The Ringling Reveals the Return of UnGala

Todays News


After a 10-year hiatus, the 'UnGala Gala' returns to The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Formerly an iconic event held each year as the kick-off for Sarasota’s social season, the name conveyed an antithesis to otherwise black-tie soirees with the intention to attract a younger crowd—offering an alternative to the more formal events held during gala season. The direction was a risk in a sense, but ultimately widely received and became wildly popular over the years. Since the last UnGala in 2009, the museum, and particularly the events staff, have been asked about the possibility of bringing it back.

“For several years, I have had many inquiries about the revival of the UnGala,” says Christina Fraser, director of events. “So many people just loved that event.” The Ringling ultimately decided to re-debut it to celebrate the upcoming 35th anniversary of the first UnGala, circa 1986.

‘Evolution’ was announced as the official theme for the 2019 event, to reflect the number of changes, development and improvements that the museum has undergone in the last decade. Having completed multiple restoration projects at the Ca’d’Zan, the institution has also added new buildings, enlarged its collection, increased educational efforts and expanded public outreach through programs like WEB (Where Everyone Belongs), which provides free memberships for local families. "It is such a great way to introduce new people to The Ringling and remind others of the work that we do here and the impact it has on our community,” says Virginia Harshman of The Ringling. “We also view the return of UnGala as an evolution in the manner that the event itself has evolved." Though its inception started originally as an alternative event for “younger people”, that generation eventually matured, and so did the event. “What we plan to recapture is the excitement, the delight and the passion that UnGala embodied," she says.  

In order to bring back the old, with a fresh take to reflect the times, an entirely new format and composition was created via input from The Ambassadors Committee—comprised of about 25 of Sarasota’s most engaging people—some having never been to an UnGala before, others who have participated in years past or even chaired the event. “What we are creating for 2019 is something very special," says Fraser, "something that has not been done before in Sarasota.” But it will include a grandiose feast, international entertainment, dancing, prizes and the chance to mingle with like-minded museum supporters.

“It is really exciting that we have so many newcomers to Sarasota over the last decade who have never experienced an UnGala," says Harshman. "And this year they will be able to.”

UnGala 2019- The Evolution will be held in the Museum of Art Courtyard on October 19, 2019. Registration for invite here. 

Photo of a past UnGala, courtesy of The Ringling.

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