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5 Awesome Arts & Culture Nonprofits

Enriching South Sarasota County and Beyond with Beauty, Conservation, History, Arts & Music, starting with The Venice Symphony

The Venice Symphony is celebrating an amazing 49 seasons as South County’s only professional orchestra. Led by music director/conductor Troy Quinn, performances run November-April at the Venice Performing Arts Center. The Symphony also fosters young talent through its Youth Orchestra. For information and tickets, visit thevenicesymphony.org or call 941.207.8822.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat

The pristine, nine-acre beach campus of Englewood's Hermitage Artist Retreat is not just one of the Gulf Coast’s most beautiful and historic places. Nor is it simply a world-class incubator for diverse and original works across all artistic mediums.

It’s also one of the only places in the world where an audience can attend 50+ live, free (with $5 processing free), truly new performances of theater, music, visual art, literature, dance, and film annually. 

Many of these events are hosted on The Hermitage’s lawn or beach, just 20 minutes south of Venice. Others are held throughout Sarasota County in partnership with some of the most impactful arts, education, and philanthropic organizations in the region. 

These aren’t rehearsed performances: they showcase artists who are still in process with their work, explains artistic director/CEO Andy Sandberg. “We can promise an amazing hour, with the chance to interact with the artist, and to see something that may go on to renowned theaters, concert halls, and galleries throughout the world,” he adds. For more information on events, donations, or volunteering visit hermitageartistretreat.org.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Historic Spanish Point

In an amazing example of the past meeting the future, Historic Spanish Point is currently hosting an expansive, outdoor exhibition of artworks created with augmented reality technology. “Seeing the Invisible: An Augmented Reality Contemporary Art Exhibit” features 12+ international artists’ creations. The exhibition, which runs through September 2023, is the first of its kind to be developed as a collaboration among botanical gardens around the world.

As visitors' heads move in the virtual their feet will walking on top of the past - Spanish Point's 30-acre campus on Little Sarasota Bay in Osprey contains an archeological record that dates back to 300 A.D. There's also a prehistoric shell mound, and a museum housed in a turn-of-the-century pioneer homestead.

Also IRL at Spanish Point are its founder’s (Bertha Palmer) beautiful and preserved cultivated gardens, plus one of the largest waterfront preserves showcasing native Florida plants in the state. To learn more visit selby.org/hsp.

The Conservation Foundation

Osprey’s Conservation Foundation’s mission is to protect the land and water in Southwest Florida for the benefit of people and nature. To date it has, amazingly, safeguarded 19,100 acres across 54 properties – from ranchlands to shorelines – in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier Counties, and surrounding areas. Locally that includes the 5,777-acre Orange Hammock Ranch, Venice’s Michael Biehl Park, and the conservation areas of Casey Key and Walton Ranch. It also partners with VABI (see below) on the Venice Urban Forest project. Situated on Bay Preserve, visitors are welcome to kayak, fish, and frolic. Learn more at conservationfoundation.com

Venice Area Beautification Inc. (VABI)

VABI’s mission is to develop timeless projects that make Venice a beautiful place to live, work, and play. Over its 31 years, the nonprofit has done a wildly diverse and incredible job. Initiatives include Venice In Bloom, Venetian Waterway Park, Venice Urban Forest, Public Art Projects, The Arboretum, VABI Memorials, Team Keep Venice Beautiful, Holiday Tree Lighting, and Boat Bash. What’s even more amazing is that the work is accomplished by volunteer-supported teams and board members. To learn more, donate or volunteer go to vabi.org.

  • Refik Anadol’s Machine Hallucinations/Nature Dreams AR, 2021, at Spanish Point’s “Seeing the Invisible” Exhibition.
  • Pamela Rosenkranz’s Anamazon (Limb), 2021, at Spanish Point’s “Seeing the Invisible” Exhibition.
  • The Conservation Foundation’s initiative, Youth in Nature, at the Laurel Civic Center Garden. Photography by Kerri Gagne Photography.
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  • Guests at one of the Hermitage's Beachside Programs.
  • Multi-disciplinary Artist and Hermitage Fellow Anne Patterson's 2022 Event, "Scale and Beauty," was presented in partnership with Sarasota Art Museum.
  • VABI's Venice In Bloom in action.
  • The mural “Healing in the Enchanted Garden,” painted by Joseph Barron, is located on Founder’s Way at the Green Parrot Restaurant.
  • The Venice Symphony as viewed from the catwalk.
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  • Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Water Serpent, 2021, at Spanish Point’s “Seeing the Invisible” Exhibition.