Circus legend and Sarasota arts supporter Herta Klauser Cuneo gifted $10 million to the Foundation.
The Van Wezel Foundation has been gifted $10 million from the estate of Herta Klauser Cuneo, who died in September. Cuneo served on the foundation's board and was a supporter of the arts, the organization said in a statement. Her donation represents the largest single gift in the foundation’s 30-year history.
Cuneo became involved with the Foundation in 2005 and later joined as one of the first members of The Founders Society, a circle of donors that supports arts education in the community. According to the foundation, she was dedicated to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center and, in particular, the center's youth educational programs.
Born into a circus family in Munich, Germany, Cuneo learned to train animals for her family’s act, where she was hailed as one of the greatest bear trainers of all time, the foundation said in a statement. She was inducted into the Circus Ring of Fame in 2002.
She went on to perform with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which brought her to Sarasota. After retirement, Cuneo remained active in the arts and circus world through her commitments to the Van Wezel and the Ringling Foundation.
"Herta was a remarkable woman, and her legacy will live on through her truly transformative gift," said Van Wezel Foundation Chairman Mike Martella in a statement.