New Executive Director of Art Center Sarasota emphasizes collaboration and community impact as a way forward.
SRQ Review | November 2021
In Visual Arts
Meet the new Executive Director of Art Center Sarasota, Kinsey Robb. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan
Fresh out of New York’s “mega-galleries”, Kinsey Robb left the Big Apple with the pandemic in full swing, in search of sandy beaches and the relative sanity that a change of scenery could offer. A few months later, remote working gave way to full offshoring and now Robb finds herself the last executive director of one of Sarasota’s oldest creative nonprofits, Sarasota Art Center. SRQ took a moment to talk about the importance of community, the Sarasota special draw, and the power of the jury show.
SRQ: How does it feel to be back in a gallery space?
Kinsey Robb: Appreciation of art is something I really didn’t realize I took for granted until the pandemic. The physicality of being able to sit in front of a work of art has been removed. Closed museums. The galleries have closed. I am so grateful that we now have the opportunity to sit in front of a work of art instead of seeing it on a computer screen, to be able to get up close and to have a real interaction with a work that could provoke a feeling of a kind of exchange between you and this work of art, the artist. Art is a wonderful gift, and we have been deprived of it for too long.
SRQ: Why is it an exciting time to join Art Center Sarasota?
Robb outside the Art Center Sarasota with a structure designed by Carl Abbott. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan
Robb: The Bay Project is happening right now, and we are sitting on the 53 acres of what is going to be an incredible waterfront park for the people of Sarasota to enjoy. There is a huge opportunity. We are an artistic organization that will now be surrounded by this beautiful environment. It’s very inspiring for us and it’s even more inspiring for the teachers who come here to give these art classes. We can now have visual examples in our backyard. Instead of a parking lot, people can look at a mangrove trail and a kayak launch pad and all that wonderful stuff.
SRQ: How do you talk about the differences between an art center and a commercial gallery space? ‘
Robb: I’ve worked in very large commercial galleries â they call them mega-galleries. It’s almost like when banks are too big to fail. It’s the equivalent of that but in the art world. You have this opportunity to learn a lot about how to work with established artists, how to work with museums, how to work with curators, with collectors. There is an impact there, but there is something completely different about the impact you can have in a community.
SRQ: Different how?
Robb: Sarasota is a city, but remains a fairly small network where everyone is very up to date with what’s going on in the city. In New York, we sometimes lose that because it’s so big. Art Center Sarasota has this ability to create a meaningful impact within the community that is recognized by the community as a whole. Being able to forge partnerships with organizations here, with companies here, with artists here? It creates a real sense of community. I sometimes think this is Sarasota’s hidden gem.
SRQ: How do you reconcile financial concerns with the creative mission of the Center?
Robb: You have your mission and you still want to uphold the value and integrity of an organization’s mission. Then you have the other side of that, which is creating a support system so that this mission can be sustainable over time. For Art Center Sarasota, the areas that need more development are fundraising capabilities and visibility. Many people do not know the Art Center, even though we have been around for almost 100 years.
SRQ: Talk about hidden gems. . .
707 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 941-365-2032, artsarasota.org
Robb: A lot of people don’t even realize that you can buy some artwork at the Art Center as well. And it’s something that puts us in a different position than a museum, where the work is not for sale, or a gallery, where the work may be for sale but you don’t. maybe not the budget for it. We have works that cost a few hundred dollars, and we have a few that cost a few thousand dollars. That makes it exciting, and it really offers something for everyone.
SRQ: Is it the role of the community art center, to have something for everyone?
Robb: It is part of our mission as a community space. Sometimes art can stand in this kind of pretentious bubble. It can be very intimidating. But we are an organization that is not intimidating. We love to play with everyone. We love to have fun here. We love to encourage artists at all levels. If you would like to register for one of the courses, register for a course. If you want to submit your work for a jury exhibition, great. This is something very important about the Art Center, and something that I would never want to change, because it really serves the people here.
SRQ: What partnerships are you excited about this year?
Robb: Andy Sandberg from The Hermitage Artist Retreat and I worked on developing a series. We’re creating a sort of back-and-forth program where Art Center Sarasota will host artist talks and dialogue with the residents of the Hermitage, and then, on the other hand, we’ll bring some of our artists to the Hermitage. for interviews. I am also looking forward to an upcoming jury exhibition which will run from late January to early March, in collaboration with Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative. They don’t have the exhibition space, but we do. There is strength in unity when organizations unite.