Best Places to See Art: Sarasota, Florida

 The Ringling Sarasota, photo by Dan Lundberg
 The Ringling Sarasota, photo by Dan Lundberg
 The Ringling Sarasota, photo by Dan Lundberg

What do the circus and fine art have in common? More than you might think, at least relating to Sarasota, Florida, where the Ringling family established their home base for the Ringling Brothers circus nearly a century ago. While the Ringling Circus is now defunct, the role that it played in the evolution of Sarasota County is undeniable and fascinating. When John Ringling and his wife Mable moved to Sarasota, they brought with them their great affinity for fine art, as well as their impressive collection of works. The Ringlings generously shared the experience of their art with visitors to the beautiful coastal city, which continues today in the amazing art venues which they established in their name.


Including the Ringling family’s contributions, Sarasota is steeped in interesting culture and history, hence its tagline as the “Cultural Coast” of Florida. U.S. News and World Report ranked Sarasota the #1 best place to visit in Florida, with the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and several other attractions included amongst their favorites. For similar reasons, Sarasota is also high on our own list of phenomenal places to visit and experience art.

All Things (the) Ringling



Now that you have a snapshot of the history, we recommend starting your art immersed adventures in the Rosemary District along the Sarasota Bay, at some of the incredible Ringling family venues. Though Mable and John passed away in 1929 and 1936 respectively, their legacy lives on through the “The Ringling,” a creative conglomeration of spectacular architecture and design, an extensive international art collection, and a sampling of relics from circus history.

The Ringlings were early inhabitants of the Sarasota community even before it was officially declared a city. Known as “the greatest show on earth,” the circus supported a grand lifestyle for John and Mable Ringling for a time. During this period, they traveled frequently and collected masterpieces and beloved artworks, and built magnificent structures in Sarasota in which to house them.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

John Ringling was a sophisticated and well-educated art collector, with a hefty budget to acquire some of the finest works while traveling Europe in pursuit of new circus acts. To showcase his thousands of exceptional artworks, the Ringlings built an elaborate museum with 21 gallery spaces in the style of the Florentine Uffizi Gallery.Ringling Museum of Art, photo by Zlemptv

With a prolific collection, through their museum of art, the Ringlings bequeathed to Florida some of their most significant acquisitions, including 600 old master paintings and 2,800 objects of Greek, Roman, and Cypriot antiquities from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243

Ca’ d’Zan

As we’ve noted, John Ringling was one of the richest men in America circa the early 20th century. John and Mable shared a great affection for elaborate architecture. The Ca’ d’Zan is emblematic of the Ringlings’ fascination with the grand scale Mediterranean revival design which was incorporated in the creation of their 36,000 square foot mansion.“Dances of Nations” by Willy Pogany, photo by Dan Lundberg

The building itself is extraordinary, and the elements that make up its interior are equally as spectacular. Take for instance the ballroom ceiling art “Dances of Nations” by Hungarian artist Willy Pogany, a whimsical yet cosmopolitan representation of couples dancing set within individually outlined gilded framing.

Suffice it to say, there is nothing within the walls of the Ca’ d’Zan that isn’t lavishly and painstakingly designed, creating a feast for your aesthetic senses. Art and architecture enthusiasts will not be disappointed.

5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243


Circus Museum

Art collides with curiosity at this space which captures the history of the circus. The fascinating tale of an industry known for its flamboyant nature is captured within the walls of the Ringling Circus Museum. While it isn’t entirely consistent with an art-centric themed outing, the Circus Museum is a worthwhile stop if you are even a little curious about the big top spectacular.

5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243

Random Sarasota fact: Cecil b. Demille directed an academy award-winning movie “The Greatest Show on Earth” starring Charlton Heston and Betty Hutton, which was a dramatization about circus life, and was filmed in Sarasota in 1951.

Fine Art on Palm Avenue

A short drive from Ringling in downtown Sarasota, the majority of Palm Avenue area galleries specialize in fine art and are located within charming walkable neighborhoods. The galleries attract well-versed collectors as well as art-loving tourists for their upscale ambiance and sophisticated artworks.

Palm Avenue Fine Art Gallery

Representing established and emerging artists, there is plenty of interesting art to experience at Palm Avenue Gallery. The gallery’s inventory covers a number of mediums and genres, including many nautically themed works.

The gallery features many beloved local artists including painter Dominic Avant, who earlier in his career worked on animation for many beloved Disney movies such as Mulan and Lilo and Stitch. Avant’s art is described as a “fusion of realism and impressionism.” Avant’s artworks and other one-of-a-kind pieces are on display at Palm Avenue.

10 S Palm Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236

Galleria Silecchia

Galleria Silecchia shows and sells contemporary art ranging from original oil paintings to bronze sculptures and most everything in between. From smaller paintings to large-scale sculptures, the gallery represents many emerging as well as world-renowned artists.



The gallery represents the work of Glenna Goodacre, who passed away in 2020 and was perhaps best known for her creation of a sculptural depiction of female veterans for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC. Her breathtaking bronze works often feature children playing, some of which are presented by Galleria Silecchia.


20 S Palm Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236

Dabbert Gallery

David and Patricia Dabbert have operated the Dabbert Gallery since 2004. The gallery has been voted among the best by locals for many years running and features internationally recognized artists as well as talented local artists whose work helped put Sarasota on the map. Among them is Artist Helen Sawyer (1898 - 1999) who lived in Sarasota for fifty years. Throughout her career her paintings were exhibited at the world’s fair and the Smithsonian, as well as the Ringling Museum. Dabbert represents several of Sawyer’s famous oil paintings.

46 S Palm Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236

Street Art Along the Way



To switch things up a bit, we suggest planning some time along your route to experience Sarasota’s unique brand of street art. As an example, in historic Burns Court and the Rosemary District, not far from The Ringling, you will find two murals created by French artist “Mateo aka MTO,” who keeps his identity guarded but whose works have gained notoriety in Berlin and Barcelona. Check out his amazing murals near Project Coffee on Pineapple Avenue and at the Sarasota Architectural Salvage on Central Avenue.

Project Coffee

538 S. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236

Architectural Salvage

1093 Central Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236


Sarasota has much to offer travelers with a keen interest in the arts, and we are confident that you won’t be disappointed if you book the trip. If you aren’t quite ready to do so, you can peruse one-of-a-kind original artworks on UGallery’s website anytime from the comfort of your home.