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SPAC Foundation CEO Cheryl Mendelson stepping down

The head of the Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation will leave Sarasota in March.

Cheryl Mendelson will step down as CEO of the Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation in March.
Cheryl Mendelson will step down as CEO of the Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation in March.
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Just as the search begins for an architect for the proposed new Sarasota Performing Arts Center, there is a change in leadership of the SPAC Foundation. Cheryl Mendelson, the foundation’s CEO, will vacate her position in March to relocate to Palm Beach County for family reasons, a release from the organization said.

She joined the foundation in 2019.

This leaves the organization, formerly known as the Van Wezel Foundation, seeking permanent leadership at a critical juncture. Board Chair Jim Travers will fill the void in a dual role as interim CEO as a national search for Mendelson’s replacement is under way. 

Mendelson will continue to work with the foundation in a consulting capacity.

“We are grateful for Cheryl’s leadership during the last four years, which have been filled with significant successes and new opportunities, efforts that have enhanced the Foundation’s evolution and positioned us for our next chapter,” Travers said in a media release. “Our board, volunteers, and professional staff are poised to continue to advance our important work together.”

As CEO, Mendelson led the foundation in fostering partnerships with the city, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Bay Park Conservancy to help develop a plan for a new, world-class performing arts center in The Bay park.

“Cheryl has been a strong partner and advocate, working diligently in all areas from leading the vision for a new Sarasota Performing Arts Center, to fundraising to advance educational programming at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which has enriched the greater Sarasota community,” said City Manager Marlon Brown. “We thank her for her passion and commitment over the years and wish her well.”

A task force appointed by the foundation and the city began work in December 2022 to seek proposals from architecture companies to design the new SPAC, a $275 million, public-private venture to replace the 55-year-old Van Wezel. The task force  is expected to make its selection in April. 

Last week, the SPAC Foundation and the city received a cease and desist request from heirs of the Van Wezels to discontinue invoking the family name in the promotional and fundraising efforts for the new theater complex. 



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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