Van Wezel Foundation Receives $10,000 Grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation for Culturally Responsive Arts Education

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Van Wezel Foundation Receives $10,000 Grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation

SARASOTA, September 24, 2020 – The Van Wezel Foundation has received a $10,000 leverage grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation to support a year-long culturally responsive arts education initiative to meet the needs and unique challenges educators face this academic year. Together with the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall’s Arts Education Department, the Van Wezel Foundation is investing in new programs like IDEA that use visual and performing arts to encourage open conversations and address critical social issues such as Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access. The grant is made possible through The Venice Endowment Fund and the Frank and Elsie Bushroe Charitable Fund and will be used to engage students, educators, families and key community leaders and stakeholders to reach across divides and learn more about the world around them.

“It is vitally important that we invest in arts education strategies that address socially relevant topics to eliminate racial and cultural discrimination,” commented Cheryl Mendelson, CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation. “Bridging the gap between educators and students will encourage greater interaction and collaboration and facilitate open and honest conversation. We are honored to be a catalyst in helping the Van Wezel Arts Education Department inspire meaningful dialogue in our community through the power of the performing arts.”

“Together with our donors, Gulf Coast works to ensure our communities thrive,” noted Mark S. Pritchett, President|CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “Empowering young people to learn and think differently is a worthy investment as they represent the future of our region. We are delighted to respond to the call for more inclusive communities and support this endeavor.”

Teaching the concept of IDEA and cultural appreciation in the classroom through arts-based initiatives increases student empowerment, helps destroy negative stereotypes, promotes innovation and equips students with the tools to become more aware of their own activity on a local and global perspective.

The year-long initiative will engage multiple community partners and introduce culturally relevant and responsive artists/performances to our community with virtual performances like Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, hip hop artists, Black Violin and a Kennedy Center Artist Fellow. Each experience includes engaging talkbacks with authors and actors to enhance the teaching experience.


For 25 years, together with our donors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has transformed our region through bold and proactive philanthropy. Gulf Coast is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital. Since then, we have become the philanthropic home of nearly 1,000 families, individuals, organizations, and businesses that have established charitable funds here, and together we have invested over $390 million in grants and initiatives in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. Learn more at


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. The Foundation’s mission is to create a world-class performing arts center that enriches the community, supports arts education and inspires young minds. Each year, the Foundation provides grants to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall to support arts education throughout our region. Together, we serve more than 35,000 students with enriching arts-based education opportunities and professional development for more than 400 teachers across five counties. In 2018, the city of Sarasota approved a master plan to develop 53 acres on the Bayfront into a vibrant, accessible park with a new performing arts center at the heart of it. The Foundation is leading The Future is Now Campaign to help the community realize the promise of the master plan. To learn more about the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center and get involved, visit For more information on the Foundation and its mission, visit, or join us on Facebook and Instagram.


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