OUR ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT calendar is brimming with fun things to do year-round. We like to boast about our own Venice Symphony, drawing top performers from all over the world; and also about Venice Theatre, one of the largest community theaters in the country, staging its productions of such Broadway shows as Sister Act and Frost/Nixon this season.
For intellectual stimulation and provocative conversations, you can’t beat The Sarasota Institute for Lifetime Learning lecture series, featuring engaging speakers on subjects such as the Arctic and the “Vladimir Putin Phenomenon.” And with beautiful, breezy weather, we like to celebrate outdoors with events such as the Chalk Festival, which brings pavement artists from around the globe and thousands of visitors to the area.
Venetians love music and host myriad live music events throughout the year, from banjo playing at Snook Haven to the Suncoast BBQ and Bluegrass Bash. Bring a picnic to Centennial Park twice a month and enjoy free concerts in the gazebo courtesy of Venice MainStreet, our downtown civic and historical preservation organization. And speaking of history, it lives here at such venues as Historic Spanish Point and the Venice Museum & Archives.
For the visual arts, if you enjoy sculpting or painting or would like to learn how, the Venice Art Center and independent venues offer instruction and studio space for sculpture, watercolor and just about every other art medium. So the arts are not just for spectators here; they’re for the creators, too. Here’s a sampling of what’s on offer.
Frank Theater, Galleria Stadium 12, 2111 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, franktheatres.com
This movie complex features “Tightwad Tuesdays,” with $6 movies and $2.50 medium popcorn, all day (excludes IMAX). So popular you’ll have a hard time finding a spot in the parking lot, so arrive early.
Historic Spanish Point, 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, (941) 966-5214, historicspanishpoint.org
Donated by the family of socialite Bertha Palmer in 1980, Historic Spanish Point offers a 30-acre outdoor museum and environmental complex, where you can experience pioneer living on Little Sarasota Bay. There’s a pioneer cemetery, a chapel, a lush sunken garden and one of the largest butterfly gardens on the Gulf Coast.
Historic Venice Train Depot and Rollins W. Coakley Railroad Park, 303 E. Venice Ave., Venice
Built in 1927 and renovated in 2002-2003, the train depot was central to the founding and development of Venice. Volunteer docents from the Venice Historical Society provide free public tours of the depot and surrounding campus, which has a statue of Gunther Gebel-Williams, world-famous animal trainer and mega-star of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Sarasota Institute for Lifetime Learning lecture series
Jan. 5-March 25, sillsarasotaorg
The Institute, known as SILL, brings some of the world’s leading experts to the area to discuss international topics like “The Disunited United Kingdom.” Programs are held in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, too; in Venice they’re at the Venice Community Center, 326 S. Nokomis Ave.
Tito Gaona’s Flying Trapeze Academy, 1401 S. Ringling Drive, Venice, titogaona.com
Children and adults learn how to swing and catch on the trapeze with Tito, a member of the Flying Gaonas, a five-generation trapeze and circus family that has performed with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and with circuses across Europe and South America. Tito’s school is on the grounds of the former Venice Arena; you can take one or several lessons, making it a great special treat for visiting grandchildren.
Venice Art Center
390 Nokomis Ave. S., veniceartcenter.com, (941) 485-7136
Whether you are a professional, new to art or somewhere in between, the center is the gathering place for artists. Youth and adult classes include jewelry, ceramics, pottery, sculpture, drawing, watercolor and photography. Exhibits, receptions and competitions year-round. Purchase art in the gift shop and enjoy the Art Caffe Italian Eatery, one of Venice’s best-kept secrets for breakfast, lunch and early dinner.
Venice Chorale, Venice Performing Arts Center, 1 Indian Ave., thevenicechorale.org
Led by artistic director Peter Madpak, the chorale performs seasonally at the Venice Performing Arts Center and attracts some of the best regional voices. There’s also an apprentice program and a youth chorus.
Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave. S., (941) 861-5000
Regional concerts, flower shows, weddings, and expos are held at the 45,000 square-foot community center, managed by Sarasota County Parks and Recreation. The county plans some events and rents the facility out to private groups. Professional theatrical lighting and sound systems, commercial grade kitchen, 10,000-square foot ballroom. It’s also the city’s hardened hurricane shelter.
Venice Concert Band, Venice Performing Arts Center, 1 Indian Ave., veniceconcertband.org
The all-volunteer Venice band includes both amateur and professional musicians. The band plays marches, show tunes, classical compositions and soloists. Special concerts for Christmas and Veterans’ Day.
Venice Farmers Market, Saturday mornings, Tampa Avenue, between Nassau and Nokomis avenues, thevenicefarmersmarket.com
A great place to stroll, bike or walk, the market is centrally located downtown. You’ll find locally grown produce, homemade baked items, fresh seafood, plants, herbs, jewelry and art.
Venice Gallery & Studio of Clyde Butcher, 237 Warfield Ave., Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., (941) 486-0811, clydebutcher.com/galleries
Internationally known landscape photographer Clyde Butcher lives and displays in Venice in an industrial part of town that houses his 2,000 square-foot darkroom. Occasional shows and events held here.
Venice Museum & Archives, 351 S. Nassau St. (located in the historic Triangle Inn across from Blalock Park), (941) 486-2487
The museum collects, preserves and innovatively presents the area’s rich history. Exhibits change periodically. An exhibit on the Venice Vagabonds and hot rod racing during the 1950s and ’60s is featured this fall. Permanent exhibits include local fossils and the life of Dr. Fred Albee, a Venice founding father, physician and inventor, who performed the first bone graft.
Venice Performing Arts Center, on the campus of Venice High School, 1 Indian Ave.
The $15 million art center is the jewel of south Sarasota County, providing a state-of-the-art performance venue for the community to enjoy the Venice Symphony, band, chorale, Venice High musical and dramatic performances, and traveling professional productions. The center opened in 2014; it seats 1,062, has a Steinway grand piano, riser platforms, and a 2,000-square-foot stage.
Venice Performing Arts Center, 1 Indian Ave., (941) 207-2822, thevenicesymphony.org.
Our acclaimed symphony is so popular that its classical and pops concerts routinely sell out. Among the performances on the schedule this season: “Bernstein-Tchaikovsky-Brahms,” a violin concerto played by the world-renowned Joseph Swensen; and the popular sing-a-long “Holiday Favorites with The Venice Chorale.”
140 W. Tampa Ave, (941) 488-1115, venicestage.com
One of the largest and most acclaimed community theaters in the U.S., Venice Theatre is the year-round destination for musicals, comedies, contemporary plays and concerts. It has twice hosted the AACT WorldFest, a gathering of community theaters from around the globe, and offers adult and children’s acting classes and other programs. This season’s schedule includes The Sunshine Boys, Sister Act and Inherit the Wind. Season and individual tickets sold online.