OPINION: Performing arts project holds great potential


Cultural partnerships are in a unique position to uplift not only societies and communities but also economies.

In our case, the decades-long partnership between the Van Wezel Foundation and the city of Sarasota has helped our local Sarasota area thrive and flourish. Together with the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the Foundation’s impact in the region has fostered not just the arts, but also the well-being of individuals, families and the business community.

Now, we’re at a big moment for a transformative project for our area – the development and creation of a new Sarasota Performing Arts Center – as the partnership agreement between the city and the Foundation for the project will be considered by the Sarasota City Commission on March 21.

This is the next step in realizing the vision of the master plan to develop 53 acres on the Bayfront into a vibrant park, with a performing arts center at the heart of it and a roadmap toward future prosperity and well-being.

The Foundation’s board wholeheartedly believes in this transformative project, and as a show of our commitment to this project, early on we invested close to $2 million in private funding for siting and engineering studies, and theater and program planning. We also proudly recently announced that we, the Foundation board, have committed the first $20 million to jumpstart the fundraising campaign.

Performing arts centers serve as a beacon in the community, and on the scale that is envisioned with the Sarasota Performing Arts Center, we have the opportunity to create something great and something that can be recognized far and wide – not just in our local community.

It has the potential to be a renowned symbol – of economic success and prosperity, but also community and togetherness – that is well-known not only in the arts and education community, but also in the tourism and business arena.

The project for a new performing arts center will positively impact economic development through the creation of jobs and an influx of commerce in our area, which will ultimately continue to improve the quality of life for our community – not just in the near term but also for generations to come.

With the support and partnership of the city, we are confident that together we can have a profound impact with the new performing arts center. A cultural impact, a historical impact and an economic impact.

On behalf of the Foundation Board of Directors, I ask our city commissioners to approve the agreement for the development of the Sarasota Performing Arts Center, a symbol and an investment in the prosperity of our growing community.

Jim Travers is the chair of the Van Wezel Foundation Board of Directors.

Read the full article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune here. 

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