Visitors arriving at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, located along the Tamiami Trail at the northern edge of Sarasota County known as the North Trail, see a less than flattering portrait of the city as they drive south into the city of Sarasota.
“For many years, the North Trail conversation has dragged on, but the bottom line is that the space that lies between the airport, the Ringling [art museum and college] complex, and downtown Sarasota is simply not a very inviting front door to the city,” says Jim Shirley, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota
, sponsor of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership (NTRP).
The NTRP is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the sustainable redevelopment of Sarasota’s “front door” through urban renewal and the creation of affordable live-work artist spaces.
In the first week of April, the North Trail took its first steps in its journey toward the artistic rebirth envisioned by the NTRP with a visit by consultants Wendy Holmes and Stacey Mickelson of Artspace
, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization.
“Artspace is the largest, and really, the only organization that does what they do in this country -- which is to focus on the development of live-work environments for artists that can be used to rekindle areas of communities that need to be re-vitalized,’’ Shirley says. “They are involved in 35 projects throughout the country and have a more than 30-year track record.”
Led by Artist and Historical Preservationist Veronica Morgan, the NTRP raised the $15,000 required for an Artspace consultation, which included tours of Sarasota’s arts community and two days of workshops that connected artists, civic leaders and the financial community with Artspace consultants.
“The goal was to allow the Artspace team to get a more in-depth look at Sarasota, specifically focusing on the North Trail, and to allow us, the community, to learn more about Artspace and see if it would make sense for us,’’ Shirley says. “I believe that we had overall a very successful evening, and the indication from Artspace is that they felt the same.”
In early June, Artspace will provide the NTRP with an executive summary of their findings and recommendations. Shirley says that if the organizations choose to move forward with a project in Sarasota, the next phase would include a $42,000 survey of the entire county, and that the revitilization project would commence in approximately 3-5 years.
“Virtually everyone in the community knows how important the arts are here, and we’ve seen what the arts can do in communities that make a commitment to them,” Shirley says. “If we could possibly use the arts to help generate the re-vitilization of the North Trail, it would be ‘the Sarasota thing to do.’ ”
Source: Jim Shirley, Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota