Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall (Sarasota, FL)


Male dancer in black,  right arm stretched upwards, left arm back, fist clenched, conducting a group of students playing percussion instruments

Students called on stage to create an original composition during the ScrapArts
Music performance at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
Photo by Judith R. Hall

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is one of the nation's most active presenting organizations, staging approximately 150 performances from October through May of each season, and accommodating an additional 120 performances by Sarasota's leading cultural organizations. Van Wezel provides culturally diverse programming to the southwest Florida region, bringing performers from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Van Wezel also offers educational outreach programs to the community.

In FY 2005, Van Wezel received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $10,000 to support its Schooltime Performances program during the 2005/06 academic year. The program brings students to the hall to see specially priced performances, bringing the theatrical experience beyond the classroom. Teacher and student study materials are provided, and can be downloaded from Van Wezel's Web site. Van Wezel also has a Bus Reimbursement Program for schools that need assistance with transportation costs.

Performances throughout the year are targeted at specific ages, and some shows include Arts Odyssey Professional Development Workshops specially tailored by educators to tie into the performance. Some of the presentations in 2005/06 included Amber Brown Is Not A Crayon, a musical performed for grades 2-6 by New Jersey's ArtsPower based on Paula Danziger's best-selling series; The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favorites, a puppet version of Carle's popular children's books for preK-2 by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia; The Things They Carried, a stage adaptation for grades 6-12 of Tim O'Brien's searing book about his experience in the Vietnam War by New York’s American Place Theatre; and DanceBrazil’s performance of traditional and contemporary Afro-Brazilian dance.

(From the NEA 2005 Annual Report)