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SRQ DAILY Feb 25, 2023

Saturday Perspectives Edition

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Saturday Perspectives Edition

"It's a decision to be brave, bold, and persistent in your commitment to your craft. "

- Sidney Clifton, The Jim Henson Company

[Under The Hood]  Sarasota, Home of the GOP Chair
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

As state Sen. Joe Gruters stepped away from the Republican Party of Florida chairmanship, a four-year period wrapped with a Sarasota politician in charge of a major party. But with the election of Sarasota GOP Committeeman Christian Ziegler as the new chair, another such era begins.

It’s wild to see control of a major party stay in a mid-sized community far from the state Capitol. But here we are. Honestly, it makes a political observer in the Sarasota area wonder how much Republican infrastructure will continue to amass here.

How did this happen? For starters, the Republican Party of Sarasota performed well politically and financially for years. Over more than a decade, Sarasota became a must-stop location for any candidate aiming for a national profile.

“Sarasota has been a self-sufficient local party,” Ziegler told me. “I don’t see that changing.”

Donald Trump. Ted Cruz. Mike Pompeo. All accepted the honor of Sarasota Statesman of the Year. No offense to local trophy makers, but it’s the chance to network with wealthy, politically active donors that brought those big names.

But when Gruters became party chair, I didn’t quite anticipate the number of cogs of Republican machinery that would suddenly relocate. The chairmanship at least appeared like a magnetic force over this significant time.

Maybe it’s just coincidence in some cases. Ziegler credits the tax environment, beaches and sunshine for luring businesses like Rumble and Trump’s Truth Social to Sarasota.

Former Gen. Michael Flynn and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk moved to the area for similar reasons and family ties.  Then again, Democratic figures Jerry Springer and James Carville also have Sarasota places. It’s a nice place to live.

But Ziegler freely acknowledges a direct relationship to the local GOP’s growing profile for other growth. He notes work by his wife, School Board Member Bridget Ziegler, who regularly hosts Leadership Institute events for conservative candidates crafting a K-12 platform. This week, a training session had 80 attendees, some who flew in and others who teleconferenced.

Christian Ziegler suspects the recent makeover for New College will attract more conservative voices to the region; he’s one of the biggest cheerleaders for change at the school amid plenty of skepticism well documented in this column.

“I would say Sarasota has become the conservative center for education over the last couple years,” he said.

Many took notice when Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a list of incumbent school board members he wants targeted in 2024 and it included Sarasota School Board Member Tom Edwards.

That’s no coincidence. Christian Ziegler as the newly installed chair met with DeSantis this week to help craft the list, along with members of Moms For Liberty, a group Bridget Ziegler helped found. The state GOP chair made no bones about his disdain for Edwards, who unseated Republican incumbent Eric Robinson in 2020. Ziegler called Edwards perhaps the most “woke” School Board member in America, using a label Edwards himself once embraced.

Ziegler plans to be an aggressive state chair, and always courted controversy.

For the record, there’s a million right answers to the question ‘Where were you on Jan. 6?’ Ziegler has the wrong one. He was in Washington attending Trump’s rally ahead of the electoral vote certification. But he does say he was appalled by violence at the Capitol and condemned it immediately that day.

“I once worked in the House. If it would have been 10 years before, I literally would have been on the other side of those doors,” Ziegler notes. 

His focus politically, he said, will be on winning majorities in elections. He boasts relationships with people near Trump and DeSantis, both likely presidential candidates this cycle. That could mean figures from both major campaigns passing through Sarasota frequently.

And he wants to see continues growth of the Sarasota GOP. He noted at this point, there are almost as many independents in Sarasota County as Democrats while Republicans keep growing numbers. He wants that dominance to continue.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA. 

Photo: Christian Ziegler

[Higher Education]  Energy Abounds in Careers in the Arts
Dr. Larry Thompson, lthompso@ringling.edu

Ringling College of Art and Design on Feb. 14 hosted its ninth annual career fair and networking event, entitled Career Insight. Yes, it was on Valentine’s Day, because we absolutely love helping turn our students' passions into professions. In all seriousness though, Career Insight at Ringling College is without a doubt one of my favorite days of the entire academic year and a very important one for our students. 

Organized and brought to life by Ringling College’s Center for Career Services, this yearly event brings together professional artists and designers, industry reps, and Ringling alumni all with the shared goal of connecting with our students. More than your average career fair, Insight provides a coveted opportunity for students to network one-on-one with working professionals from a variety of art and design disciplines. Imagine — industry pros from the companies you’re most interested in working with, all in one place, on one day, completely at your disposal. 

The College was honored this year to host Sidney Clifton as the Insight keynote speaker. Sidney is no stranger to Ringling College. In 2018 she delivered a thoughtful and inspiring commencement address for our graduating class and since then, she has been back on campus often in the role of recruiter. Sidney is an Emmy-nominated producer with more than 20 years of experience as an executive producer, director, and creative executive overseeing animated, mixed-media, and live-action content. Recently, she was promoted to producer for The Jim Henson Company. She is also a senior consultant with Black Women Animate Studios and in her spare time launched The Clifton House, a writer’s and artist’s workshop and retreat space at her childhood home in Baltimore, Maryland.

Her keynote speech started off by emphasizing her impression of Ringling College: “A place filled with emerging artists and designers with extraordinary talent and excitement about making a life and a career in the arts,” she said. “The energy here is palpable.” 

She provided the students with an acronym to represent her advice on getting a job. “It’s SIMPLE,” she said. “Focus on skills and software; intelligence and integrity; mindset and manners; portfolio and presentation; and finally, your unique life experiences matter.” And she’s absolutely right. And that’s why at Ringling College, we target these areas throughout our students’ educational journeys. Our Center for Career Services from day one, provides students with unparalleled career mentoring.

They do it all, from one-one-one resume reviews and interview practice, to discussing strategy, networking, and goals. And, in addition to the annual Insight event, the Career Services team brings over 100 leading industry professionals to campus every year to work with, and directly recruit Ringling College students. Even after our students have graduated, our alumni continue to benefit from and have access to all of the same opportunities offered by Career Services — for life. 

A key takeaway from Sidney’s remarks I have always found to be true is that careers in the arts are not always set on a linear path. We tend to think about a career trajectory as meaning upward or ascending, that in order to find success and happiness one must continue to “climb the corporate ladder.” But what I believe and what Sidney emphasized is the ability to think creatively, problem solve, be courageous and pivot is becoming more important in today’s world than ever before. Professional success can be mapped in myriad ways, not just a straight line going up. Even in this new age of automation and artificial intelligence, truly authentic creativity is irreplicable, indispensable, and irreplaceable.

One of the students asked Sidney, “How do you define a career in the arts?” Her answer, “It’s a decision to be brave, bold, and persistent in your commitment to your craft.” 

“Artists are always necessary,” she said. Well, Sidney, I completely agree. 

Dr. Larry Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art & Design. 

Photo: Sidney Clifton

[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]  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: Art Center Sarasota: Same Source , February 2 – March 11

The Same Source exhibit by Luca Molnar uses various media to explore the connection between historical figures and personal mythologies. The exhibit highlights the connection between private life, domestic spaces and memory. On Thursday, Feb. 16, Molnar will participate in an artist talk via Zoom from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The exhibit runs from Feb. 2 to March 11. To learn more, visit artsarasota.org or call 941-365-2032. Art Center Sarasota, 707 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens 2023 Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Tiffany: The Pursuit of Beauty in Nature , February 12 – June 26, During garden hours

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ 2023 Jean and Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Tiffany: The Pursuit of Beauty in Nature showcases the creativity and innovation of American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). The first exhibition of its type to be presented in a botanical garden, the exhibition highlights the inspiring connection between Tiffany Studios and the natural world through unique horticultural displays in the Tropical Conservatory and the Gardens, accompanied by seminal examples of Tiffany’s work on view in the Museum of Botany and the Arts. To learn more, visit selby.org. Selby Gardens Downtown Sarasota campus, 1534 Mound St., Sarasota.

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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