Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota is located on the middle of Florida’s western coast, 60 miles south of Tampa and 117 miles north of Naples. A county seat, the city is home to an urban population of almost 53,000. Fronting a big bay, Sarasota looks out across bustling marinas and its barrier island communities of Lido, Longboat and Siesta Key. On these Keys’ western edges, nationally recognized beautiful sandy beaches front the Gulf of Mexico. Back in town, visitors and locals find attractive historic buildings, inspiring public art, unique parks, delicious restaurants, art-filled galleries, novel retail shops and a weekly open-air market.

Expressive Arts Florida Institute (EAFI) anchors the east end of the Towles Court Pavilion, situated on the north side of Adams Lane in the Towles Court artist colony in downtown Sarasota, FL. This creative community comprised of galleries, studios, boutiques, dining and other services is within walking distance of pedestrian friendly downtown streets and charming pocket neighborhoods. Its central location gives visitors and residents an opportunity to sample the diverse and colorful threads that create Sarasota’s unique tapestry of inspiring natural beauty and world-class arts and culture.

Brief History of the Area

Native tribes originally claimed Sarasota as home. It was around the time of the Civil War when newcomers started arriving on the scene to fish the waters, cultivate the land and herd wild cattle. Scottish colonists formed the first settlement in 1885. Sarasota would later be incorporated in 1902 by the hardy few who stayed to endure harsh conditions under the leadership of John Hamilton Gillespie, the City’s first mayor. By 1910 visionaries were being sought and wooed to invest heavily in the area. Both the Chicago socialite and business woman, Bertha Palmer and developer and contractor Owen Burns came and prospered in agriculture, the cattle industry and land development enterprises. Their efforts proved lucrative both to themselves as individuals and to the area. Soon thereafter, the circus magnate and investor, John Ringling and his wife, Mable, built their winter residence on the bay. This couple created a legacy of culture and art that still bears their name, The Ringling, and operates as the state art museum of Florida. And so the story continues as Sarasota grows and thrives as a vibrant Gulf coast city.

How to Get to Sarasota.

By car, Sarasota has direct interstate access from much of the South, Northeast and Midwest. By air, five airports service the Sarasota area with an array of different carriers and routes. Sarasota’s own Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) has Delta, jetBlue, US Airways, United and Air Canada touching down five miles from downtown. A little more than an hour away, going north or south, Tampa International Airport (TPA) and Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers (RSW) expand on the same airlines. Two hours plus to the northeast, Orlando International Airport (MCO) offers a full complement of domestic and international airlines and worldwide connections while near Tampa Bay the much smaller St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport (PIE) welcomes Allegiant flights.

Article and Map by Julia Alexander, for Expressive Arts Florida Institute