Work starting next month to convert former high school to art museum

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SARASOTA, Fla. --When it was time to decide what to do with the historic 1926 Sarasota High School building, Wendy Surkis of Siesta Key is credited with making it all happen.

"The community needed visual arts, they were yearning for more in the visual arts, so we were the cheerleaders that said let's bring it to life in Sarasota," she said.

But bringing the Sarasota Museum of Arts to life--wouldn't be cheap.  Since classes began being phased out nearly 20 years ago, the building has slipped.  However in the last ten years, Surkis worked with the Ringling College of Art and Design to raise $22 million in the community.

Of the 60, 000 square feet, a third of that--the middle floor--will be used for art exhibits. The first and third floors will be for art education.

Ringling College President Larry Thompson said three different groups helped raise the $22 million, money that he says shows how much this community values the arts.

"There are a lot of people here who love modern contemporary art, others wanted to make certain we saved the high school, and others are passionate about art education and that's the three things that will be going on in the renovation of this building," Thompson said.

Starting next month work will begin on the outside of this building, and if all stays on plan by January 2016, the Sarasota Museum of Art will be open for business.