For many, learning tends to be an objective-oriented endeavor, first with grades and test scores indicating progress, and later in life linked to professional achievements.
While learning can be a pursuit of purpose, it can also be one of pleasure. Our community abounds with opportunities to learn, many of which are offered by nonprofits, led by people whose passion for lifelong examination and education make for memorable, meaningful lessons that extend far beyond the framework of earning grades or credentials earlier in life.
We know acquiring skills increases knowledge and boosts cognitive health and offers other advantages in emotional and even physical wellbeing. Situated on 53 acres of pristine Sarasota coastline, The Bay Park Conservancy maintains a calendar full of events and classes available to the public, free of charge. With regular fitness and yoga classes, there are plenty of opportunities to master a new physical skill. The Bay, which just celebrated its first anniversary, also hosts regular paddleboard and kayak guided tours that familiarize participants with the local flora and fauna of our coastal habitats. Our Community Foundation’s commitment to this park, which began in its planning stages, is rooted in its accessibility: The Bay was conceived as “one park for all,” and the range of programs and experiences it offers—with no barrier to entry—is at the core of our foundation’s belief that every person who calls our community home should have access to an plentiful quality of life.
Classes that offer exploration of physicality are available through other organizations as well. The Sarasota Ballet’s Dance for All programs are specially designed to include all people into the dance artform. For our neighbors 55+ years old, Silver Swans® is a series of thoughtfully sequenced classes that provide options for free-standing, supported, or seated participation, sprinkled with ballet history and choreography theory. These classes are offered through organizations that support adult populations like Senior Friendship Centers.
Continuing education is one component of a fulfilling life, one that abounds with curiosity, inquiry, and appreciation, according to Forbes Magazine. Celebrating our unique circus history, the Venice Area Historical Society has rich offerings—and a newly completed circus car museum. Tours of the train depot and circus railway car and a riveting lecture series examining historical figures of Osprey, Laurel and Venice are all available to and free to the public.
For lovers of art, there is always something to discover at the Ringling College of Art and Design’s art walks, which offer access to several exhibitions, food trucks, and interactive arts stations. The Ringling College galleries are always free, but these art walks are also an opportunity to enjoy a community of other art lovers. Those who appreciate the arts can also learn a lot through the engaging events hosted by the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative, which hosts community panels on topics of the intersectionality of arts and social justice. The group also hosts an annual exhibition of Black artists each February, which offers insights into the Black experience through visual expression.
Those who continue to learn throughout adulthood adapt better to an ever-changing society, which can diminish feelings of isolation sometimes experienced later in life. The Boxser Diversity Initiative is such an organization. Promoting diversity and inclusionto encourage a better understanding of the diverse groups in Southwest Florida, the Boxser Diversity Initiative hosts films screenings, art exhibits, and discussion series that examine critical nuances of our diverse society. Another nonprofit that offers enriching programming focusing on history and diversity is Manasota ASALH, whose mission is to bring Black history to life as a vital part of American history.
While learning often is seen as an individual act, it can be a family affair as well, and family togetherness programs hosted by organizations like Asolo Rep and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are a fantastic way for adults and caregivers to experience learning through cultural institutions alongside the children they love. Opportunities like these build stronger family bonds while building upon foundations of knowledge.
And of course, to learn new things, one needn’t leave their house. There’s plenty to explore through quality media programming. One series that we’re so proud to support is the “Greater” program that is brought to viewers through WEDU. These episodes allow our community to learn about people, trends, and experiences that viewers might not know as much about, while providing more insight into the community that we call home.
We’re proud to support these nonprofits that offer such valuable programming that keeps our community learning and growing, on a path to self-development that also has collective impact. These organizations are just a few among many that provide enrichment to all people who live here, showcasing the reach of philanthropic dollars that sustain unique learning opportunities that are available long after many of us have heard our last school bell ring.