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The Past, Present & Future of The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

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The Past, Present & Future of The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

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A Community Conversation at the Crocker - January 29, 2023.

Sponsored by the Historical Society of Sarasota County and Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation.

A Community Conversation at the Crocker - January 29, 2023.

Sponsored by the Historical Society of Sarasota County and Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation.


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The Past, Present & Future of The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

  1. 1. WELCOME Marsha Fottler –The Historical Society of Sarasota County Erin DiFazio – Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation
  2. 2. OVERVIEW Moderator - Mollie Cardamone
  3. 3. past, present, & future That became the question last spring when the SPAC Foundation and city agreed to look at the possibility of replacing theVanWezel How now purple cow? The SPAC agreement is only exploratory. In April, the city has the option to just say “no”.
  4. 4. BUSINESS ANALYSIS Ron Kashden, CPA former auditor of Broadway’s ShubertTheatre Organization
  5. 5. signature cultural landmark PERFORMS SARASOTA BRAND Area’s #1 attraction
  6. 6. venue landscape Includes planned regional Sarasota Orchestra-owned Music Center
  7. 7. market position #1 in the world in its class
  8. 8. seating capacity 11% sellouts over 10 years
  9. 9. competition Capacity is NOT the booking constraint
  10. 10. geographic limits InTampa’s 90-mile blackout radius
  11. 11. audience impact 40% more seats…40% fewer parking spots? Funding SPAC with surcharges would double average ticket cost Shows less affordable & less accessible
  12. 12. taxpayer cost $240 million
  13. 13. investment options
  14. 14. ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE Dr. Christopher Wilson Architecture & Design Historian RinglingCollege of Art + Design Scholar-in-Residence,Architecture Sarasota
  15. 15. bayfront pearl Built in 1970, theVanWezel was designed as the heart of a bayfront “culture park”.
  16. 16. provenance A more accurate answer: TheVan Wezel Performing Arts Hall was designed byTaliesen Associated Architects, led by Frank LloydWright’s most trusted colleague,WilliamWesley Peters. Taliesen Associated Architects was Frank LloydWright’s “legacy firm,” founded after his death to carry on his design philosophy.
  17. 17. wright’s right hand Called a genius for figuring out how to build what Frank LloydWright envisioned, WilliamWesley Peters was Frank LloydWright’s first apprentice, son-in-law and closest collaborator for over 30 years. • Peters was also the structural architect of Wright’s famous weekend house nicknamed “Fallingwater,” as well as the Guggenheim Museum, New York. WilliamWesley Peters considered theVan Wezel one of his best designs. 1947 Peters Wright
  18. 18. the shell • FORM showing shells from a Sarasota site visit, Peters told his team “this is it”. • HUE Wright’s widow,Oligivanna, insisted that the building match the purple scallop that it emulated. • LINES the biomimetic roof imitates water-shedding marine architecture.
  19. 19. • CONTEXT buildings wedded to the site. • FORM thinks “outside of the box”. • LONGEVITY materials chosen to weather over time. • PEOPLE expresses individuality and democracy • Four design tenets of Frank LloydWright: legacy of wright With its shell-like form, the structure celebrates Sarasota’s unique culture and seaside setting.
  20. 20. iconic Sarasota HeraldTribune architecture critic Harold Bubil has declared the VanWezel as the building that best embodies Sarasota’s “culture and heritage”. The striking hue reflects the creative spirit, seaside setting and playful purpose of the building.
  21. 21. sarasota’s style The “Sarasota School of Architecture” was a mid-century movement that adapted modern architecture to the environmental conditions of south-west Florida. Some prominent examples include: Southgate Community Center (Victor Lundy, 1956), Sarasota High School (Paul Rudolph, 1960), Gulf StreamTowers (Tim Seibert, 1962), and Sarasota City Hall (Jack West, 1966), plus many private residences. Architects of the Sarasota School were influenced by Frank LloydWright’s organic lines, honest use of materials, and site-specific melding of form and structure. Blending organic, abstract and expressive elements, TheVanWezel was listed in 2018 by the University of Florida as one of Florida’s “50 flagship” mid-century modern buildings.
  22. 22. HISTORIC & CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE Lorrie Muldowney President, SarasotaAlliance for Historic Preservation
  23. 23. david cohen • Co-founded West Coast Symphony David Cohen lived in a Paul Rudolph home on Siesta Key • Nicknamed “Mr. Sarasota”
  24. 24. WHEREAS Mr. Cohen can be credited with developing and furthering the idea of Sarasota as the cultural center of the West Coast of Florida October 1999 • Catalyzed the creation of TheVan Wezel • City Commissioner & Mayor
  25. 25. lewis & eugenia van wezel • LEWISVAN WEZEL –Tiffany’s diamond buyer. Named as Sarasota’s 1962 “Citizen of theYear”. • EUGENIA VAN WEZEL – Born in Moscow.Trained in theater, and acted in Boston. West Coast Symphony fan. • VANWEZEL ESTATE – In 1937, the couple built Lido Key’s first home, aThomas Reed Martin, Mediterranean Revival Style home in John Ringling Estates. Created a family foundation which donated $400,000 toward completion of the City of Sarasota’s performing arts hall.
  26. 26. ken thompson At the April 25, 1968 groundbreaking, Mayor Jack Betz said “this building exemplifies the character of the citizens and community more than any other structure”. Regarding controversy over the unusual hue, city manager KenThompson said “if a building doesn't provoke discussion, then it probably isn't a successful piece of architecture." • Sarasota’s “Purple Heart & Soul”
  27. 27. Hurricane Ian’s only impact on the concrete shell was a dislodged letter.
  28. 28. grand opening A high school student kept the ticket and program from the first show, and was drawn by it to learn more about Jewish faith and culture. ArchitectWes Peters wore a purple tuxedo to the opening. City manager KenThompson juggled backstage, and later joked he was theVanWezel’s first performer! David Cohen cut the ribbon to the amethyst jewel January 5, 1970
  29. 29. historic eligibility criteria 1. More than 50 years old 2. Associated with significant historic events 3. Associated with significant historic figures 4. Embodies characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction 5. Represents the work of a master 6. Possesses high degree of artistic value 7. Represents a significant site or collective entity
  30. 30. benefits of designation • Contribute to collective knowledge of significant places. • Economic incentives & preservation grants. • Eligible for remodeling and flood- proofing without running into the cost limits of the “FEMA 50%” rule. TheVan Wezel meets multiple criteria for both national and local historic register listing.
  31. 31. PRIOR UPGRADES Mollie Cardamone former city of Sarasota mayor & commissioner
  32. 32. building has evolved 2000 $20 million renovation to add 25,000 square feet, including a new stagehouse, elevators, education wing, and larger lobbies and grand foyer. During remodel, performances held in a circus tent! 2010 New Meyer speaker array andYamaha digital sound console installed. 2011 25 seats added. Taliesin seats replaced. New seats recline less, and bolt-on cupholders make passage more awkward. 2013 Added terrace shade sail and new firepit. 2015 Portable Wenger orchestra shell installed to improve acoustic music experience (which was superb until fly tower added). 2016 Public spaces and restrooms remodeled. 2020 Air conditioning chiller unit replaced.
  33. 33. myths linger Continental Seating • Used by many theaters, including Ruth Eckerd Hall, built in 1983. • Offers best unobstructed views for theater and dance. • Fire marshal tests show the VanWezel empties as fast or faster than similarly-sized center-aisled theaters. PARKER PLAYHOUSE Ft. Lauderdale RUTH ECKERD Clearwater SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE Australia Not a single bad seat in the house!
  34. 34. PERFORMANCE PERSPECTIVE Carolyn Michel actress · formerVanWezel Foundation board member
  35. 35. world-class playhouse In 2020, the Van Wezel named the world’s best theater in class for the 7th time! • St. Pete’s mayor noted enviously Sarasota’s hall hadWright stuff Right size • actor’s ideal theater • touring blackouts Great views • excellent sightlines Easy access • theaters need parking
  36. 36. mechanics of theatrics What other performing arts hall is so unique and memorable that it inspires its own crowd-sourced theme song? Acoustics • Orchestra building new symphony hall Lighting • Due for upgrade Setting the stage • Height constraint interfered with chandelier for Phantom of the Opera. Behind the scenes • Systems should be regularly updated. • Backstage could use a design refresh.
  37. 37. PRESERVING PLACE Mark Smith, AIA Sarasota County Commissioner · past president of the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects
  38. 38. the shell is sound • Oct. 2021 Karins report found structure in good condition
  39. 39. environmental context Floodproofing FEMA-approved “dryproofing” measures include flood barriers (walls or berms), floodgates and doors, and possibly weighted or anchored slabs. Waterproofing Can be done with paint-on sealant (Karins estimated $1M cost), and installation of hurricane-rated glass windows and doors. Good bones. Worth keeping.
  40. 40. QUESTIONS? Moderator - Mollie Cardamone

Notes de l'éditeur

  • Thank you for your attention this afternoon I am honored to have been invited to participate in this afternoon’s important conversations about preserving the Van Wezel Performing Arts hall and share with you the legacies of the community leaders who brought the creation of the hall to reality in the late 1960’s. These influencers were David Cohen, Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel and Ken Thompson. Each approached the creation of the performing arts hall from a unique perspective. David as a concert musician the Van Wezel’s a notable philanthropists and city Manager Ken Thompson as a community leader who understood what was needed to create a great city.
  • David Cohen was a community leader in Sarasota following his arrival here after world war II and up until the time of his death in 1999. In addition to his love of music he understood great architecture. His home on Siesta Key was designed by the grandfather of the Sarasota School of Architecture architect Paul Rudolph between 1953 and 1955 16 years before the completion of the Van Wezel. As Rudolph’s client he collaborated on the design with Rudolph through three design variations. One version was recognized by the progressive architecture awards in 1954.
  • At the time of his passing in 1999 the city passed a memorial resolution to recognize his noteworthy and everlasting contributions to the city. Served in the city commission from 1960 – 1970. the fifth whereas clause credits cohen with developing the idea of sarasota as the cultural center of the west coast of Florida and with being the inspiration for the van Wezel perfoming arts hall the funding for which was approved by the voters on December 8, 1964.

    Renamed the symphony hall to david cohen hall by the city commission in 1971 and the naming of cohen way and cohen park in newtown received a recognition of merit at a special concert in his honor during the 1982 new college music festival and received the lifetime achievement award from the sarasota manatee israel bond committee in 1985.
  • Why was he the citizen of the year

    Recognize family members in the audience

    Created a family foundation which donated $400,000 toward completion of the performing arts hall.
    Prior to their deaths, the Van Wezel's made provisions to establish a charitable foundation, consisting of proceeds from their estate(s). In the late 1960s, a group of Sarasota citizens requested funding assistance to construct a $1.35 million performing art center for the city. They were successful in their request and, based upon a $400,000 contribution to the project by the foundation, the hall was named in honor of the Van Wezel's.
  • When asked during a recent tour of the van Wezel what if any storm damage had been suffered from hurricane Ian the response from the staff member was One dislodged letter