SARASOTA -- The governor loves art.
He said so Thursday, while he was at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota for a special opening of a new exhibit of work by the artist Peter Paul Rubens.
“These rooms are a treasure,” Gov. Rick Scott said of the rooms and rooms of art at the Ringling, which is the official state art museum.
Not only did Scott smile and look totally engrossed as he chatted with fellow art fans at the museum who had gathered to celebrate Rubens, but he asked to tour other parts of the museum instead of jetting out after making a few obligatory comments.
“I think he set a good example,” said Ringling fan Joan Nickles of Buffalo, N.Y. concerning Scott. “Our youth have become mush when it comes to art.”
“We’ve become a faceless society with the iPod as our art,” said Nickles’ daughter, Karen Skiles, who got hooked on art as a little girl when Nickles took her to The Louvre in Paris.
Scott, who, like all new governors, was invited to visit the museum, made it clear that he thinks Manatee and Sarasota counties have something besides beaches and golf courses to woo tourists. In his mind, the Ringling is a woo and wow attraction.
“I think people will one day realize, ‘How can I live in this great state and not take advantage of this great museum?” Scott said.
“These Rubens are so vibrant,” Scott added, looking around him at some of the work displayed in “Peter Paul Rubens: Impressions of a Master.”
The new exhibition actually opens at 10 a.m. today but the governor, his wife, Ann, and loyal Ringling Museum members got to attend a special pre-opening Thursday.
Nickles said there is nothing like the Ringling in Buffalo.
Manatee County resident and Ringling fan Virginia Sirocky said that if people realized how big Rubens is in the art world, sort of like a Babe Ruth in baseball, they would flock to see this new exhibition.
The exhibition features more than 100 paintings by and prints supervised by Rubens, who lived from 1577 to 1640. The show runs from today through June 3.
The Ringling, located on U.S. Highway 41 in Sarasota, is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $25 and $20 for seniors. Mondays are free, however. For $10 extra, fans can gain admission for three consecutive days.
“Rubens is up there with Michelangelo and Leonardo Di Vinci,” said art fan Karen Carpenter, who is a member of the Manatee County School Board. “This is the big time.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.