|Ringling students, faculty, and staff toured sites from the history of African American struggles and accomplishments throughout Sarasota.|
|SARASOTA, Fla. (September 21, 2023) – Ringling College of Art and Design’s INDEX (Industry Experience) Center hosted a group of 37 for a historical bus tour of local landmarks from the history of African American settlements and struggles in Sarasota that ended in the College’s Newtown neighborhood on September 13. The guided tour was led by community scholar Walter Gilbert, President and CEO of the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition and Founder of Newtown Alive Vickie Oldham, and Marvelettes singer Brenda Watty. The tour was offered as part of the INDEX course, Newtown History Book, an eight-student class taught by Creative Writing faculty Rick Dakan and Fine Art faculty Nathan Skiles. The class was joined by other members of the Ringling community—students, faculty, and staff, all received an open invitation. |
The tour began with a stop at Lido Beach to view a mural by Ringling College Galleries Director Tim Jaeger, depicting the caravan protests that led to beach integration in Sarasota and the surrounding areas and a marker that offers more details from that history. The markers and mural are part of a large project to bring those stories into the larger narrative of Sarasota.
The product of the Newtown History Book class will detail the history of the racial struggle for beach integration that took throughout Sarasota County in the 1950s and 1960s. Students from Ringling College’s INDEX program will lead the project in partnership with Newtown Alive, a larger conservation project organized by Oldham. The class will produce a 48-plus-page book.
Dakan said, “Every time I take this tour with students they come away moved and ready to share these powerful stories of our shared history. It was vital for our diverse groups of illustrators, designers, and writers to see these historic sites for themselves and open themselves up to letting the lived history inspire them as they begin work on their book.”
This project is a follow-up to a juried exhibition that took place in Fall 2022, in which students produced artworks on one of three topics from local history, chosen by Oldham and Gilbert as community partners for the exhibition. The chosen topics covered the school boycott of 1968, the struggle for beach integration, and the fight for single-member district voting that would allow African American voters in Sarasota to vote and have their votes recognized, which also led to the election of the first African American elected official Fred Atkins.
Also that year, INDEX organized a group of students to assist in the relocation and reimagining of the historic Leonard Reid Home, which was also the last stop on the tour. The house was originally located in Overtown, the first African American community in Sarasota, and what is now known as the Rosemary District. The home belonged to Leonard Reid, a pioneering member of the community as a successful businessman, church founder, education advocate, and community leader. The house was relocated to the corner of Orange Ave. and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, just blocks from Ringling’s campus, where it is being transformed into an African American history and cultural center. The massive project was contributed to by INDEX students who documented the move and transformation, and designed the layout and exhibition displays for the center.
Ringling College of Art and Design’s INDEX Center represents the College’s mission to offer real-world experiential learning projects to all Ringling students throughout their academic journey. INDEX connects students to industry challenges in an effort to strengthen their resumes, enhance their portfolios, and realistically prepare them for a professional career in the arts.
About Ringling College of Art and DesignSince 1931, Ringling College of Art and Design has cultivated the creative spirit in students from around the globe. The private, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offers the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in eleven disciplines and the Bachelor of Arts in two. The College’s rigorous curriculum employs the studio model of teaching and immediately engages students through a comprehensive program that is both specific to the major of study and focused on the liberal arts. The Ringling College teaching model ultimately shapes students into highly employable and globally aware artists and designers. For more information visit www.ringling.edu and follow the College on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.