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SRQ DAILY Jan 28, 2023

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"The projects that mean the most to me have been connections in our local community."

- Dr. Larry Thompson, Ringling College of Art & Design

[Under The Hood]  Students Set New College's Culture
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

The appointment of right-wing pundits, most from out-of-state, to New College’s Board of Trustees certainly earned some bad reviews. In local and national media, the efforts of Gov. Ron DeSantis appears an act of unapologetic aggression, on “woke” culture if not very value of a liberal arts education altogether. With the appointment of Ryan Anderson, the State University System Board of Governors delivered the Governor an assist and now a majority on the trustee board.

But I must admit that through it all, I remain skeptical of actual long-term consequences. DeSantis can name as many Fox News regulars to the board of a local college as he wants, but he can’t reprogram its students. Many who don’t know all that much about New College, perhaps including DeSantis, fail to understand students set the tone on the campus more than any of Florida’s traditional colleges and universities.

Don’t mistake this as characterizing the new trustees as toothless. Placing discussion of New College President Patricia Okker’s employment on the agenda for Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, the first time gathering of the body under this new make-up, shows eagerness from the bulls to start breaking the China. New trustee Chris Rufo at a town hall this week voiced willingness to fire administration just for considering cancelling a forum over death threats.

But Okker started less than two years ago. She neither created nor fostered the campus culture those attending New College love and those who fear different ideas hate. She seems fated for unfair scapegoating and mistreatment. That said, even her removal and replacement with a different president won’t change why students chose to go to New College.

That, more likely, was the special academic structure built around individualized curricula. New College students craft academic contracts with sponsors and build their studies around chosen areas of concentration. The school famously doesn’t award traditional grades, yet remains notoriously rigorous.

All this could change, but that would take years. The statute establishing New College as the honors college of the State of Florida requires the school “provide programs of study that allow students to design their educational experiences as much as possible in accordance with their individual interests, values, and abilities.”

To change that requires an act of the Legislature. Considering every state lawmaker representing the region endorsed the Governor’s push to “change the model” for New College, I suppose this too can change. But will students already on a customized academic track be forced off it?

Doubtful. To do that might well prompt lawsuits for such an educational bait-and-switch. Certainly, students would have little incentive to remain in Sarasota if their agency to complete their degree as planned were shirked out mid-academic year. And mind you, if students do leave, it exacerbates existing struggles to reach enrollment goals.

I’ve certainly heard this is really a long game. Trustees can remake the curriculum and await some supposed mass of right-wing teenagers dying to relocate to Sarasota and study in this chaotic transition instead of going to Hillsdale College, Liberty College or established institutions willfully fostering a socially conservative culture. It also counts on people who see New College as a cult of wokeness now believing DeSantis’ appointees will turn it into a rightist utopia before fall term. If no one comes? The recruitment disappointments of recent years become a crisis.

All this also requires driving off faculty as well. It counts on those who love New College today giving up and abandoning it to make way for a social experiment by people most of them likely don’t respect.

I just don’t see it.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA. 

Photo Courtesy New College of Florida Facebook page.

[Higher Education]  Professional Experiences Benefit Students, Community
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

It is no secret these days the professional world has become innately competitive, especially in the more lucrative and global industries. Employers are hungry to hire skilled and competent young professionals who are industry-ready from the day they walk across the commencement stage. When I took up my role as Ringling College President, it was clear to me students were graduating straight into a career crisis because they often did not have the opportunity to get any form of professional experience before graduating. Perhaps they had a summer job or internship, but what about those students who did not have that available to them?

As educators, we needed to change the way we looked at higher education and see industry experience and professional partnerships as a non-negotiable component of our student formation and preparation. 

As a pillar of creative and academic excellence, Ringling College of Art and Design offers students a world-class art and design education, and a pre-professional program imbued with the commitment each and every student will have a professional opportunity before they graduate. This is, after all, what employers are looking for and helps to break the perpetual cycle that has haunted college graduates for years: “I can’t get a job because I don’t have experience, but I can’t get experience because I can’t get a job.”

In 2012, Ringling College partnered with The Patterson Foundation with the shared goal to strengthen the creative workforce of tomorrow. The College’s INDEX program — Industry Experience at Ringling College — continues the legacy of this partnership by aggregating the myriad experiential educational opportunities the College long offered. 

The INDEX program has impacted more than 2,300 Ringling students across all majors, involving work experience with more than 200 professional bodies. Many are household names, such as Cirque du Soleil, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Moffitt Cancer Center, the Baltimore Orioles and General Motors. But many other clients have been closer to home: Patriot Plaza, Suncoast Blood Bank, IMG Academy, The Ringling Museum, The Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition and so many others. 

These professional opportunities require a high level of trust between the client and those “contracted” students to complete the work. Ringling College is fortunate to have fostered long standing and trusted relationships with local organizations, nonprofits, clients, donors and friends of the College, like The Patterson Foundation. The endowed charitable foundation is committed to “strengthening the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by focusing on issues that address mutual aspirations, foster wide participation, and encourage learning and sharing,” and has been supporting our community for over 25 years.

Creating the space to nurture community and connection has always been at the heart of Ringling College’s mission. While having the opportunity to connect our students with major projects with large national and multinational corporations is an amazing privilege, the projects that mean the most to me have been connections in our local community. Take the Patriot Plaza INDEX project. Spearheaded by The Patterson Foundation, the $12-million Patriot Plaza at Sarasota’s National Cemetery was donated to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration. Open to the public, the amphitheater with its world-class art installations, quickly became a favorite destination for educational field trips and tours, and as a place of solace and reflection for military veterans, active duty and their families. 

When the pandemic hit, Patriot Plaza closed; tours were suspended, class trips canceled. The project request came directly from the Foundation, who engaged with INDEX to assemble a student-led film production team. Over the course of the semester, Film students created 11 cinematic and experiential films bringing civics lessons of military service and sacrifice, all conveyed through the space, art, and architecture of Patriot Plaza, to educators and classrooms locally and nationwide. Students in public schools could once again learn the lessons imparted.

By participating in the INDEX program, students are building up their resumes and enhancing their portfolios, therefore increasing employability. It has always been my view creative confidence is forged in the crucible of deadlines, demands and deliverables — the very foundation of INDEX. But in addition, and perhaps more importantly so, they are contributing to meaningful projects that bring immeasurable value to the respective organizations. What a bonus for all of us that many of these organizations are right here in Sarasota. 

Dr. Larry R. Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design. 

Screenshot from Patriot Play Virtual Tour.

[Gulf Coast]  Heroes Among Us
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

With a fresh, new year unfolding, I thought this would be the perfect time to highlight some good news in our region.

The story of last year was Hurricane Ian.  It made us all realize how vulnerable we are to hurricanes and the massive destruction that can follow.

But the good news from that historic storm was how we as a community rallied to help one another in the face of utter destruction.  You and donors from across Florida and the nation provided direct humanitarian relief to families and businesses who were negatively impacted or displaced from their homes. It was also amazing to see hundreds of resilient nonprofit partners rise to the challenge by helping their employees and communities. 

Locally there were heartwarming stories of help. A generous donor provided $25,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties which was matched three times totaling $80,000 to Arcadia-Desoto County Habitat for Humanity, Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, and Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity. 

In December 2022, the team from The Miami Foundation raised money and then provided Gulf Coast with a grant of $50,000 from their Miami Disaster Relief Fund to support disaster resilience and relief efforts in response to Hurricane Ian. We were thankful to receive this generous and unexpected donation to our Hurricane Ian Response Initiative. This donation was used to help us begin the rebuilding process of the destroyed Boys & Girls Club in North Port

Donors and nonprofits from other states have contributed to the response initiative and stepped up to volunteer in the aftermath of the storm, too. Our largest gift thus far was $400,000 from an anonymous donor, while the first $800,000 in gifts was matched. You all as a community inspired one another and in turn, your generosity inspired more donations to help those in need. 

Additionally, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation generously awarded us with a grant of $25,000 in October 2022 for the Hurricane Ian Disaster Relief Fund. This was matched 1:1 by our Board’s commitment for a total of $50,000. $25,000 of the funding has been provided to First Step of Sarasota to offset the cost of transportation in order to serve clients outside their normal service area. The other portion of the funding was awarded to Premier Mobile Health Services who are operating a free clinic, both a walk-in site and two mobile units across Lee, Charlotte and DeSoto Counties post-Hurricane Ian. 

We were grateful and honored that the Editorial Board of Charlotte Sun Newspapers called us a “lifesaver” in response to Gulf Coast’s $1 million commitment to rebuild the Gene Matthews Boys & Girls Club in North Port after Hurricane Ian. The Editorial Board wrote: “When your organization is struggling. When a disaster strikes. Whenever there is a need, it seems the Gulf Coast Community Foundation is there.” 

One thing I know holds true: Our Board and team will continue to be a part of the long-term recovery from this storm, and we will continue to work collaboratively with others to help in the areas where it is most needed. I am honored to work with these heroes among us, providing pivotal hope to us all.

Mark Pritchett is President and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: FST - A Place in the Sun - A Tribute to Stevie Wonder , November 16 – April 16, Varied

A Place in the Sun – A Tribute to Stevie Wonder, will begin playing in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret on November 16, 2022. The new music revue celebrates the legendary musician whose catalogue spans six decades and multiple musical genres, taking audiences through the beloved songbook of musical pioneer, Stevie Wonder. Created by Jason Cannon, Richard Hopkins, and Sarah Durham, this all-new Cabaret features such timeless hits as “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” “Isn’t She Lovely?,” and “Superstition.” Tickets are now on sale at FloridaStudioTheatre.org or at 941.366.9000.

[SOON]  THEATER: Urbanite Theatre: Birds of North America , January 6 – February 12, Varied

"Birds of North America" runs January 6th-February 12th, 2023 at Urbanite Theatre. As birders, John and his daughter Caitlyn adore spending tender autumn days attempting to catch glimpses of elusive birds. But as seasons, the climate, and global politics change, the two find their connection as rare as a red-headed Woodpecker.  In a lyrical and endearing family portrait, Birds of North America unfolds in delicate, detailed layers like the scattered leaves of each passing year. For tickets and information contact Ph. (941) 321-1397, Email info@urbanitetheatre.com, Website www.urbanitetheatre.com

Urbanite Theatre , 1487 2nd Street Sarasota FL, 34236

[SOON]  MUSEUM: Towers of Tomorrow with LEGO Bricks at the Bishop , January 11 – March 18, During museum hours

Get inspired to create your own ‘towers of tomorrow’ with over 200,000 loose LEGO® bricks available in hands-on construction areas. Young and old will be limited only by their imagination as they add their creations to a steadily rising futuristic LEGO® metropolis inside the exhibition. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit bishopscience.org.

[SOON]  THEATER: Asolo Repertory Theatre: Silent Sky , January 19 – March 5, Varied

At the turn of the 20th century, years before women had the right to vote, one woman’s breakthrough changed our perception of the stars. Full of wonder, humor, and heart, SILENT SKY is the remarkable true story of Henrietta Leavitt, one of the pioneering women astronomers working at Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s. You will be enthralled by the story of this extraordinary woman who took on the astronomy establishment in order to discover the mysteries embedded in the sky. Henrietta transcended the odds while navigating love, family, and the universe, going on to make a world-altering advancement to the field of astronomy that forever changed our view of the cosmos.  Written by one of today’s leading playwrights, Lauren Gunderson, this mesmerizing drama is directed by Seema Sueko, who recently brought this work to life at Washington D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre. 

Asolo Repertory Theatre

[SOON]  MUSEUM: Walking Tours at The Ringling's Arboretum Available Now Through May 2023 , November 26 – May 29, 12:00 PM

This walking tour led by volunteer guides will introduce you to interesting botanical specimens on the estate while providing a historic overview of the development of the estate. The Ringling Arboretum has been accredited at Level II through ArbNet and there are over 2350 trees within the arboretum representing native, exotic, historical, and culturally significant trees. Garden Tours are available Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays and take place entirely outdoors. It is 90 minutes in length and covers approximately 1 mile. We encourage visitors to bring bottled water, and wear appropriate footwear, preferably closed-toe, sunblock, and hats. There will be a maximum of 10 participants per tour. Tours are subject to weather conditions. Please check it at the Visitors Pavilion prior to your tour. Tickets will be available 30 days prior to each tour.

[SOON]  THEATER: Asolo Repertory Theatre: Ken Ludwigs The Three Musketeers , January 11 – March 26, Varied

Adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Directed by Peter Amster. Harrowing adventure, bravery, and friendship take center stage in Ken Ludwig's THE THREE MUSKETEERS, a thrilling adaptation of the popular novel by Alexandre Dumas. One of the world’s most enduring comedies, this classic tells the tale of a daring young man who finds himself in the company of the world’s greatest swordsmen, as well as some of the world’s most dangerous men and women. Directed by Peter Amster, who most recently directed Asolo Rep’s smash hit Murder on the Orient Express in 2020, this play promises to be a fast-paced, witty, swashbuckling good time. All for one, and one for all! 

Asolo Repertory Theatre

[SOON]  DANCE: Sarasota Ballet: Program 4 - In Rep , January 27 – January 30

The Sarasota Ballet is excited to announce the Companys 2022 – 2023 Season. Over seven programs, The Sarasota Ballet will perform 15 works by some of the most celebrated and prestigious choreographers and composers of the ballet world. Program 4  In Rep. January 27-30, 2023 at FSU Center for the Performing Arts. Featuring World Premiere,  Choreography by Arcadian Broad,
 Music to be announced. New Jessica Lang Ballet (Sarasota Premiere) Choreography by Jessica Lang, Music to be announced. Facade - Choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Sir William Walton. For more information visit www.sarasotaballet.org, Box office 941.359.0099.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Creative Liberties Family Art Day , January 28, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Creative Liberties Artist Studios and Gallery, based on a foundation of artists helping artists, will host its Family Day on Sat., Jan. 28. The event is free and open to all ages, art making lesson and creative space for the community. For more information, visit creativeliberties.net.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: The Past, Present, and Future of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall , January 29, 2 to 4 p.m.

This important community discussion about Sarasota’s Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall will include presentations about the history of the building and its architectural significance, its current condition and the viability of having it continue as Sarasota’s Performing Arts Hall. Van Wezel family members have been invited to participate.

Professionals in the fields of architecture, finance, and the arts will provide information about the current status of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and entertain questions from the audience.

Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th St. (in Pioneer Park), Sarasota.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: The Players Centre: Always... Patsy Cline , February 2 – February 12, Varied

Always… Patsy Cline created and originally directed by Ted Swindley
Always…Patsy Cline is more than a tribute to the legendary country singer who died tragically at age 30 in a plane crash in 1963. The show is based on a true story about Cline’s friendship with a fan from Houston named Louise Seger, who befriended the star in a Texas honky-tonk in 1961, and continued a correspondence with Cline until her death. The musical play, complete with down home country humor, true emotion and even some audience participation, includes many of Patsy’s unforgettable hits such as Crazy, I Fall to Pieces, Sweet Dreams and Walking After Midnight – 27 songs in all. Feb 2-12, 2023. For tickets visit theplayers.org, Ph. 941-365-2494, email BoxOffice@ThePlayers.org

The Players Centre For Performing Arts, Performance Venue & Box Office The Crossings at Siesta Key 3501 South Tamiami Trail, Suite 1130 Sarasota, FL 34239

[SOON]  : The Players Centre: Godspell , March 9 – March 19, Varied

Book by John Michael Tebelak. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Godspell touches on the parables and wisdom that grapple with maybe the most important mystery of all. It was the first major musical theatre offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner, Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Children of Eden), and took the world by storm led by the international hit, “Day by Day.” Godspell features a parade of beloved songs, including “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “All for the Best,” “All Good Gifts,” “Turn Back, O Man” and “By My Side.” March 9-19, 2023. For tickets visit theplayers.org, Ph. 941-365-2494, email BoxOffice@ThePlayers.org

The Players Centre For Performing Arts, Performance Venue & Box Office The Crossings at Siesta Key 3501 South Tamiami Trail, Suite 1130 Sarasota, FL 34239

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Sarasota Opera: Therese , March 17 – March 25, Varied

Therese is an opera in two acts. Music by Jules Massenet. Libretto by Jules Claretie. A love triangle during the French Revolution is the setting for this rarely heard work. Therese is torn between love for her former lover and her affection and duty towards her husband. Moments of lyrical beauty are punctuated by the drama of the “Reign of Terror” in this opera. Sung in French with Translations in English. March 17th-March 25th For tickets visit sarasotaopera.org, Ph. +1 941 328 1300

Sarasota Opera , 61 N Pineapple Ave. Sarasota, FL 34236

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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