Press Releases

2011 Press Releases

Show All


October 19, 2011

Samuel Lowry, Communications Officer


(941) 328-1322





Sarasota, FL –  Denise Kowal, Founder of the Sarasota Chalk Festival, Virginia Haley, CEO and President of the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Susan Danis, Executive Director of Sarasota Opera, assembled at the Sarasota Opera House yesterday, to announce that the 2011 International Sarasota Chalk Festival will continue as planned thanks to the last minute intervention of the SCVB and explain further about the innovative collaboration between the Chalk Festival and Sarasota Opera. 


Virginia Haley opened the press conference by explaining how the SCVB became involved.  Due to stricter regulations put in place by the Sarasota City Council for granting community redevelopment agency grants, $25,000 of funding previously pre-approved for the Chalk Festival was removed leaving the fate of the Chalk Festival at risk.  Ms. Haley approached the city with the idea of the SCVB serving as the fiscal agent for the festival.  “We went to the city with this crazy idea and they turned around in about two to three hours with a yes”, Ms. Haley explained. 


Denise Kowal expressed her thanks to Ms. Haley and the SCVB saying, “The logistics of the festival are very complicated.  What the SCVB has done is allow us to focus on what we do best; work with the artists.”


She went on to explain the economic impact is expected to double in size from last year.  In 2010, 80,000 people attended the event, artists occupied approximately 200 hotel rooms and the SCVB estimated an economic impact of over $3,000,000.  This year, the Chalk Festival has over 400 hotel rooms reserved and are still working to place 25 artists.  The attendance for 2011 is expected to exceed 100,000 people.


Sarasota Opera, as part of their fall 2011 production of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, is honored to partner with the 4th Annual Sarasota Chalk Festival for a unique and special collaboration on November 6, 2011  The Sarasota Chalk Festival and Sarasota Opera will present scenes from Madama Butterfly on an outdoor stage with sets created in chalk by Baltimore designer and artist Michael Kirby.  There will be three one hour performances over the course of the day at 11am, 3pm, and 8pm at the corner of South Pineapple Avenue and Dolphin Street.  Admission is free! 


Michael Kirby, who was described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the best street painters in the world”, creates dynamic 3D chalk art around the world.  His technique of using sharp angles and adjusting the image to the viewer’s point of view was adapted from Kirby's time while creating sets and props for Opera companies and Movie/TV sets.  Mr. Kirby will work with local artisan Kumpa Tawornprom and contractor Richard Hoffman to create this unique performance venue.  Of the project, Mr. Kirby says, “Unlike traditional opera sets where the best seats are center and level to the stage, this set will focus on the floor paintings and the seating will be stadium style”.


“This collaboration is pushing Sarasota Opera beyond the walls of the Opera House”, said Executive Director Susan Danis.  “We believe that Sarasota is the first City and County in the world to present opera on a set rendered in chalk.  Sarasota Opera is thrilled with this opportunity and thrilled with the support of the city and the SCVB to make sure all the aspects of the Chalk Festival do move forward.”


Special thanks go to Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Herald Tribune, LCM Capital Advisors, Art & Frame, Richard Hoffman Construction and Salon SRQ for their generous sponsorship of this innovative partnership.   


T he Sarasota Chalk Festival will run from November 1 – 7, 2011 and is accessible and free to all.  Over 250 artists participated in the 2010 event and over 2000 children created impromptu works of art when it became the first international street painting festival in the United States.  This year, The Sarasota Chalk Festival will be expecting 80,000 – 100,000 people in attendance, both national and international visitors.         



Based in Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast, Sarasota Opera just finished its 52 nd  season. In 1960 the company began presenting chamber-sized repertoire in the historic 320-seat Asolo Theater on the grounds of Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art. Recognizing the need for a theater more conducive to opera, the company purchased the former A.B. Edwards Theater in downtown Sarasota in 1979 and first performing in it in 1984 as the Sarasota Opera House. The theater has just undergone a $20-million renovation and rehabilitation enhancing audience amenities, while updating the technical facilities including increasing the size of the orchestra pit. The theater, which reopened in March 2008, has been called “one of America’s finest venues for opera” by Musical America.


Since 1983 the company has been under the artistic leadership of Victor DeRenzi. Since then the company has garnered international attention with its Masterwork Revivals Series, which presents neglected works of artistic merit, as well as the Verdi Cycle producing the complete works of Giuseppe Verdi. Recognizing the importance of training, Maestro DeRenzi founded the Apprentice Artist and Studio Artist programs. Sarasota Opera also maintains a commitment to education through its Invitation to Opera performances for local schools and the unique Sarasota Youth Opera program.


The 2011-2012 season will feature Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in the fall. The 2012 Winter Festival will include Bizet’s Carmen (opéra-comique version with spoken dialogue), Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Verdi’s Otello, and Barber’s Vanessa. Subscriptions are on sale by calling (941) 328-1300 or visiting the Sarasota Opera Box Office. Single tickets went on sale August 1st online ( ) and September 1st in the Box Office.


Sarasota Opera is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Programs are supported in part by an award the Tourist Development Tax through the Board of County Commissioners, the Tourist Development Council and the Sarasota County Arts Council. Additional funding is provided by the City of Sarasota and the County of Sarasota.