After six years of planning and collaboration with our civic and public partners, the city of Sarasota approved a master plan initiative. Throughout this process, there was one vision that remained steadfast — the need to build a new state-of-the-art performing arts center.

A preeminent, multi-venue performing arts center that inspires, entertains, and educates with year-round, world-class performances, affordable ticket pricing, and robust education programs.

“Through forward-thinking partnerships and a passionate commitment to respond to the needs of our community, now is the time to move forward and fulfill the master plan’s promise.”

– Cheryl Mendelson, CEO Van Wezel Foundation

“The Foundation is committed to helping the community realize its vision for a venue that attracts the most celebrated and acclaimed performers, enhances the patron experience, expands educational programming, creates jobs and adds economic value to the entire region.”

– Jim Travers, Chairman of Van Wezel Foundation Board of Directors

A Cultural Centerpiece

All photography courtesy Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization

The Sarasota Performing Arts Center will provide many new opportunities to better serve our community, including:

  • A larger, 2,250-seat venue to become more competitive and attract larger touring productions
  • A robust education center, expanding programs with a focus on Sarasota youth and life-long learners
  • State-of-the-art systems to connect us to the 21st Century
  • Improved acoustics and performance technology, allowing for more sophisticated productions
  • New event spaces to better support venue activity and provided greater rental opportunities Contemporary standards, enhancing the patron experience
  • A multi-venue facility taking better advantage of The Bay views, outdoor space, and other amenities
  • A facility that would stand as an iconic structure on The Bay for generations to come.

Creating Impact and Support

“It’s what draws the impact and the infrastructure to help us support our specialty areas like ballet, opera, and theatre. It’s an integral part of the whole community.”

– Jim Shirley, Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County

Expanding Education

“What if every child in the region has the opportunity to visit the new performing arts center, the added educational experiences, and the performances.”

– Brigid Kolworth, Early Childhood Learning Specialist

A Community that Believes in the Arts

“A new performing arts center has to be at the forefront of what we want to do to accomplish our community goals.”

– Cedric Hameed, Arts Coordinator, Visible Men Academy

World-Class Performing Arts Centers

“If we’re going to get the community to the same level of recognition in the past for its cultural offerings, it has to have a world-class performing arts center.”

– Darrell Ayers, former VP for Education, John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts

Providing Access

“This is a place children can come express themselves, demonstrate their skills, and connect and engage with the arts.”

– Faith Nawara, Early Learning Professional

Arts Education for Every Child

“The arts have an experiential nature, a hands-on learning, which is the key that unlocks passageways for learning students.”

– Nancy Roucher, Chair, Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County

An Enriched Cultural Opportunity

“The transformation of our Bayfront really preserves the essence of Sarasota, where culture and natural beauty were important”

– Michael Saunders, Michael Saunders & Company

2019-20 Board Of Directors:

Jim Travers, Chairman of the Board

Michael Martella, Vice-Chair

Gerry Biller, Interim Secretary

Elaine McClure, Interim Treasurer

Michael Wilson, Legal Counsel

Ali Bahaj

Mary Bensel, Ex-Officio

Jenne Britell

Chad Campbell

Vern Chalfant

Brian Ellerson

Mark Famiglio

David Koffman

Cheryl Mendelson, Ex-Officio

Karl Newkirk

Sharyn Weiner

Steering Committee:

  • Cheryl Mendelson, CEO
  • Drayton Saunders, Co-Chair
  • Julie Harris, Co-Chair
  • Jim Travers, Chair, Strategic Planning
  • Darrell Ayers
  • Mary Bensel, Executive Director, VWPAH
  • Gerald Biller
  • Jenne K. Britell
  • Adam Carmer
  • Jackie Griese
  • Roxzene Hunter
  • Michael Kneeland

  • Ed Maier
  • Elaine McClure
  • Karl Newkirk
  • Harry Orenstein
  • Tracey Reid
  • Jim Schaffner
  • Janet Walter
  • Christopher Weaver
  • Nanci Weaver
  • Patricia Holmes White
  • Charles S. Wilson
  • Janet Winkler

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Van Wezel Foundation Looks to Future

Van Wezel Foundation Selects New CEO

Performing arts center foundation names CEO

The Van Wezel Foundation receives approval

City Commission Approves Master Plan for Bayfront Redevelopment

Sarasota City Commission approves The Bay project

Master Plan for Bay Receives Unanimous City Approval

New performing arts center to be built as part of Bayfront redesign

Thank you to the group of donors who provided the necessary seed funding to begin this journey

  • Amicus Foundation
  • Ali and Gloria Bahaj
  • David and Myrna Band
  • Gerald and Sondra Biller
  • Boar’s Head Provisions Co, Inc.
  • Jenne K. Britell
  • Brunckhorst Family
  • Herta Cuneo
  • Phil and Julie Delaney
  • Brian and Caroline Ellerson

  • Famiglio Family
  • Gulf Coast Community Foundation
  • Julie Harris
  • Hon. Jackie Lewis
  • Alan and Connie Herbert
  • Holmes Family Fund
  • Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Ed and Susan Maier
  • Brenda and Dave Maraman
  • Martella Family Foundation
  • Jonathan and Michelle Mitchell, Edward D. and Anna Mitchell Family Foundation Bill and Elaine McClure
  • Michael Saunders and Company
  • Karl and Ricky Newkirk
  • Iris and Marty Rappaport
  • Joel and Diane Schleicher
  • Jim and Susan Travers
  • Williams Parker Attorneys at Law