Circus Museum Grows With Tibbals Learning Center Expansion In Sarasota

Construction is scheduled to begin in March on a $7.5-million expansion of the Tibbals Learning Center at the Circus Museum on the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new 20,000-square-feet wing took place in late January, and the new facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2011. The Learning Center will remain open to the public while construction is ongoing.

The Tibbals Learning Center, named for philanthropist Howard Tibbals, is home to what is billed as the largest model circus in the world. The model was built by Tibbals, a long-time circus enthusiast who also made a $4 million donation toward the cost of the expansion.

John Ringling moved the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to Sarasota in 1927, giving the Tampa Bay region a historical tie to the circus world.

Circus Museum curator Deborah Walk says about half of the new space will be used for storage of circus artifacts. Much of the space will be used to pay homage to the people who helped make the Ringling family circus empire such a 20th century success story.

"It's really going to drill down and focus on the history of the performer and the incredible acts that were the hallmark of the circus," says Walk. "The museum gives a wonderful insight into how John and his brother made a lot of money and created an entertainment empire that still exists today, but it gives prominence to circus people and how they have enriched the area."

Writer: Carter Gaddis
Source: Deborah Walk, the Circus Museum

Read more articles by Carter Gaddis.

Carter Gaddis is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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