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Charter Officials-City Auditor & Clerk
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1565 First Street
Sarasota, FL 34236

For Immediate Release: January 19, 2012


Sarasota, FL: In the past several months the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has received two very special grants: a Schooltime Performances grant from the Roberta Leventhal Sudakoff Foundation and a Senior Access to the Arts grant from the Eluned and Edward Russell Charitable Foundation. Grants were also received from the Cordelia Lee Beattie Foundation and The Community Redevelopment Act which both contribute to funding for the Schooltime Performances Program and the Total Access to the Arts Program. The Van Wezel has also welcomed team member Shelli Freeland Eddie, Esq. on board as the Grants and Resource Development Officer.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of Floridians making note of a struggling economy. While the Van Wezel survives mostly on the patronage of arts enthusiasts, who regularly attend performances, it also serves to create opportunities in the arts for those members of our community who may otherwise forego theatre experiences because they simply cannot afford it. We are so proud and grateful to be the recipients of these very special grants, which are currently opening our doors to patrons who would otherwise be unable to attend performances.

The Roberta Leventhal Sudakoff Foundation has provided a $10K grant for the Van Wezel’s Schooltime Performances. This grant provides access to the arts for 1,428 economically disadvantaged children who are now able to attend school-time performances. The Schooltime program teaches literacy through the arts and fosters teacher development through professional workshops. As a result of the grant, “at-risk” 4th through 12th graders statistically improved scholastic achievement and higher graduation rates. Grants were also received from the Cordelia Lee Beattie Foundation and The Community Redevelopment Act. Both contribute to funding for the Schooltime Performances Program and the Total Access to the Arts Program, making it possible for low-income children and families in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties to participate in the arts and experience theater at its best.

The Eluned and Edward Russell Charitable Foundation has also graciously provided a $10K grant, which will serve the other age spectrum of our community—giving access to 250 seniors who will each attend 1 of 20 mainstage performances of their choice. Eligible seniors currently live at or below the poverty level, as identified by five partner agencies: Pines of Sarasota, Senior Friendship Centers, Jewish Family and Children Services, Casa Santa Marta, The Jefferson Center. This program provides low income seniors with the same access to meaningful cultural experiences that wealthy, retired seniors on the Gulf Coast enjoy on a regular basis.

The Van Wezel is also excited to introduce Shelli Freeland Eddie, Esq. as our new Grants and Resource Development Officer. Shelli has worked for the Hall for the past nine years, is a licensed Florida attorney and is deeply connected to many community groups in the Sarasota area. With her passion and determination we know we will be able to provide more opportunities for our patrons and future patrons.

For more information about the Van Wezel visit

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