking about Victor Lundy, who is the architect of our pop-up space called “The Works.” It doesn’t look like what Victor Lundy first created in 1959. The original structure was called Galloway’s Furniture Store. It was a beautiful, glass, kind of circular structure with a mezzanine and very modern furniture. So it will be interesting when [Domin] is talking about Victor Lundy in a building that Lundy designed.