Big changes could be underway regarding the leadership of the top concert venue in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
The City of Sarasota-owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall's separate Van Wezel Foundation has entered into a series of exploratory discussions regarding the future operations of the 1,726-seat venue.
The initial discussions with the Van Wezel Foundation, which began earlier this year, have centered on consolidating the operation of the Van Wezel Hall with the Van Wezel Foundation under a long term lease arrangement whereby the non-profit entity would carry the authority and responsibility for governance, operations, all expenses and fundraising.
Here's the what was issued by the city early this afternoon:
Stay tuned for more info/comments from the key players.
The city commission has directed the city staff to explore organizational alternatives for the future. Among the alternatives being considered are:
1. Continue to operate the Van Wezel as a City Department. Over the last two years, under the leadership of Mary Bensel, revenues have exceeded expenditures. The current budget continues this success with no budgeted subsidy from the general fund
2. Explore a private management contract for operation similar to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Ft Myers and the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg. Under this alternative a private company manages the operation with a management fee paid by the city.
3. Create a new 501 3(c) non-profit organization to manage both the day to day operations and the long term fund raising.
4. Consolidate the operation of the Van Wezel Hall with the Van Wezel Foundation under a long term lease arrangement whereby the non-profit entity would carry the authority and responsibility for governance, operations, all expenses and fundraising.
The initial discussions with the Van Wezel Foundation, which began earlier this year, have centered on the fourth alternative which has the potential of combining the excellent current operating staff with the foundation’s ability to secure major new funding in the future.
These discussions, regardless of outcome will not affect the excellent cooperative working relationship between the city and the foundation which have been partners for more than 25 years.
The discussions will have no impact on the Van Wezel's ability to continue to book quality programs in the future.
Bensel will head up the proposed new structure as president and CEO and will supervise all staff (current and future).
The discussion will focus on the following mission/objectives:
Mission: The mission of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is:
1. To present a broad spectrum of the world’s finest performing artists in order to meet the diverse cultural needs of all of Southwest Florida’s residents and visitors.
2. To bring visiting artists into the community for meaningful education and outreach programs that help develop new audiences.
3. To provide a quality facility for other local cultural organizations.
1. To assure the retention of and expansion of quality arts in the community
2. To develop a more efficient and effective model for fund raising and provide for . broad and expanded philanthropic support
3. To ensure that no subsidies will be necessary from the City
4 To enhance the support provided for other arts entities in the community and encourage collaboration
5. To expand audiences, communal utilization of facilities and provide affordable programming to all segments of our community
Timeline: If this alternative is implemented, it is anticipated this process will take a period of time to ensure a strong win-win arrangement. The estimated time frame for any implementation will be approximately January 1, 2013. Any agreement reached would need to be approved by the City Commission and the Foundation Board of Directors.
—Photo of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall provided