Category Archives: Sarasota

Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the second post in a 3-part series about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. 

My first post on the Ringling Museum was about the spectacular Beyond Bling show. But the museum has tons more to offer! I think it must be fairly unique in that it has a well-stocked traditional art museum, a circus museum, gardens, and a historic home on the same property. I’ll cover the art and circus museum in this post, followed by a post about the home and gardens next week.

John Ringling, of course, was an owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus. The winter quarters for the circus was at one time in the Sarasota, Florida area and Mr. Ringling and his wife eventually made it their home. He had some fabulous art pieces, so he wanted his own museum to showcase them. After his death,  he bequeathed the art museum he had built to the state of Florida. Thus, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art was born. For more information about this, visit

Today, the Ringling Museum houses wonderful paintings by Rubens, van Dyck,  El Greco, and other artists. In addition, there are sculptures and other priceless items such as furniture and vases on display. The Museum also features traveling exhibitions that span many time periods and subjects.

The Circus Museum was created in 1948 and touts itself as the first museum of its type in the United States. On display you’ll find costumes, posters, tools, wagons, memorabilia, and more. I always enjoy the large display of circus posters. It’s fun to see how they changed over the years. The exhibits also pay respect to many of the important clowns and performers, like Emmett Kelly, and there is a planned expansion in Fall 2011 that will showcase them even more. One of the other popular parts of the Circus Museum is the The Howard Bros. Circus Model. This is lots of fun–very musical and magical.

Something I don’t recall seeing is the private Ringling railroad car on display. Sounds like I need to plan a visit this fall when the expansion opens to see all the new sites!


Filed under Family travel, Our Town, Sarasota, Travel

Beyond Bling at Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the first post in a 3-part series about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. 

The Ringling Museum is another one of those places I’ve been to a lot. I went there for field trips in school and then my family and I started going on Monday holidays (since there is free admission on Mondays to the art museum). I wanted to write a series about this historical place since it’s such an important attraction in our area. I should probably start with a post that talks about the Museum in general, but I can’t stop myself from first writing about the new exhibit, Beyond Bling. This  is a big change from the usual exhibits of wonderful paintings and sculptures from the past.

In a word, the atmosphere is electrifying. I’ve never been so interested in seeing a particular show at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art before. They really step out of their comfort zone with this one and I think it’s worth it. The art, the movie, the books, the music…it all gels into a total experience. The art is bright and shiny (literally since a lot of it has rhinestones or something similar in it). They have iPods you can use to listen to rap music while you see the exhibit–three different playlists to choose from too, I believe. At the end they have a movie and lots of books to look through. It’s a media explosion!

The hip-hop culture really comes alive for visitors through the art and its descriptions. I love the piece of the speakers with rhinestones, where the description says the artist is trying to convey something that is visually loud. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. It’s really powerful.

The movie is from the beginning of the hip-hop movement and definitely gives you an inside look at what the youths were doing to express themselves. There’s one part where they talk about graffiti being a way to play a game–who can do something faster, higher-up, bigger. Then there’s this part about how the graffiti is personal and tells a story. I thought the break dancing scenes were pretty nifty too.

In researching this post, I came across the Facebook page for the event. I think the page, along with the subject of the exhibit, really shows how the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is evolving. Beyond Bling is a terrific way for the Ringling Museum to mix the old and the new–it creates a little something for everyone. It runs through August 14th.

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Historic Spanish Point, Osprey, Florida

This weekend I visited Historic Spanish Point in Osprey, Florida. Having grown up in this area, it’s not the first time. I must say though, this was one of the best visits. They have improved the site and their brand dramatically. The website is terrific and really makes you want to visit:

Once we got to the site we stopped off at the Visitor’s Center, where the friendly staff gave us a gorgeous map and told us about the tour starting soon. We then drove down to the beginning of the attraction. On the drive, I read about the four P’s at the site. (I think this is the best thing they have going now—it really cements the idea of the site and the way they have organized it makes lots of sense.) They have divided the site into four P’s: Prehistoric, Pioneer, Palmer, and Plants. This cohesive idea resonates on the maps, in the signage, and I’d assume on the tours. I’ve been there many times, but this time I felt like the P’s concept gave me a firm idea to grasp about what was going on at this historic place and why it was so important to the area. As you go along, you find out what all the P’s mean.

You can go two different ways once you get there. We opted not to take the tour this time and started on our way toward the Guptill House, part of the Pioneer section. This house has a gorgeous view and is staffed by a knowledgeable guide. Before you get there you run across the butterfly garden, one of the Plants sections of the four P’s. It touts itself as one of the largest in Florida and we saw lots of gorgeous butterflies. Spanish Point is great for plant lovers. We visited the aqueduct and the jungle walk in this area also. Down here you also see one of the prehistoric middens that gets explained more later. The Webb packing house is pretty cool–gives you a great sense of how orange grove commerce ran back then.

The Prehistoric section of the site was next. You actually step into the middle of a shell midden!!! How cool is that? They have a great video and display about the life of the early people in the area that is a must-see.

Moving on, we visited the Palmer part of the four P’s. Bertha Palmer is legendary in this part of Florida. The house is a museum and display area that really illustrates all she did for the area and how important she was.

We finished up our tour at Mary’s Chapel which is so quaint and has a really peaceful feel to it. You can walk around inside and visit the cemetery located right outside of it.

Historic Spanish Point is a gem of an attraction and perfect for families. It is a little warm there in the summer though, so stock up on water. Take your time traveling through, as there are some beautiful views to experience from the shade!

Historic Spanish Point made this video for YouTube:

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Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

So Siesta Beach was voted America’s best beach by Dr. Beach!! Here’s the link to the article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

I feel so blessed to be so close to such a beautiful area, with the whitest sand you’ll ever see. Having grown up here–it was a bit of a disappointment to go to other beaches. The sand was always so brown and coarse. There’s no excuse now…you have to visit Sarasota!! You won’t believe the sand.


Filed under Beach, Family travel, Our Town, Sarasota, Travel

Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a fun and unique place to visit. It’s situated along Sarasota Bay in Sarasota, Florida.

The entire property is awash with color. The flowers are gorgeous and it’s hard not to take a picture of each blossom. One of the first stops is the Display House, where they showcase unique and sensitive species. Then you stroll along the pathways where you see other exotic and native species of plants. It’s a nice mix of flowers, views of the water, and lush grass. I think one of the best parts of the gardens is near the water. It’s a lovely spot to relax with warm sun and cool breezes.

It seems to me that they’ve changed the layout and design of the gardens somewhat since my last visit. I noticed a lot more decoration and embellishment this time. They have lovely sculptures and ornamental decor like bells and fountains now. The children’s canopy was neat–you felt like the trees enveloped you. The koi pond was pretty cool–it was so popular I couldn’t even get close because everyone was feeding these ravenous fish. It was really quite incredible, as I’ve never seen such active fish before. The banyan trees are always beautiful and are fun for pictures. I have to say the highlight for me was the tea shop, Local Coffee and Tea.

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Guest Post: Do you need a publishing degree to work in publishing?

No—but there’s no denying it helps. What does a master’s degree in publishing teach you and how useful is it?

I was lucky enough to first experience the publishing industry at Pineapple Press, where I found that I wanted to learn more about it through a master’s degree in publishing. I ultimately decided to get my publishing degree at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom, but no matter where you get your degree, the publishing industry is very similar on both sides of the Atlantic. (One of the big differences, though, is in production—paper is measured in grams and books in millimeters which, for this American, takes some getting used to!)

At Oxford Brookes, the publishing degree has four major courses:


The editing module covers the basics: learning the editing marks; learning how to edit on-screen; and the role of the editor in the publishing process. For me, our editing class wasn’t too useful as I already obtained many of the skills in my time at Pineapple Press and had no interest in becoming a full-time editor; for others, it may be among the most beneficial classes on a publishing course.

Design and Production

Design and production are a half-semester each, with the design half focusing on learning how to use Adobe InDesign through designing a cookbook. The production half covered how to put a book together—things like binding, paper weight, and a fair amount of math—and what’s suitable for certain situations, such as publishing academic monographs or trade paperbacks. I’ve been surprised by how helpful my production seminar has been; knowing how to correctly produce printed materials has been a very useful skill in my subsequent jobs.


The marketing module not only teaches marketing in publishing, but general marketing tips and tricks. For someone who majored in medieval history as an undergraduate, it’s been incredibly useful to know how to do a SWOT analysis, marketing plan, and how to identify a target market. This class, along with New Product Development, was the most beneficial class on the course for me.

New Product Development

This class was specific to my degree program; other publishing degrees don’t typically require it. We were assigned to teams of 7 or 8 students and were responsible for creating a publishing proposal which was presented to the entire course at the end of the semester. From accounting to website design, we had to learn it all and I think it’s a good thing that my program taught us the business side of publishing, as it’s a business just like any other.

We were also required to take two electives in our second semester: mine were Rights Management and Publishing & Language Issues. All of this coursework led to our master’s thesis or final project, which was the culmination of our degree. (By the way, if you need to know anything about state-sponsored publishing in endangered languages, I’m your girl.)

So, what did I do with my degree? I ended up working at Oxford University Press UK, helping to market their scholarly reference materials and online resources, which was a great experience. Though I’ve since moved back to the US and taken some time out of the industry, I would still say that the skills I learned while doing my publishing degree have been very helpful in my career. I met someone just the other day who also has a publishing degree; both of us agreed that many of the things you learn are easily transferable to other jobs and other industries, such as developing a product from the ground up, the new frontiers of digital media, or learning to think creatively in a creative industry.

If you’re thinking about a publishing career, look into some of the programs either state-side or further afield, like Columbia, University of Denver, or Rosemont. Networking is a skill you need in publishing and by getting a degree, you’ll learn the skills needed to get into the industry and meet some great, passionate people while doing it. And who knows where you can go from there?

Caitlyn Miller is a 2008 graduate of Oxford Brookes University’s publishing program. She is currently the Center for Career Education & Off-Campus Study Assistant at New College of Florida and a freelance writer and media strategist. She can be reached via email at or on Twitter at @NewCollegeCCE.


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