Arts Alliance of Sarasota County

Did you know that the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County the only organization in Sarasota County working daily to promote every discipline in the arts?

Did you know the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County:

  • Provides advocacy support for area arts and cultural organizations and individual artists. We also advocate for local, regional, state, and national funding.
  • Provides funding through Tourist Development Cultural/Arts, John Ringling Towers Fund, and Opportunity grant programs.
  • Provides programming and advocacy for arts in education and arts in healthcare. We also produce community cultural events and facilitate local initiatives.
  • Conducts countywide Arts and Cultural Economic Impact Studies.

Join today and have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to sustain and grow arts and cultures in Sarasota County! CLICK HERE to become a member!


The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County (formerly Sarasota County Arts Council) was founded in 1986 by Senator Bob Johnson and a group of committed citizens within Sarasota County.

In 1988, our role as an arts advocate was initiated with the issue of the tourist development tax. The council lobbied to have a portion of the hotel bed tax distributed to arts and cultural institutions, and took on the responsibility of administering this tax, known as Tourist Development/Cultural Arts Grants (TDC).

The following year, the Arts Education Task Force (AETF) was initiated as a standing committee of the Arts Council.  Made up of education directors from local arts organizations, teachers and committed citizens, this committee is still going strong and has become a major force behind advocacy for arts education. The AETF meets monthly and provides the opportunity for the arts community to support K-12 arts education in a unified manner.  It also provides the opportunity for arts organizations and teaching artists to network to increase and improve their offerings in schools.  The annual Principals’ Luncheon hosted by the AETF for over 15 years showcases the achievements in arts education at each school for the past year, and provides a platform for advocacy directly to the school district’s leaders by our community arts education leaders.

1990 marked the inaugural year of Arts Day, a one-day festival celebrating the arts and culture that Sarasota County offers.  Arts Day became a highly anticipated cultural event in Sarasota County, annually drawing more than 30,000 local community members and visitors to downtown Sarasota.

In 1991 the Cultural Tourism Roundtable forum was developed to enable representatives from local arts and cultural organizations and those from the hotel and accommodation industry to meet and discuss issues pertinent to Sarasota County’s tourism industry.

The Community/Schools Partnership for the Arts (C/SPA) was created in 1996.  Comprised of leaders in the school district and in the local arts community, C/SPA serves as an official advisory committee to the superintendent of schools.

2004 marked a year of major achievements: three grant-making programs were initiated: State of the Arts Opportunity Grants, John Ringling Towers Fund Individual Artist Fellowships, and John Ringling Towers Fund Historic Preservation Grants. These grants serve small non-profits and individual artists not eligible for Tourist Development Grants. The Arts Council/Arts and Cultural Alliance, also administers the Tourist Development Grant program ensuring that funds from the Tourist Development Tax are distributed fairly to Arts and Cultural non-profits in Sarasota County.

In 2009, Jim Shirley was hired as Executive Director and has worked tirelessly to infuse a renewed sense of community and commitment to growth of Sarasota’s arts and cultural organizations. Under his leadership, four new programs were implemented: Sarasota Culture Collective, EdExploreSRQ, Sarasota Keys and InspireSarasota!

Sarasota Culture Collective is a unique opportunity for area next generation audiences, ages 21-39, to sample the arts and network with each other at an affordable price.

Sarasota Keys engaged local artists to create works of art on reclaimed spinet pianos. These unique works of art were placed in public areas for the public play and enjoy. With the combination of local businesses, local artists, and local arts organizations, the Sarasota Keys enlivens downtown Sarasota area through the combined efforts of local businesses, artists, arts organizations, and the public.

EdExploreSRQ was created in partnership with the Sarasota County Schools, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Science and Environment Council of Sarasota County, and the Patterson Foundation. is an online resource that supports the needs of K-12 teachers by providing centralized access to explorations, such as field trips and classroom resources, and curricular support offered by area arts, science and history organizations for students. The explorations align to state instructional standards, thereby ensuring that the programs help students learn the content they are expected to master during the school year. The website allows teachers to search for explorations by criteria such as grade level, subject matter or benchmarks, and to find possible sources of funding for student participation.

InspireSarasota! was initiated in 2015 as a public celebration of the arts, culture and creativity that shape Sarasota County’s unique identity. The two-week celebration culminates in a day of activities and performances for the public.

To learn more about the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota or to become a member please visit: