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Van Wezel receives National Endowment for the Arts grant

In addition, the performing arts hall received two local grants from the Selby and Sudakoff Foundations

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  • | 12:59 p.m. May 7, 2015
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, after a record critical and box-office earning season, will receive three sizable grants.
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, after a record critical and box-office earning season, will receive three sizable grants.
  • Arts + Culture
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It’s been a box-office boon this year for the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Sarasota’s "purple lady" had a successful season this year with numerous award-winning productions, artists and tours stopping by along with Sarasota’s resident companies like the Sarasota Orchestra and Sarasota Ballet. In February, the Van Wezel and its foundation celebrated their 45th anniversary with a performance from two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and music legend Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band. Following that night of celebration, the Van Wezel proved its marketability and earning power by setting a new all-time box office record with the week long engagement of the Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys” in March.

Having proven its flourishing artistic and financial credentials, the Van Wezel is receiving three sizable grants toward their educational and artistic programming.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), an independent agency of the United States federal government that provides financial supports for organizations and projects that exhibit artistic excellence, is awarding a $20,000 grant for the Van Wezel education department’s school time show program that buses in area school students to see various productions during the season.

"We were thrilled to get this grant from the NEA," says Mary Bensel, executive director of the Van Wezel. "It’s to help us for a program for teaching artists. We have teaching artists that work with us and they create a program that help area teachers with the classroom experience when they come to see our school time performances during the season. It’s also aimed at serving the underserved school communities.”

The two other grants come from two local organizations whose financial gifts will impact the sound of the performing arts hall for years to come. The William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and the Harry Sudakoff Foundation have given $50,000 and $25,000, respectively, toward purchasing a new orchestra shell for the hall that will be used during the Van Wezel’s countless musical events. According to Bensel, the soon to be removed orchestra shell was installed during the 1999-2000 renovations. And as the Van Wezel began to bring in larger and more high-profile productions to Sarasota, the orchestra shell became a cumbersome obstacle. 

"It’ll be more practical and more movable," says Bensel. "It’ll take up one-third of the space that it does currently, and we’ll be able to use more line sets and backstage space."

The orchestra shell will be installed during a six-week renovation period starting in mid-July. In addition to the new orchestra shell, the hall will receive brand new carpet as well as a complete overhaul of its women's restrooms, which haven't been altered in 45 years, with additinal stalls and better traffic routes inside the restrooms for patrons. 



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