There was a period of decline after John's death. But during the struggle, A. Everett 'Chick' Austin, Jr. was hired as the Director of the Art Museum. He opened the first Circus Museum utilizing various artifacts and memorabilia from the circus. He also constructed a separate theater building that was appointed with original decor from a theater located in Venice, Italy.
The settling of the Ringling's estate took decades. Private donors helped to keep the estate barely running. Finally, as recent as 2000, the state of Florida handed over governance of the museum to Florida State University. The University invested a considerable amount of money to restore the original buildings and built four more: a Visitor Pavilion; The Circus Museum Tibbals Learning Center; David F. Bolger Playspace; and the Center for Asian Art. The new buildings, combined with the four historic buildings - Ca' d'Zan; Museum of Art; Circus Museum; and the Historic Asolo Theater - make up The Ringling. For all the excitement and thrill the Ringling Circus brought to town, it can now be said The Ringling truly is "the greatest show on earth" preserving artworks from the world over and a tribute to the great circus era.
Museum of Art
Dubbed the State Art Museum of Florida, this 31-gallery Museum of Art is the premier destination in Sarasota. Artwork and antiquities, many handpicked by the Ringling's, are on display for the public's enjoyment. In fact the original 21 galleries are being systematically being renovated in order to showcase these marvelous works in new, inspiring ways. Aside from enjoying the many galleries, the Museum also offers special events. Check their website for current details. Permanent collection tours are available daily. Tickets are $10 each at the admission desk. Private tours can also be arranged. Prices start at $100; reservations must be made two weeks in advance.
The private home of John and Mable Ringling would be something directly out of the “palace floor plan magazine" if one existed. Designed in the Venetian Gothic style, this mansion has every beautiful thing imaginable. Large ornate rooms filled with priceless treasures and elaborate furnishings. Tours of the magnificent home are available at the admission desk.
Special events are held throughout the year as well. For example, during the annual Holiday Splendor, the Ca' d'Zan hosts Holiday Nights on Thursday through December. Visit the mansion all decked out for Christmas
The Ringling Museum of the American Circus was established by A. Everett "Chick" Austin Jr. The artifacts include wardrobes of the performers and a wide variety of circus memorabilia including props, carts, parade wagons, and so much more. Recently, the railcar, Wisconsin, has been fully restored and is available at the museum. This railcar was home to the Ringling's as they traveled with the circus. Entrance to the circus museum is included in the admission ticket to The Ringling. Sarasota, Florida: The Ringling - Photo: Steve Carroll/Fotolia
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