Creativity in the Time of Covid–March 6, 2022

VPA Art Contributes to Commemoration

The ribbon is cut, with Dr. Kingsley second from left, surrounded by the event planning committee.

The VPA Art Department’s played a vital role in the celebration of Dr. Laura Kingsley, former assistant superintendent and chief education officer. The commissioned media center mural was revealed on March 2 the event that paid tribute to the legacy of Dr. Laura Kingsley. Kingsley retired in 2021 from her most recent post in district leadership, a role that capped her 35-year legendary career. Before taking that position, Kingsley had served as beloved principal of Fruitville Elementary School for years.

Hey, that’s me! Dr. Kingsley posing with me and Laura King, committee chair (and my sister!!)

The mural symbolizes Kingsley’s longtime advocacy of multicultural literature and literacy. It features trains reminiscent of the popular computer game Minecraft that represent the journeys books offer. It complements a new display of books within the media center that feature protagonists of different ethnicities and backgrounds.

One half of the mural. It is on either side of the entrance.

Art Department Chair Steve Strenk conceived of the work, and worked alongside Cathie Janssen and various students installing the piece. The project was made possible through support from The Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Dr. Kingsley, a champion of the arts, was so touched by the mural that she visited the art studios afterward to personally thank the students and teachers.

The Stuff of Dreams: Theatre Embarks in Shakespeare-in-the-Park

The Cast: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This weekend marks the VPA Theatre Department’s first true Shakespeare-in-the-Park experience, as it wraps a run of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Since the beginning of the renovation, the department has had to find different venues for its annual season. Thanks to a partnership with The Bay Parks Conservancy, the VPA was granted access to the park free of charge.

Although the team faced challenges attendant to performing outside on grass, with a makeshift dressing room and storage for sets and equipment, “Midsummer” was overall a great experience for actors, crew, and patrons alike. It was a great lesson for students in being flexible and maintaining focus on foreign turf.

The show was directed by Sunny Smith, with technical direction by Caleb Carrier and costumes by Heather Clarke. Next up: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” May 6-7 at the Sarasota Opera House.

The Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship Offers Opportunity

The committee for the Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship has announced that it is accepting applications from seniors committed to studying theatre arts in college. The scholarship, a passion project helmed by friends and family of Sam, commemorates the life and legacy of this VPA Theatre alum (class of ’93). The scholarship is worth $5,000.

Mossler died suddenly and tragically at the age of 45 in October 2020. His death shook the community. According to those who knew him (including me), Sam was the salt of the earth, a generous and gentle soul. He was known as an empathetic listener, a brilliantly creative thinker, and a caring, invested person.

History repeats itself: Sammy (center), flanked by Darren Ritchie (L) and Adam Ratner (R) in the VPA’s 1993 production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Photo courtesy of Ken Wiegers.

In the immediate aftermath of his death, BHS VPA friends and family created this scholarship, which is as genuine and quirky as Sam himself. To that end, its central principle is “keep evolving, please.” This comes from a mantra Sam penned in a song he wrote of the same name.

He had enjoyed a career devoted to the arts, most recently and notably at the Florida Studio Theater, in which he had made his mark as an excellent performer, writer, and teacher. Those who worked with him praised his genius.

The inaugural winner of this scholarship was Kaity Cairo (class of 2021), who was presented the award at a performance of “Kingdom of Solitaire” in April 2021. She now attends UCLA in California.

Those interested in applying or supporting the scholarship through donations can follow this link.

FOURcast is Bright for Jazz Lovers

The FOURcast jazz combo played a concert on March 1 at The Pelican Cove condo complex. The performance was a debut private party for the group. Before this, FOURcast has played some city- and school-sponsored events this year. The combo is led by Jazz Expert Tim Eaton, one of the Music adjuncts.

If you’re looking for a quality jazz combo to play a party or event, contact the VPA office at (941) 355-2967, and enjoy a treat of jazz standards performed by a group of accomplished and lovable musicians.

Music Performs MPAs for First Time Since Pandemic

The VPA Music Department performed in the Florida Music Educators Association district-level Music Performance Assessments this week and last. The Jazz Band and Chorus earned straight Excellent ratings. The Wind Ensemble performed for comments only.

According to district arts curriculum specialist Angela Hartvigsen, this year brought intense challenges for band directors. Faced with disproportionate impacts by the pandemic and hybrid learning, bands have suffered. Because of this, many groups earned ratings lower than normal, or opted to perform for judges’ comments as an instructional tool.

The VPA Wind Ensemble

Referendum Vote Tuesday!

The 1 Mill Referendum is up for renewal. The referendum supports all Sarasota County Schools and is largely credited with bolstering the quality of education in our county. Consequently, losing referendum dollars would have enormous impact on programs, including the VPA.

In focus: The impact of the 1-mill fee to Booker High School.

As an example, this funding is critical to the VPA in supporting adjunct staff, VPA teaching positions, and other VPA support staff. Additionally, it is vital to the school’s ESOL and College and Career-readiness programs. Overall, BHS receives roughly $2.5 million from this funding. Find more information about the referendum dollars and how they impact the entire district here. Don’t forget to VOTE March 8!

Upcoming Events


Apr. 1-2 | 7 p.m. @ Booker High School

The line between reality and fiction is blurred in this dance show that explores our tendency to fool others as well as ourselves. Examining deception and awakening, the masks and the revelations, Fool*ish features pieces in modern, ballet, hip hop, African and Latin dance genres.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

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