Built in 1926, in the Collegiate-Gothic style, the "new" Sarasota High replaced a high school on Main Street. The predominent Florida architect, M. Leo Elliott, designed this building, as well as Bay Haven, Southside and Osprey elementary schools.
The 57-thousand-square-foot building was constructed at a cost of 317 thousand dollars. (If only we could make our 2008 dollars stretch that far with the budget challenges we face right now…)
Students from seventh through twelfth grade started classes here in the fall of 1927. Additional buildings were constructed over the years and land was added to the campus as the school population grew.
In 1996, almost 70 years after the doors of this building first opened, students began to move out, and its future was uncertain. But a number of people in the community felt strongly that this building had a future as well as a past. More importantly, several dedicated citizens were willing to work hard on a number of fronts to secure a new life for old Sarasota High.
Fast-forward to 2002, the start of a two-year process of community involvement and consensus-building known as the Sarasota High School New Life Initiative. Funders of the New Life Initiative included the School Board, the City of Sarasota, Sarasota County, the Selby Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and private donors. More than 200 potential uses of the historic building were considered.
In October 2004, the School Board voted to lease the historic Sarasota High School to Ringling College of Art and Design for an adaptive re-use of the facility as the Visual Arts Education Center and the Sarasota Museum of Art.
The School Board stipulated that any reuse of the building would include the preservation of its defining characteristics. Since that time, the school district has continued to maintain the building and, thanks to a 350-thousand-dollar grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources, has restored various architectural elements of the building.
The grant funded the construction of an accessible entrance to the building to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the removal of barriers to mobility into classrooms on the first floor, and the opening and restoration of four loggias (LO-jaz) — covered walkways with exterior arches — in the back of the building’s first and second floors.