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Real Talk

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People, places and things with Sheryl Vieira

Sarasota is greatly blessed with significant arts programs, performances and talent. As well, it offers an undeniable depth and wealth of research and science. With the sheer number of operas, symphonies, circus acts, theater productions, ballet performances and the like, it’s no wonder world-renowned scientists and researchers are coming to our area in droves to study, learn, work and expand upon Mote’s growing research enterprise with momentous impacts on conservation and sustainable use of our oceans due to the diverse backgrounds of all involved. Let’s celebrate the arts and sciences, shall we?

Celebrating the Arts

The annual celebration of the arts, hosted by the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, brought over 400 guests a glimpse into the coming season with a performance by the Choral Artists of Sarasota, singer Michael Mendez,  the Venice Theatre and a thrilling jam-packed performance by the extremely talented and thrilling Circus Arts Conservatory’s Sailor Circus. The crowd loved them all as each group entertained in between the sponsor recognition and award presentations. The awards program is a way to announce the annual grants for Tourist and Development Council taxes, collected specifically to support the arts. This year, close to $2 million in TDC grants were distributed to three dozen area organizations.

Art leadership awards were bestowed upon four significant leaders to commemorate and celebrate those who have made contributions to the arts ad are actively engaged in the cultural life of Sarasota County.

Sharon and Steve Dickman for the numerous volunteer hours they give so freely to the Sarasota Opera House, the Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Orchestra, Asolo Rep, Historic Asolo, Mote Marine Aquarium (where Steve wears a shark costume as Gilly, Mote’s mascot!), The Players Center for Performing Arts, Florida Studio Theatre, Circus Arts Conservatory, Sarasota Film Festival, The Haven, Easter Seals and Tatum Ridge Elementary.

Michael Shelton was recognized for his and his team’s work for Embracing Our Differences. As a founding member, Michael oversees the creation and implementation of all programming and fiscal planning, which has grown to impact over 200,000 adults and 40,000 students annually. This year, the Embracing Our Differences art exhibit received 10,761 submissions representing 115 countries, 48 states and 204 schools from India, Iran, Israel, Vietnam and South Korea.

Back in 2015, Selby Gardens brought in Jennifer Rominiecki as President and CEO. She has truly given the Gardens some serious roots to grow upon. She re-positioned the institution as a “Living Museum” producing substantial increase in visitors, new memberships and overall revenues in just a short two years. She and her team have also introduced the community to their new five-year strategic plan and their 10-year master site plan. Let’s watch the Gardens grow under her direction as she continues to build, cultivate and bring in various science, education, arts, civic and business groups to our area through her work.

The Philanthropy leader award went to Elizabeth Lindsay who, for more than 55 years, volunteered her time, gave financially and assisted to many organizations in need. They include the Woman’s Exchange, the Sarasota Arts Council, Asolo Rep, Ringling College, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, American Symphony Orchestra League, Symphony Association, Selby Gardens, Players Theatre and Florida Studio Theatre.  She served as Chairman of the Florida Board of Regents, Florida House (state embassy in Washington, DC); she was Founding Board member of the League of Women Voters, Sarasota/Manatee; she was Co-founder of the Women’s Resource Center; a Co-founder of Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation; and, she helped United Way, Mote Marine Laboratories, University of South Florida, Sarasota/Manatee, and St. Stephen’s Episcopal School.

The award-winning pianist, conductor, arranger and arts administrator, Dr. Joseph Holt, won the Artistic Achievement award. He is the current Artistic Director for the Choral Artists of Sarasota (formerly Gloria Musicae) and the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota; he is the director of music at Faith Lutheran Church, and, he is a co-host if the SILL Music Mondays program with Edward Alley. Prior to relocating to Sarasota, he was the Associate Music Director for the Choral Arts Society of Washington and served twenty years as principal pianist with The United States Army Chorus.

The last of the awards this year went to the Cultural Champion – Richard Storm – whom spent 30 years in the Middle East teaching American literature, worked in public relations, produced television documentaries for CBS and NBC, as well as published English language magazines in Cairo and Rome. His involvement in Sarasota since 1989 includes supporting the Seaside Institute as their first Executive Director and the artist-in-residency program as co-chair.  He was Director of Marketing for the Sarasota County Arts Council, a Board Member of La Musica de Asolo, and the first Executive Director of Key Chorale, and assisted in creating the Cirque des Voix® performance collaboration with the Circus Arts Conservatory. Richard also served as Honorary Vice-Consul of Italy for southwestern Florida for several years, during which he worked to coordinate the Sister Cities relationship between Sarasota and Treviso, Italy. He is also the music critic for the Herald-Tribune.

Master of Ceremonies, Executive Director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, Jim Shirley, was eager to share the economic impact of non-profit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences in Sarasota County. The Arts & Economic Prosperity study was conducted to provide the overwhelmingly compelling economic impact the arts has on our area. In total, $295,000,000 is how much the arts organizations spend in our community per year. Those attending arts and cultural events tally 2.4 million and it is estimated that they spend $93.5 million on dining, hotels and parking. “This study clearly demonstrates that the arts are a large and powerful economic force in Sarasota County. They provide an unusually rich quality of life that positions our community to compete in the 21st Century creative economy.”

The Emerald City

The Ritz-Carlton had us green with envy as Oz took over and welcomed a record turn-out crowd of over 450 guests at this year’s Oceanic Evening benefiting Mote Marine Laboratory. Congressman Vern Buchanan, Commissioner Charles Hines, board trustees, donors, volunteers and trusted partners, and community sponsors were greeted by the Wicked Witch of the West as she snarled in laughter, floating around on her broom. Judy Graham, event chair and Good Witch of the East, helped get everyone settled into the Land of Oz. Bob Essner, Board Chair, and Dr. Michael Crosby, CEO of Mote, addressed the crowd and shared some of the latest research and science.

The world-renowned Mote Marine Laboratory is having such a great impact on conservation and sustainable use of our oceans due to the diverse backgrounds of all involved. Together, the organization’s volunteers, community partners, trustees, and dedicated and brilliant staff will continue to help propel Mote’s unique and independent institution into a new era by empowering their freedom to pursue innovative science and to enhance the ocean literacy to millions of people around the world.

Aside from the research Mote does, innovative science for coral reef, fisheries, endangered species, significant marine ecosystems and derived products from the sea help us to not only protect and sustainably utilize our ocean resources, but also improve the quality of lives in communities around the world. They strive to translate and transfer their research through their science education and their outreach programs and their community partnerships to develop a more ocean-literate public. One of their strategic priorities is to expand  the connections of their science to all the diverse communities they serve in Florida and all around the world.

Mote’s 2020 vision includes an expanded and an enhanced international marine science technology and innovation park. This is needed to address the grand challenges that are facing our oceans on regional and international scales, the additional hiring of scientists and visiting scientists and entrepreneurs.  

The evolution of Mote’s international infrastructure on City Island will require building a new informal science education center and aquarium at a new campus of Mote. Early into next year, they will announce their plans of the rebirth of Mote Aquarium on the mainland. Beyond 2020, Mote will become the catalyst for a new Silicon Valley of marine science and technology that will lead to improved conservation and sustainability of our oceans. Florida’s blue economy will be thriving and its impact will be felt far beyond the state of Florida because everyone everywhere is connected to our oceans. “There really is no place like Mote,” said Dr. Crosby, as he concluded his welcome.

Seen in the sea of green were Sandy Buchanan, Mickey and Brooke Callanen, Jim Culter, Anne Essner, Erin Kabinoff, Chris McGee, Jan Miller, Lisa Morris, Gerry and Natalie Radford and Beth Waskom.

And You Always End with Dessert!

A gal named Grier Ferguson founded the Sarasota Baking Book Club along with Anna Brugman a year or so ago. This club of young, energetic, fun ladies meet either monthly or bi-monthly depending on the length of the selected novel for that particular month. Since its inception, the club has grown quickly through word of mouth and also by the taste of the delicious dessert treats concocted month after month! Most of the times, the book will inspire the tasty treat for that month. During their monthly gatherings at a members’ home, these intellectual ladies discuss literature, culture and the occasional Internet meme reference. Their novel of choice for their fall gathering was the short story “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe. Grier posted a poll on the groups private Facebook group page asking everyone to suggest a short story. Alyssa Holcomb’s short story suggestion received the most votes. Some of the members are married, some are out-of-towners, and some are locals who have returned home after college. They’ve inspired me to start a baking book club of my own, since I will now have more time on my hands due to this being my last “Real Talk” column.

Baking Book Club

Keep it all “real,” all the time, and thank you to Sarasota Scene for the fun opportunity and to all who helped to inspire each month!


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