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Neo-Nostalgia: How Sarasota Balances Preservation and Progress

Frank Lloyd Wright’s son-in-law, William Wesley Peters, set the stage over 50 years ago with the mid-century take on Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Presented by Van Wezel January 9, 2019

If there’s one thing Sarasota’s got in spades, it’s nostalgia. Mid-century bungalows boasting the Sarasota School of Architecture style still pepper local neighborhoods. Although it opened in 2009, Owen’s Fish Camp feels as though it’s been around for at least 60 years. The careful preservation of historic locations in Newtown and Laurel Park demonstrates the value our city places on remembering our past. And of course, we take great pride in the Ringling family, who brought fame, wealth, and art to this part of the Florida Gulf Coast.

While modern conveniences are now ubiquitous, Sarasotans seem to agree that blasts from the past are not only welcome, but sought. Whether you’re a visitor or a years-long resident, there’s one place that is sure to scratch both that nostalgic itch and deliver cutting-edge entertainment: the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Completed in 1969, the Van Wezel was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son-in-law William Wesley Peters. The unique purple hue and building shape are meant to resemble a seashell Wright’s widow, Olgivanna, found in the Sea of Japan. While it was renovated in 2000, the Van Wezel still retains the delightful quirks of mid-century architecture and provides world-class entertainment in an intimate venue that holds just over 1,700 seats.

There are plenty of contemporary shows that play the Van Wezel each season. Broadway giants like Disney’s The Lion King, Stomp, and Rent are just some of the big-name productions remaining in this year’s season. But there are also countless performances given by some of the most beloved artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

For instance, international 90’s sensation Seal will be performing on Saturday, February 16 at 8:30pm as part of the annual Van Wezel Foundation Gala. Note that while the Gala will be an absolutely unforgettable event, you can absolutely attend the concert only. Tickets to the concert are available via the Van Wezel website, while Gala tickets must be purchased through the Foundation.

If you’re a child of the ‘70s or ‘80s, you won’t want to miss the huge line-up of classic Top 40 stars coming to Sarasota the next few months. Sarah McLachlan, Michael Bolton, David Foster and Boz Scaggs are all heading this way, ready to bring down the house through April of this year.

Boz Scaggs

And don’t forget: a delectable dinner by Mattison’s is available before most evening performances in our Grand Foyer, which provides a stunning panoramic view of Sarasota Bay.

Prepare to make some memories that will last a lifetime in the timeless “Purple Cow”—the beloved landmark theater that has entertained Sarasotans for generations!