RINGLING CIRCUS MUSEUM’S TIBBALS LEARNING CENTER
GROWS MORE COLOSSAL WITH THRILLS FROM THE BIG TOP
Step Right Up to the Home of the World’s Largest Miniature Circus and its New
Adjoining $7.5 Million Facility Packed with Family-Friendly, Interactive Circus Fun
Sarasota, FL —June 27, 2011 — From Boston to Biloxi, Savannah to San Francisco, as well as hundreds of stops across the U.S. and Canada, the circus and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus The Greatest Show on Earth, never ceased to astonish, thrilling millions of people. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art’s Circus Museum in Sarasota recaptures the spectacle of the big top with a new attraction that spotlights the center ring performers: the acrobats, aerialists, daredevils, animal trainers, and ringmaster.
On Saturday, September 24, 2011, the doors swing open to the public on a new $7.5 million, 24,475 square-foot addition to the Tibbals Learning Center, part of the Circus Museum. Children-of-all-ages are invited to experience the atmosphere, energy and excitement of a day at the circus. Coinciding with Smithsonian National Museum Day, admission is free that day to the Circus Museum and the 66-acre estate of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, site of the Ca’ d’Zan mansion and Museum of Art.
“We’ve re-created the magic of the big top here at the Circus Museum, expanding America’s first circus museum,” explained Steven High, Executive Director of the Ringling Museum. “It’s a great place for families, circus enthusiasts, and adventure seekers to have lots of fun and enjoy the legacy left by the museum’s founder and circus king John Ringling, one of the five brothers who created the Ringling Bros. Circus.”
He added, “This new state-of-the-art facility that adjoins the Tibbals Learning Center, home of the world’s largest miniature circus created by Howard Tibbals, forever preserves an important part of American culture. It provides teachable moments for this and future generations about the history of circus performance art from the nineteenth century until present day.”
The $7.5 million dollar LEED addition, located on the west of the Tibbals Learning Center, is capable of withstanding a Category 4 Hurricane. It is generously funded by philanthropist and master circus model builder Howard Tibbals, whose contribution to the Circus Museum and Tibbals Learning Center totals $10.5 million.
Visitors enter the 11,000 square-foot first floor, where they learn about the circus parade used at the turn of the century to advertise the circus at each railroad stop. The main gallery focuses on the main event of circus day: the big top performance. It is broken down into nine spotlighted areas: acrobats and aerialists; featured animal acts and animal trainers; circus clowns; daredevils; ringmaster; spectacle; interactive circus family area; theater; and education space. The exhibits explore the common ties that link all circuses past and present. It features the different center ring acts and their contributions to the exhilarating drama that unfolded before audiences in North American cities big and small, such as Okmulgee, Okla; Altoona, Pa.; Texarkana, Ark.; Missoula, Mont.; Chico, Calif.; Moose Jaw, Sask.; Owatonna, Minn.; Yankton, S.D.; Moberly, Mo.; Gloversville, N.Y.; Paducah, Ky.; Emporia, Kan.; Sheboygan; Wis.; and Tyler, Texas, just to name a few.
Legendary performers come to life through interactive exhibits featuring video clips and photos of their gravity and death-defying feats. Among those highlighted are Karl Wallenda on the highwire, clown Lou Jacobs, and aerialist Dolly Jacobs “aka Queen of the Air” renowned for her Roman Rings routine. There are also plenty of participatory experiences for visitors, like walking the tightrope, fitting into a model of a 2-foot by 3-foot car made famous by Lou Jacobs, superimposing faces onto replicas of circus posters. The new exhibition space also tells the story of the overall performance design, music and costumes of the circus.
"We want to show respect and honor the people who made Sarasota the epicenter of the American circus," said Deborah Walk, Tibbals Curator of the Ringling Circus Museum.
The 12,000 square-foot, second floor houses the Tibbals Center for the Study of the American Circus, an educational facility for circus research by scholars and curators. Equipped with state-of-the-art LED lighting, it includes storage space for historical circus artifacts, such as Barnum and Bailey Circus scrapbooks, posters, heralds, and photos.
Drawing from the Circus Museum’s collection and helping connect how the circus came to be such a must-see and colossal attraction, the Museum is also showcasing a collection of bombastic circus posters that advertised the center ring attractions. The Amazing American Circus Poster: The Strobridge Lithographing Company, 1878-1939 exhibition showcases the cultural influence of the circus with works spanning from the time of P.T. Barnum’s The Greatest Show on Earth to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. The exhibition draws from the collections of the Ringling Museum, Howard Tibbals, and The Cincinnati Art Museum. Co-organized by the Ringling Museum and Cincinnati Art Museum, it focuses on the work that Strobridge did for circuses. Taking place in the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing of the Museum of Art, the exhibition runs from Sept. 17, 2011 to January 29, 2012.
Originally conceived to house the fine art collected by circus magnate John Ringling, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art opened in October 1931. It became the property of the state of Florida when John Ringling died in 1936. Established in 1948, the Circus Museum was the first in the country to document the rich history of the circus. The Tibbals Learning Center opened in 2006. The state assigned The Florida State University governance of the museum in 2000.