SARASOTA — Anne-Marie Russell, founding executive director and curator of the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College, plans to step down March 1, 2021.
Russell joined Ringling College of Art and Design in 2015 with the goal of opening a world-class contemporary art museum as an integral part of the college, according to a press release. Her work built on a roughly 20-year effort by a group of people who envisioned a contemporary art museum in Sarasota. Russell was the college’s first employee dedicated to the new museum.
“It is with a mixture of gratitude and extreme sadness that we announce a change in leadership of the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College,” said Ringling College of Art and Design President Larry Thompson in the statement. “When we were able to secure the talents of this world-class star of the art world five years ago, we knew that there would come a time when Anne-Marie would move on to new opportunities. We are so grateful for the leadership she has provided to bring the Sarasota Art Museum to fruition."
Prior to Russell's arrival, the museum effort was spearheaded by Wendy Surkis, honorary life trustee of Ringling College, who undertook the effort to work with the college to raise funds, redesign the high school into a museum and foster a group of donors.
The museum's home is within former Sarasota High School buildings. An adaptive reuse renovation helped preserve aspects of the historic Sarasota High School building, a 60,000-square-foot 1926 Collegiate Gothic structure designed by M. Leo Elliott. An adjacent 20,000-square-foot Paul Rudolph building is also part of the museum.
As executive director, Russell worked with architects and leadership at the college to finish the renovation of the buildings, the release states. The museum opened in December 2019. In her role as curator, Russell conceived of exhibitions and educational program for the museum.
“Anne-Marie Russell has given us so much of her talent and expertise through her tireless efforts to deliver at its official opening this world-class Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College, and again when it reopened this fall after closing due to the global coronavirus pandemic,” says Thompson. “After adding this marvelous new jewel to the cultural crown of Sarasota, Florida, Anne-Marie understandably is ready to take time for a break and to consider new challenges for her future.”
Russell has agreed to remain involved with the Sarasota Art Museum, as a curatorial consultant and remain connected to the Museum Advisory Committee.
“It has been a profound honor for me to help realize the vision of the founders to create a new art museum," says Russell in the statement. "We have built a strong foundation for an important institution that will continue to serve, delight, and inspire generations to come. Building and leading the museum has been a pure joy for me, and I am looking forward to continuing to contribute to its success.”
The college will choose an executive search firm to conduct a national search for the next executive director. Ringling College Trustee Dean Eisner, who serves as chair of the Museum Advisory Board, will chair the search committee.
Ringling College of Art and Design is private, nonprofit college offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 11 disciplines and a Bachelor of Arts in two.