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Sit Down With... Elisa Hansen

Education:Elisa Hansen

Master’s Degree in library and information science from the University of South Florida.

She completed two-terms of post-graduate course work in research librarianship at the Royal School of Library and Information Science in Copenhagen.

Bachelor’s degree in art history at Florida State University

Master’s degree in art history from Southern Methodist University.

Ringling: What brings you to The Ringling?

Elisa Hansen: I have always loved the Ringling, first visiting the museum often as I was growing up in Sarasota, and later working there. It was a desire of mine to return some day, and this position as Head of Library Services seemed like the perfect merging of librarianship and art.

When did you work at The Ringling, and what did you do?

It was from 1988 to 1995. I first held a position as Director of Adult and Academic Programs. I really enjoyed the opportunity to development programs, work with docents, and establish a collaboration with area colleges.  I later took on the responsibilities of the curator and worked primarily with exhibitions and the management of the collection.

And what have you been up to in the years since you were last at The Ringling?

I have been living in Denmark for the past 14 years. I was working on various things. I spent a year doing a research project at the Museum of Decorative Arts at Copenhagen. I was also a librarian at an international school and taught art history online for a number of years.

This was a big change Sarasota to Denmark- how did that happen?

My father is from there, so is half my family, and I married a Dane. Our two daughters were born in Sarasota, and we thought that it would be beneficial for them to become truly bilingual and learn more about their family’s history and culture.

Where did your interest in art and culture start?

Our family traveled quite a bit as I was growing up and I had the opportunity to look at lots of art and architecture. It also helped to come from Sarasota where I can remember there were no less than three art studios on our street.

How did your family end up in Sarasota?

My father immigrated to America and was living in Michigan. He met my mother there, and during a vacation to Sarasota in 1950 they fell in love with the place. He sold his business in the north, and they moved here. They opened the first boat store in Sarasota, Hansen Chris-Craft. The first location was downtown near where the Sarasota Opera is today.

What are some of your favorite memories of Sarasota and The Ringling from growing up here?

Concerts in the Courtyard where the orchestra would set up below the Statue of David and above the fountain. I remember going to those. I remember attending performances in the Historic Asolo Theater in the original building from the 1960s. My fondest memories of Sarasota were the times my friends and I spent in our boats, fishing and exploring the small islands in the Gulf and the bay. 

How has The Ringling changed over the years?

Florida State University’s leadership has been the biggest change. The integration of all the components of what The Ringling has to offer has produced a much richer experience for the visitor. The Ca’ d’Zan was in a deteriorating condition and it’s such a pleasure to see how it shines today. All of the restoration occurred after I left. The addition of the Tibbals Learning Center occurred after that too. The grounds are now beautifully kept and provide such a gorgeous setting for the other visual experiences. The Ringling truly is a pleasurable and enriching aesthetic experience.

What brought you back to Sarasota?

After 14 years of living as an ex-pat, while I am grateful for the experience, I was ready to come home.

What are some of your goals for your current position?

There are so many things that I want to do. I would like to spread the word about how wonderful the Art Library is and make it more accessible to a greater community outside of the Museum. I really want people to know that we are here. One of the things that I have noticed as I talk to people in the community is that they are surprised that we have a library.

I would like to establish more of a collaboration with the area institutions of higher education. I want to bring students into the library, not just to use the collection and resources, but to also participate in research and programming.

Collection development is a huge priority for me. I want to make sure that our collection reflects the art collection here. And I want to expand it to areas that we have not worked with before; subjects such as gardens, performance art, fashion, and installation art.

What do you like about Sarasota outside of The Ringling?

Sarasota has so much to offer. How many other cities our size has an opera, theaters, a symphony orchestra, and the State Art Museum? We have an incredible array of art experiences here.