Philanthropists Vern and Liliana Chalfant are champions of the performing arts and arts education throughout our community. In addition, Vern serves as a board member of the Van Wezel Foundation, chairs the Foundation’s Finance Committee and sits on the Strategic Planning Committee. Their passion for the arts and making a difference in our community has led them to create the CHALFANT CHALLENGE, a season of giving fundraising initiative that matches dollar for dollar new donors and increased contributions up to $50,000.
Liliana, who grew up in Colombia, was privileged from a very early age and traveled with her family internationally, exposing her to the arts and cultural experiences. “Growing up in Colombia, I was immersed in the rich history and culture of my country and received a well-rounded education through the arts. Music, theater, sculpture and painting – the arts are important to ensure the vitality of a community.” Liliana earned her international business degree from the University of Florida. Later she became an interpreter and translator in the San Francisco Bay Area. She dedicated her life to family and is deeply involved in the community.
Vern was born in Little Rock, AR, and grew up in St Louis, MO, through his mid-twenties. His mother was an excellent pianist and was an organist for several churches for over 60 years, and his sister is a singer and Choir Director for a church in Austin, Texas. Vern’s first arts experience was in the 5th grade when his sister encouraged him to follow her example and audition for the annual high school musical The Sound of Music. Vern won the audition for Kurt Von Trapp. He has developed a love of music, singing and the arts ever since. “Throughout high school, college, and the early part of my career, I continued to sing and perform and enjoyed a love of music. Although I got my degree in Accounting, I landed in the insurance business where I spent most of my career working worldwide, taking me away from performing. I have been fortunate to be inspired by the arts and want today’s children to have the opportunity to be exposed and participate. Without access to the performing arts, we may never know who has the talent to become the next Pavarotti or Paul McCartney. I believe it’s vitally important that children, especially those from underserved communities, have access to the arts – this is one of my passions.”
The Chalfants are committed to ensuring young children have access to the arts and quality education. Vern noted, “it’s important we provide opportunities for future generations to reach their full potential. That’s why we are contributing to the Foundation at a greater level this year. We want others to be inspired and take part as well.”
This year’s increased generosity led to the CHALFANT CHALLENGE, a new fundraising campaign designed to encourage giving. The Chalfants will match dollar for dollar new donors and increased contributions up to $50,000. Vern further commented, “we all have a role to play to enhance the lives of children and their families, and I am hopeful that the CHALFANT CHALLENGE will encourage people from all levels of giving to get involved in the Foundation’s important work. From planning and designing the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center to continue to propel learning through arts education, the Foundation can extend their mission deeper into the community.”
Liliana added, “we believe this challenge can bring people together for a greater good, and that is an extraordinary way to live by my family’s motto: “La unión hace la fuerza,” which means ‘unity creates strength.’ I hope many donors will help give children the gift of meaningful arts experiences this holiday season and beyond. Future generations depend on it.