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Ringling museum to step into world spotlight in October

Area art supporters were eager to hear additional details of October’s Ringling International Arts Festival during a Sarasota County Arts Council luncheon Thursday.

Dwight Currie, Ringlings’ associate director of museums programs, was just as eager to drum up support for the inaugural event that will place the Ringling Museum of Art on the world stage.

The five-day festival, hosted by the museum and the New York-based Baryshnikov Arts Center on Oct. 7-11, will be a cornucopia of progressive visual and performing arts. Dozens of acclaimed artists from eight countries will descend on the Ringling and Florida State University campuses. They will present works that include several world and U.S. premieres.

Organizers hope the world-wide appeal of the artists also will attract tourists from around the globe. That will in turn uplift tourism and the local economy.

“It is very much an economic project,” Currie told the Herald after presenting festival highlights to the arts crowd at Mattison’s Forty One. “We want to draw attention not only to our facility — the FSU/Ringling cultural complex — but to the entire area and what’s available here.”

Plans are to promote the festival in the United States and Europe.

Area hotels and restaurants are glad to host an international crowd here, Currie said. So is the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce.

“Bringing this international festival to the region can be nothing but good,” said Jacki DeZelski, vice president of the community development for the chamber.

Manatee and Sarasota counties’ arts communities are particularly thrilled about the event. Though there are dozens of arts festivals in the area each year, this one, they said, will stand out from the rest.

“Oh, it’s exciting,” Terry Romine, Manatee County resident and Sarasota Arts Council board member, said after the luncheon. “It’s kind of edgy for us in Sarasota. Very progressive. A lot of arts patrons are looking forward to this.”

The event includes the U.S. premiere of Peter Brook’s “Love is My Sin,” based on William Shakespeare’s sonnets. It examines death and what it means to grow old, Currie said. There’s also a world premiere of the Elevator Repair Service Theater’s piece based on the works of Ernest Hemingway. The New York-based troupe is known for its experimental pieces of classic authors.

Both works will be on the slate for New York’s 2010 artistic season, but will be presented here first, Currie said.

The other premiere will be electronic chamber music by Manson Bates. Bates, an acclaimed young composer/San Francisco DJ, was commissioned exclusively for the festival.

Currie said bringing such progressive artists will widen the area’s scope of art in general, presenting a wealth of educational opportunities for both students and adults. In fact, 150 young students from the area will be invited to the opening night events for free.

Opening night performances will feature Grammy Award-winning conductor Robert Spano of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra leading the FSU Symphony Orchestra. Bosnian-born pianist Pedja Muzijevic will also perform.

Romine said he likes that the festival will be accessible students.

“We have to begin cultivating our future for the arts,” he said.

Currie told a crowd that the festival will “honor the vision John and Mable had for Sarasota.” Back in 1928, Ringling planned to showcase a variety of world-class visual and performing art at his Sarasota campus.

“(But) the next year, the stock market crashed,” Currie said.

Currie told the audience the economy won’t stop the effort this time.

Subscriptions and single tickets for the event will be reasonably priced, with single tickets offered at an average of $24. Subscription package offers will be mailed out in mid-March. Single tickets will go on sale in May.

Plans are to have the international festival every two years.

Carl Keeler, of the Arts Council of Manatee County, said the event could be a great venture.

“As long as the activities that are done are different — that’s the key to the success of the program,” he said.

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.