SPAC Van Wezel Foundation The Future Is Now Logo

Sarasota Performing arts center (spac)

After six years of planning and collaboration with our civic and public partners, the city of Sarasota approved a master plan initiative to restore and revitalize 53-acres along the bayfront. Throughout this process, there was one vision that remained steadfast — the need to build a new state-of-the-art performing arts center.

Sarasota’s new performing arts center will be a place for ideas, a place for the arts, a place for you.

In collaboration with the City of Sarasota, the Van Wezel Foundation is looking to raise our sights to ensure Sarasota is the preeminent destination for the performing arts in the nation. Click here to see our latest updates.

our guiding priorities

Build a world-class performing arts center

  • A large 2, 250-seat main stage to become more competitive and attract larger touring productions.
  • Grand lobby and multiple event spaces, including a 400-seat flexible performance venue.
  • A multi-venue facility taking advantage of the bay views, outdoor space and other amenities.
  • A facility that will stand as an iconic structure on the bay for generations to come.

Enhance the patron experience

  • Contemporary, state-of-the-art systems to connect in the 21st
  • Improved acoustics and performance technology, allowing for more sophisticated productions.
  • Center-aisle seating with greater ADA seating options.
  • Expanded food & beverage options.
  • 12-month programming including public events and alternating exhibits.

Invest in mission-based programming

  • A robust education center, expanding programs with a focus on Sarasota youth and lifelong learning.
  • Growing a regional impact to serve more children and families.
  • Extending professional development and teacher training deeper into the community.
  • Developing unique learning opportunities designed for students with special needs.
  • Increasing partnerships with social service organizations to benefit at-risk youth.
  • Increasing programs and services to include the summer months when students need enriching learning experiences most.

A Place for Ideas

Expand educational programming to serve more students, teachers and families, and cultivate lifelong learning opportunities.

A Place for the Arts

Design a state-of-the-art performance center to recognize Sarasota as a first-choice destination for the most celebrated and acclaimed performers, artists, dancers and musicians.

A Place for You

Enhance the patron experience through contemporary facilities, advanced technology and universal accessibility to support a broad variety of performances and outdoor programming experiences.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to attend events for updates on the status of the performing arts center and to let your voice be heard. Use #MySarasotaPerformingArtsCenter to share, tag and comment.

Sarasota Performing Arts Center History

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.


Patron Survey Results:

In 2018, our community’s arts patrons were surveyed to gain their perspective on the future of the Sarasota Performing Arts Center. The findings show that the arts should have a significant presence in the bayfront master plan.

Here are our results by the numbers:

total respondents
full-time residents
seasonal residents
regular visitors

Want a new center with The Bay project


Want touring shows and headliners in Sarasota


Desire proposed amenities in new center


See Van Wezel as Sarasota’s #1 attraction


Would attend more shows at new center

Want a new center with The Bay project
Want touring shows and headliners in Sarasota
Desire proposed amenities in new center
See Van Wezel as Sarasota’s #1 attraction
Would attend more shows at new center
Want a new center with The Bay project
Want touring shows and headliners in Sarasota
Desire proposed amenities in new center
See Van Wezel as Sarasota’s #1 attraction
Would attend more shows at new center
  • 86% believe it’s important that a new performing arts center is included in The Bay project. Respondents feel a new center would enhance their cultural experience
  • 96% say it’s important to have touring shows and headliners in Sarasota
  • 85% desire better patron amenities
  • 91% say Van Wezel being the #1 destination attraction is important to their perception of Sarasota as a place to live or visit
  • 91% would attend more often if there were more programming options at a new PAC


A Gracious Thank You to Our Supporters

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.
Brunckhorst Family
Community Foundation of Sarasota County
Herta Cuneo
Phil and Julie Delaney
Brian and Caroline Ellerson
Famiglio Family
Gulf Coast Community Foundation
Julie Harris
Hon. Jackie Lewis
Holmes Family Fund
Donna and David Koffman
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

Investing for the Future

If you would like to invest in our new Sarasota Performing Arts Center, please contact Sasha Hausman, CFRE at or 941-366-5011 


In their own words…

To some, the Sarasota Performing Arts Center is a place of exceptional, world-class performances. To others, it’s the most rewarding learning experience outside a classroom. To all, it’s a memorable, inspiring, rousing adventure to enjoy and come back for more.

We’re proud of the rave reviews the people of our community have for the Sarasota Performing Arts Center. Here are some recent comments from our patrons, board members, students and performers.

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

“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


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