Sarasota's newest art museum offers a free dose of whimsy

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SARASOTA - There are now seven museums along the Tamiami Trail in Sarasota County. Most have been here a long time, but there's a new kid in town. It's called the Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy.

Important things to note about the museum: admission is free, and they're not trying to sell you anything. In fact, there's nothing for sale.

Future plans call for a garden cafe and a gift shop out back, but right now there's nothing you can buy. The intention of the founder is to freely give you something of great value.

It’s the creation of Marietta Lee. She's an artist who attended Ringling College of Art and Design, a nurse, and a long time care giver to her parents.

The museum was a long-time dream of hers. "It’s a place to enjoy the art. When I went to some of these other very important museums I would see a roll of baling wire in the corner, or I would see what looked like maybe elephant poop in a corner. And this was elevated to the area of art. And I said ‘you know, I just don't get it’."

She wanted her museum to be different; half the artists are men, half are women, all are fine artists. Their creations are eclectic, using many different art styles, but each with one thing in common. "People come in, they feel grumpy, they’re worried about this, they’re worried about that….and this just hits the delete key. You kind of start all over again and people start smiling. We rarely have people, if they spend a little time here, go out grumpy."

Sharon Greenwald, first a museum volunteer and now administrative assistant, says she walked in one day out of curiosity and was amazed at what she found. "A museum that has eclectic art, that is creative, and it is a museum that demands a response which is usually a smile or a giggle."

Even the museum bath rooms are full of art, with little touches to make you smile. Out back are wonderful gardens filled with flowers, plants and sculptures. Next door, Marietta bought an old motel, tore it down, and created a parking lot and sculpture garden.

All of this was paid for by Marietta and private donations. "I just absolutely love Sarasota. And I though at some point in my life I'd like to give something back in some way. And so it’s taken kind of a journey, but this is it. This is my gift to Sarasota."

The Mariette Museum of Art & Whimsy is only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays from 1pm to 4pm. It’s located at 2121 North Tamiami Trail, just north of Whitaker Bayou.