Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center To Open January 2006 $15.6 Million State-of-the-Art Building Marks First Phase of Expansion at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
SARASOTA, Fla. – July 19, 2005 - The Tibbals Learning Center, the newest addition to the Ringling Circus Museum at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, is slated to open to the public in January, 2006. The opening of the new center will mark the completion of the first phase of a $76-million, seven-year expansion at the 66-acre Ringling estate, which includes a new Visitor’s Pavilion housing the restored historic Asolo Theater, an educational wing and new gallery space at the art museum.
The Tibbals Learning Center will more than double the present exhibition space at the Circus Museum. The state-of-the-art 30,600 sq. ft. center will house interactive circus exhibitions and display the Howard Bros. Circus, the world’s largest miniature circus. The ¾-inch-to-a-foot scale replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was created by master model builder, philanthropist and circus enthusiast Howard C. Tibbals of Tennessee and Florida. Tibbals donated $3 million in 2000 toward the construction of the new center and, later, he established a $3.5 million endowment to support innovative programs and staff for the Circus Museum. Additional donations by Ringling Museum donors were matched by the state of Florida, bringing the impact of Tibbals’ original gift to $16 million.
The Howard Bros. Circus is the largest miniature circus in the world, with eight main tents, 55 railroad cars, 152 circus wagons, 1,500 performers and circus personnel, and more than 500 animals. It occupies 3,800 sq. ft. on the first floor of the Tibbals Learning Center. A miniature circus street parade model, built by Tibbals’ model-building mentor Harold Dunn, is on display on the center’s second floor. The street parade contains 38 circus wagons, 472 individually handcrafted performers and 442 animals, and it measures 148 feet in length. Each individually carved and hand-painted wagon, animal and performer is an exact replica of a famous circus wagon, including the Five Graces which is presently housed in the Circus Museum.
The Tibbals Learning Center will also present interactive circus displays, and a revolving exhibition of more than 5,700 authentic circus posters. Tibbals’ personal workshop is also housed on the center’s second floor, allowing visitors to learn how the model builder created his amazing miniature.
“The Howard Bros. Circus is the preeminent model of the American circus, and is a marvel to behold,” said Dr. John Wetenhall, Executive Director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. “Howard Tibbals is a master model builder, circus historian and life-long circus enthusiast. His generous gift and miniature circus will introduce thousands of visitors to the illustrious history of the circus in America.”
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