Learning about design takes many forms, and experiences outside of the classroom lend strong and memorable perspective to the IAD Department’s design curriculum. The annual Ringling Summer Program offers students an opportunity to expand their horizons as they learn about historic preservation, museum design and modernist architecture as expressed through a unique Florida perspective.
Dr. Yelena McLane has led the Ringling Summer Program for several years, and this summer an intrepid group of five IAD students joined her for this a week-long experience in Sarasota. Dr. McLane started the program with a brief orientation about the different aspects of this vibrant city, including its Gilded Age architecture, and Ca d’Zan, the historic home of John and Mable Ringling. Learning on location brought history to life for students like Nicky Maria Valencia. who found the Ringling family’s activities and experiences in their home particularly fascinating.
Highlights of the trip included a behind the scenes tour of the active historic preservation projects of Ca’d’Zan and a visit to the Ringling Art Museum with special focus on its period rooms.
Students studied museum design and learned the history of the Ringling circus train at The Circus Museum, and explored potential career paths in the field.
“Our discussions at the Ringling helped me understand how to design for museums much better,” said Valencia. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to take this trip and I would 100% recommend it to others. Thank you for providing this amazing experience! I will cherish it for the rest of my life.”
The full itinerary kept the students busy, as they toured the Ca’d’Zan mansion itself the following day and had the unique opportunity to explore the first level on their own. Tours of the Historic Asolo Theater and the Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion followed, providing insights about both interiors and decorative objects. The students also explored several mid-century modern buildings throughout Sarasota. Last but not least, the group toured the Museum of the American Arts & Crafts in St. Petersburg.
Immersive experiences such as the Ringling Summer Program bring design and its expressions to life for students, opening new doors of understanding and interest. Many such field trips are features within the IAD curriculum including such destinations as the Neocon and High Point design markets, Atlanta, and Orlando.