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The cultural capital of Southwest Florida, Sarasota is a mecca for artists, musicians, writers and patrons of the arts. The county’s cultural attractions put those of much larger cities to shame with two symphonies, an opera house, a world-class ballet company, numerous playhouses and a plethora of art galleries.

John and Mable Ringling bequeathed to Sarasotans, among other things, one of the most beautiful museums in the United States, with a collection recognized internationally for its Baroque paintings, including John Paul Rubens’ Triumph of the Eucharist series. When the state took over the gift in 1948, it added the exquisite 18th century Asolo Theater from Asolo, Italy, and the Ringling Museum of the Circus.

Part of the Ringlings’ generous gift was an impressive array of objects d’art, circus memorabilia, and the palace Ca’d’Zan (House of John), their winter residence, whose garden and extensive grounds overlook Sarasota Bay.

Sarasota is not only home to nearly four times as many performing artists as any other part of Florida, but stage actors from around the globe come to train at the Asolo Theater Festival, while the Ringling School of Art and Design turns out numerous sculptors and painters.

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