Van Wezel Foundation Contributes $575,000 in Grants
“We are incredibly fortunate that our supporters recognize that investing in arts education is essential to shaping the fabric of a child’s life.” –Cheryl Mendelson, CEO, Van Wezel Foundation.
The Van Wezel Foundation provided philanthropic grants totaling $575,000 during its fiscal year 2020 to underwrite arts education and integration programs touching the lives of 35,000 children, educators and families across the Suncoast. In response to COVID-19, the Foundation also provided the seed funding to establish and continue to provide on-going support for Artworks Anywhere, a program that delivers remote learning opportunities to students, families, educators, early learning centers and school districts These grants were made possible through the generosity of individual, corporate, and foundation donors whose annual support brings the Foundation’s mission to life.
“The Van Wezel Foundation is fueled by the power of our community’s commitment to philanthropy,” noted Cheryl Mendelson, CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation. “We are incredibly fortunate that despite the overwhelming challenges due to the global pandemic, our supporters recognize that investing in arts education is essential to shaping the fabric of a child’s life,”
For more than 30 years, the Van Wezel Foundation has provided philanthropic support to the city-owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Arts Education program. Foundation grants this past year helped to fund multiple initiatives, including Van Wezel Schooltime Performances. This program presents high quality, nationally and internationally renowned artists and performances for area students. Funding also included two-generational learning programs like Family Literacy and Science Nights, where nearly 800 students and their families participated. Contributions to the Van Wezel Foundation also provided support for professional development training for more than 240 teachers emphasizing the use of the arts in the classroom to support language skills, early reading, and STEAM. Additional support was also provided to teaching artists to enable arts experiences to 575 students with disabilities, including a unique partnership between Oak Park School and Lakeview Elementary, creating opportunities for students from both schools to be each other’s superheroes.
In the fiscal year 2020, the Foundation achieved a new milestone, generating more than $1,000,000 in contributions through the tremendous support of the INSPIRATION Gala. Through a legacy endowment fund established from Louise Appleton, the Foundation also bestowed the Appleton Teacher of the Year award at the gala to three outstanding educators in our community, including Melissa Forsten, a first-grade teacher from Atwater Elementary, Joanna Fox, a creative writing teacher from Booker Middle School and Tatiana Ignotis, an ESOL instructor from Venice Middle School.
In addition to providing direct grants to the Hall, 600 performance tickets were gifted to numerous education, health and social service organizations through the Foundation’s Arts for All program. Arts for All partners this past year included: Girls, Inc., Big Brothers Big Sisters, Senior Friendship Centers, Suncoast Charities for Children, the American Red Cross, The Haven, The Florida Center and the Special Olympics.
“We are honored to serve our mission to ensure that all members of our community can experience the power of the arts,” said Mendelson. “Every day, I’m inspired by the true spirit of giving of our donors. It’s their passion that makes this important work possible.”