Ringling College Breaks Ground



Gloomy grey skies weren’t enough to cast a pall over the determined group gathered at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Coconut Avenue this Saturday, where Ringling College of Art and Design President Larry Thompson led the groundbreaking ceremony for the school’s new soundstage and post-production facility complex in what he remarked was an “historic occasion” for Ringling College, the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County. “This is going to be an amazing development and a win-win-win for all,” he said.

Comprising five distinct soundstages, two large and three smaller, the facility will be open to commercial projects but remain “first and foremost” an academic facility, said Thompson, with one soundstage devoted exclusively to student use and the others used to involve students in professional projects from external clients. A post-production facility will provide all manner of technological tools for aspiring filmmakers, including green screen capability. New faculty offices will rise alongside.

The moment was “inevitable,” according to David Shapiro, co-founder of Semkhor, previously partnered with Ringling College in creating the Digital Filmmaking Studio Lab, and one of the key proponents of the new facility, which he said was designed with an emphasis on digital and web production. “The future is the web,” said Shapiro, “and we built from the ground up a facility that would handle that.”

Sarasota Mayor Willie Shaw lauded the effort, particularly as an economic driver, saying, “Sarasota is the place that makes things happen.” He noted its location near Newtown as “most impressive,” with its potential for impact. “We’re making a change,” he said. Sarasota County also granted $1.75 million to the project.

“To really make it happen takes a lot of gumption,” said Hollywood screenwriter and producer Roman Coppola, who served as consultant throughout the facility’s design process and attended the event Saturday. “This is evidently a community that values the arts, so I want to toast the people who thought this had value.”

With the project underway, Ringling officials said they are aiming for construction to be complete by this time next year.

Pictured: Rendering of proposed soundstage and post-production facility.

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