The Journey

From first conception to community approval, so much has been accomplished on our journey. Here is a glimpse into the milestone moments on the quest to bring the Sarasota Performing Arts Center to life.

As our history grows, so does the Foundation vision.

Bayfront 20:20 Formed

How will decisions made about the bayfront affect future generations? The goal was to gain consensus among community and neighborhood leaders. A vision statement was developed to encourage community support and input: “We support the creation of a long-term master plan for the Sarasota bayfront area that will establish a cultural and economic legacy for the region while ensuring open, public access to the bayfront.”

Foundation Engages AMS for Data

Site analysis and building plans for a new performing arts center begin. Cost estimation based off user input starts to take shape.

Sarasota City Commission Adopts Guiding Principles

Through the outreach of Bayfront 20:20, community groups begin to sign on for a unified common vision statement. A crucial accomplishment is the development of Implementation Guiding Principles in support of the vision. The Sarasota City Commission adopts the Guiding Principles to guide bayfront redevelopment efforts.

Fundraising Study

The Van Wezel Foundation partners with fundraising consultant Carter Global to begin a feasibility study. Key community leaders, stakeholders, and philanthropists are interviewed. Results are overwhelmingly positive that the resources would be available to build a state-of-the-art performing arts center on the bay.

Master Plan Chosen

After an extensive global search, Sasaki is chosen to proceed with a master plan of The Bay. the Foundation coordinates with Sasaki and the Bay Park Conservancy to provide input on how a performing arts center will integrate with the park.

City Commission Approves the Master Plan

Redevelopment of the 53 acres along the bayfront known as The Bay is approved, giving the Van Wezel Foundation authorization to work with city staff to develop a memorandum of agreement for a new performing arts center as the centerpiece of the park project.

The Van Wezel Foundation Evolves

A new mission statement is adopted by the Board of Directors: “To create a world-class performing arts center that enriches the community, supports arts education and inspires young minds.” As well as new by-laws and governance structure to support this legacy project. A Steering Committee is formed with over 20 key stakeholders to work in specific areas that include Community Engagement, Capital Campaign, and Strategy.

The Van Wezel Foundation and its Board of Directors announce that they have been notified of a $10 million legacy gift from the estate of Herta Klauser Cuneo. The donation will represent the largest single gift in the Foundation’s 30 year history.  Her commitment was instrumental in the Foundation’s ability to launch a vision for a new world class performing arts center for generations to come.

Thanks to the generosity of individuals, foundations and corporate partners, over $1 million is raised in seed funding. The Van Wezel Foundation moves forward with a meaningful collaboration with the Bay Park Conservancy and begin the initial planning of this important project.

New Leaders are Chosen

National search for the Van Wezel Foundation CEO was successful. Cheryl Mendelson was brought on to help lead the charge on this massive legacy project. Cheryl comes with extensive experience in public/private partnerships in the performing arts space. She served as Executive Vice President of the nationally renowned Harris Theater in Millennium Park in Chicago.

Jim Travers is voted in as chair of the Board of Directors. Jim is a senior technology executive, having built high-growth technology companies in the public and private sectors over the course of his 35-year career.

Sasaki Begins Planning Study

Siting and engineering study is underway for building, location and access strategies. Sasaki is focusing on coastal resilience and sustainability.

City Commission meeting
Click here to see our recent update given at the City Commission
meeting on December 2, 2019
Community Engagement Campaign

Launch community initiative to gain further insight by hosting public discussions, circulating in-depth surveys and holding meetings with community leaders, civic associations, and other groups.

City & County TFF Approval

City and County Commission approves the development of TFF funding for the new performing arts center.