What Creates the Heart of a Community?



Recently, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s lobby was graced by the installation of nationally-renowned artist Anne Patterson’s work, “Circle of Thirds.” The piece, made up of a mile and a half of ribbon, took a week to actually coalesce and come together, but the intention behind the piece was a project years in the making.

For years the ceiling space of the Community Foundation’s lobby was empty. While the building’s architecture is beautiful, the space always seemed to be missing something as it welcomes more than 12,000 guests every year.  A few years ago, I happened to sit next to artist Anne Patterson at the Greenfield Prize dinner the Hermitage Artist Retreat was holding, and I learned of her work utilizing space, merging sensory experiences, and combining vivid ribbons to create these beautiful pieces of art. Instantly I knew that Anne’s work would be the perfect fit for our lobby.  Plus, Anne is a Hermitage Fellow, so she knew our community well from her many visits here. 

After many discussions, Anne and I began envisioning a concept for the work. I had two requirements for the piece. It had to involve public participation and it had to incorporate the essence of community.   What Anne ended up visualizing was the heart of our mission at the Community Foundation—community impact powered by philanthropy.

“Circle of Thirds,” with its three triangles of vibrant red ribbon depicting a circle, represents three major stakeholders in how our community thrives: the donors whose passion and generosity fuels so much positive impact in our region; our nonprofit partners that strive each day to make our region a better place to live; and the community which benefits from active and spirited philanthropy.

Before the ribbons were installed, the Community Foundation invited the public to participate in the work by writing their hopes, dreams, and wishes on each ribbon. Much of Anne’s passion behind this idea lay in the belief on the power of intention, that words when put out into the universe have the power to transform, change, and build a mindset, a person, a community.

As I reflect on the work, I think of the symbiotic and cyclical relationship between the three stakeholders of the piece represents. At the Community Foundation we believe that as more citizens invest in their community, the ability for the community to give back to itself multiples tenfold. Truly, one cannot exist without the other, and how fortunate are we to live in a place where this concept is so ingrained into our psyche. 

The key is that we work collectively to create a community we feel proud of. Together, we have the expertise, knowledge, treasure, and talent to address the issues facing the future of our region. Our success depends on building a genuine, honest sense of community, belonging, and responsibility to create a widespread feeling of unity. As a community, we can be the ones to make a difference and create positive, lasting impact. As I always say, all of us are smarter than one of us.

As we go about our lives, let’s make a pact to live intentionally and towards a goal to create a better sense of community. No act of kindness is ever wasted. Never lose sight of familiar acts of caring that can mean a lot—checking on your housebound neighbors, being a thoughtful driver in our season’s traffic, holding the door for a stranger, giving a friend a hug and sharing a smile, or supporting your favorite nonprofit. 

Roxie Jerde is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

p.s. If you’re close by, feel free to stop by the Community Foundation on Fruitville Road. We’d love to share “Circle of Thirds” with you and feel the power of the words most prevalent from hopes, dreams and wishes written on the ribbons:  happiness, love and peace. We are forever grateful to Sam Alfstad, Jane & Bill Knapp, Harry Leopold & Audrey Robbins, Charlotte & Charles Perret, and an anonymous donor who made this project possible.

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