Ringling College To Close LBKCA, Planning New Facility



The Ringling College of Art and Design Longboat Key Center for the Arts (LBKCA) will close at the end of its season this coming May and the 2.3-acre lot will be sold to a private developer with plans to construct single-family housing. But according to Ringling College President Dr. Larry Thompson, the school still has big plans for Longboat Key, including a developing plan with the Town of Longboat Key to create a new Longboat Key Center for the Arts, Culture, and Education located on the southern part of the key, owned by the Town and operated by the college.

The move has been in the planning for quite some time, says Thompson, with conversations between Ringling and the Town going back at least a few years. But many factors, including some recent, prompted the final step.

A major enticement was the change in location to the southern tip of the island. LBKCA’s performance on the north end of Longboat Key has been “OK,” says Thompson, but “not as robust as we’d hoped,” and he views the problem as largely a geographic one. “People don’t tend to go up to the northern part of the island as much,” he says, and moving south to the town center promises easier access to Ringling programming for the community at large.

The departure earlier this month of Jane Buckman, who served as LBKCA director since 2007, for a position as deputy director of the Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, was unrelated, according to Thompson, but once done served as yet another indication to act. “There were a lot of things falling in line,” he says.

Plans for the new Center for the Arts, Culture, and Education currently being developed by Ringling and the Town indicate not only a replacement for LBKCA but an expansion. The center will serve many similar functions as the current LBKCA, including showing exhibitions and providing continuing education in arts and crafts such as jewelry-making and watercolors, but will also add ceramics facilities to the mix. In addition, the college is in talks with the Longboat Key Education Center about further education opportunities to be offered. A black box theater brings the potential for performance and performance art education. Says Thompson, “It’s a much larger, much more comprehensive facility.”

And, he continues, the Art Glass Weekend, which debuted just two years ago and was spearheaded by exhibitions and auctions at LBKCA, will continue in the new facility.

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