Sarasota, A Cosmopolitan Coastal Community

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Van Wezel Performing Arts Center

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center is a purple, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation building located right on the bay in downtown Sarasota. This is the venue where Condoleezza Rice was invited to give a lecture. It was sponsored by the Ringling College Library Association–an organization that raises money for the library at one of the most prestigious art & design institutes in the country.

As a member of the press and the father of the Ringling student that was commissioned to paint her portrait, I had the pleasure of attending her press conference and lecture.

Today’s blog focuses on the community of Sarasota.

Sarasota is a bedroom community located about two hours from Disney World. It is a fascinating cosmopolitan community of extreme diversity.

It is the winter home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, features higher education at Ringling College of Art & Design, New College, Eckerd College, FSU Film School, Keiser College, Sarasota County Technical Institute, State College of Florida, University of South Florida at Sarasota-Manatee and Argosy University/Sarasota. It has a huge and devoted artistic following, many cultural, educational and architectural highlights and, of course, some of the most pristine beaches in the continental US.

71% of Sarasota is White, 16% Black and 12% Hispanic. The median age is 41. In 2007, 47% were Republican and 31% democrat. The south end of town even has a large contingent of Amish along with two very popular Amish restaurants. This area was featured in the excellent 2002 documentary, “The Devil’s Playground.”

A drive downtown reveals a plethora of fancy shops, restaurants, marinas and artistic venues. A tourist destination, Sarasota has been buffeted by the economic forces–doing exceedingly well during boon times and exceedingly poorly during busts. Now is a great time to get a bargain on a Sarasota condominium!

17% of the population is below the poverty line while in 2006 Sarasota had the distinction of being recognized as the “the country’s meanest city” by the national coalition for the homeless.

Yet it is an idyllic location for a vacation.

They LOVE the Beach

The biggest attraction of Sarasota is the pristine white beaches of Lido Key and Longboat Key. With plenty of vacation rentals and hotels and just down the road from St. Armand’s Circle, renown for its fine restaurants and shops, this is a perfect area for a relaxing getaway.

The Sarasotoa Convention and Visitors Bureau is a good starting place to plan your trip to Sarasota.

While you’re there, pop into Ringling College and say hi to Number Two Son!

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