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Ringling Art Museum and Ca D’Zan Mansion

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Getting a VIP tour of the State Art Museum, from our in-residence art expert :)

A few months ago we had the pleasure of touring the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. Being that we live so close, its been high on the bucket list for quite awhile. The last time I had been on the grounds was during a 6th grade field trip. Needless to say, I was long overdue.

Chris on the other hand, is a seasoned veteran of the Ringling grounds. He graduated from the Ringling School of Art and Design in May 2016 with his B.A in Fine Arts. So who better to give us the grand tour than this dude, right?

ART - ärt/ - Noun - 1. The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

History of the Ringling

First a little background on the museum. John Ringling frequently traveled to Europe searching for acts for his Circus, and subsequently started a private art collection from pieces he acquired in his travels. This collection would become the foundation for The Ringling, which opened to the public in 1931.

Unfortunately his wife Mable passed away two years before the Museum opened but no doubt her influence is felt throughout the grounds. She designed much of the original landscaping on the grounds, including her Rose Garden and Secret Garden.

Upon his death in 1936, John Ringling bequeathed the art museum, its collections, and his home to the people of Florida in hopes of creating in Sarasota a cultural and educational center.

The Ca D’Zan Mansion cost a staggering $1.65M at the time it was built, more than $21M in today's dollars. The roof of the mansion is layered with antique Spanish barrel tiles, salvaged from Barcelona by John Ringling himself. With hundreds of Barcelona buildings slated for demolition (to enlarge the streets), Ringling had thousands at his disposal to use for his mansion in Florida.

Despite his great outward success, poor investments combined with the Depression, left Ringling near penniless at the time of his 1936 death. In an effort to save his beloved home, Ringling willed his grandiose property and substantial art collection to the state of Florida, along with a previously established $1.2M trust for the home's upkeep and preservation.

The Art Museum itself includes more than 28,000 works, including many obtained by John Ringling himself. Designated as the official state art museum for Florida, the institution offers twenty-one galleries of European paintings as well as Cypriot antiquities and Asian, American, and contemporary art.

I would highly recommend planning on putting in a full day on the grounds. The main Museum is quite time consuming and extensive. We also visited the Circus Museum, and strolled the grounds and Rose Garden. All afford great photo opportunities, and quiet areas to escape the crowds. The grounds are open to the Public at no charge, and include a playground for the kids.

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