Van Wezel Foundation Grants $600,000 to Support Arts Education

Engagement in the arts is essential to every student, teacher and member of the community. With this belief at its core, the Van Wezel Foundation today announced that it closed its fiscal year providing grant support of more than $600,000 to underwrite arts education programs for children and educators throughout the Suncoast.

Foundation grants helped fund multiple initiatives, including Van Wezel Schooltime Performances, a program that presents high quality, nationally and internationally renowned artists and performances for area students. Each Schooltime Performance connects to Florida Standards through engaging, awe-inspiring performing arts. To help prepare students for Schooltime Performances, teachers are trained and provided with learning materials for each performance.

“We are grateful to our donors for their commitment to investing in arts education and the impact it makes in shaping the fabric of a child’s life,” said Van Wezel Foundation CEO Cheryl Mendelson.

Last season, over 30,000 students from 109 schools across four counties (Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto) attended Schooltime Performances at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

In addition, more than 400 teachers attended workshops to incorporate Schooltime Performances into their curriculum and lesson plans. The workshops ranged from Artworks modules, Kennedy Center Artist Classes and Arts Integration League Summer Intensives that served as extended education credits for the educators.

Fifteen Family Literacy Nights were funded last season, offering parents and children the opportunity to enjoy an evening together that included dinner, a skill-building workshop, theater activities, reading and a book to take home. Over the summer, the Foundation supported the Summer Learning Academy at 23 different summer sites in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The Van Wezel Foundation also helps support the Total Access program, providing veterans, seniors and low-income families with access to performances at the Hall. Over 400 tickets were granted in partnership with local organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Suncoast Charities for Children, Christ United Methodist Church, Hearing Loss Association of America, Friendship Centers, Step House, Loveland Center, The Warehouse of Venice, St. Jude Hispanic Center, Community Haven, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and First Step of Sarasota.

“We are proud to deliver on our mission to ensure that all members of our community can experience the power of the arts,” said Mendelson. “I’m inspired by the generosity of our donors who make this important work possible.”

Since 1987, The Van Wezel Foundation has partnered with the City of Sarasota to foster a connection between the people, the bay and the spirit of human creativity. Through this collaboration and the generosity of donors, the Foundation has provided grants of more than $14 million to invest in arts education and capital projects at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The mission of the Van Wezel Foundation is to create a world-class performing arts center that enriches the community, supports arts education and inspires young minds. For more information, visit To learn more about the many ways we can grow our vision for the community together, visit

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