Innovative Philanthropy Sparks Creation of Patriot Plaza Virtual Tour

Innovative Philanthropy Sparks Creation of Patriot Plaza Virtual Tour

Posted on May 05, 2021 by The Patterson Foundation

Innovation is a thread woven throughout The Patterson Foundation’s initiatives and endeavors. The aspiration to go beyond traditional grants and undertake philanthropic work in ways others are not doing, cannot do, or will not do creates opportunities to achieve outcomes with sustained impact long after the foundation’s initial role has sunsetted.

This approach is perhaps at its best in the face of emerging opportunities — even ones generated out of significant challenges, like those stemming from COVID-19. Through focusing on long-term, collaborative efforts rather than short-term, siloed projects, The Patterson Foundation instills the spirit of innovation in the people, organizations, and communities it works with — strengthening their ability to respond to our ever-evolving reality.

During the pandemic, that reality has been defined equally by the loss of several experiences that connect us and innovations that have brought them back into our lives. A convergence of several initiatives strengthened by The Patterson Foundation over its first decade has created one such innovation, affording people of all ages nationwide the chance to visit a place that honors veterans, inspires patriotism, and embraces freedom — wherever they may be.



Produced by the talented students of The Collaboratory at Ringling College of Art and Design, the Patriot Plaza virtual tour gives participants a way to authentically experience the ceremonial amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery from afar. Through videos that vividly illustrate its commissioned artwork and in-depth narration sharing its significance, those taking the virtual tour will come away with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for America’s veterans and military families.

Patriot Plaza itself is a stellar example of the realities made possible through innovation. The 2,800-seat ceremonial amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery was created through a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership between The Patterson Foundation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration. The $12 million from The Patterson Foundation to fund its design and construction has resulted in an enhancement unique among the more than 150 national cemeteries in the U.S. Since its dedication in 2014, tens of thousands of people have toured its grounds in person or attended one of the many events honoring our nation.

It takes an equally innovative group of storytellers to convey Patriot Plaza’s stories of service and sacrifice. Located in The Patterson Foundation’s home region, Ringling College of Art and Design is the leading university that empowers students to thrive in their role as creative leaders. Through initiatives like The Collaboratory, a program funded by The Patterson Foundation to strengthen the creative workforce of tomorrow, Ringling College provides the opportunity for students to gain industry experience prior to graduation by connecting them with leading brands and clients to develop creative solutions for business challenges.

For the virtual tour, Collaboratory students spent months safely documenting, filming, and producing content to share Patriot Plaza digitally while preserving its poignant themes. The skill with which they have developed the virtual tour is a testament to The Collaboratory’s exceptional faculty and curriculum, affirming The Patterson Foundation’s investment in the college years ago.

The virtual tour concept began as an innovation to give middle school students the ability to visit Patriot Plaza in the absence of field trips that normally would complement their learnings in the classroom. Eighth-grade civics classes throughout Sarasota County Schools can take the Patriot Plaza virtual tour through EdExploreSRQ. Created in 2010 with support from The Patterson Foundation, EdExploreSRQ is a web-based search platform that connects teachers, principals, and parents to experiential learning opportunities available throughout the community. Beyond the virtual tour, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County is innovating further to connect Patriot Plaza Guides with classrooms via Zoom to take students through a deeper dive into the history and themes shared during the online experience.

With an eye toward the possibilities, together, we hope to create a living tribute to American heroism accessible to all.

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