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Cheryl Mendelson - Chief Executive Officer, Van Wezel Foundation

“We enthusiastically embark on this legacy project. The future is now.”

Presented by Van Wezel Foundation June 18, 2019

Cheryl Mendelson is leading the Van Wezel Foundation on a path of evolution. Mendelson took the helm in January 2019 as CEO, bringing over 2O years of experience as a nonprofit executive at renowned organizations in education, healthcare, arts and culture.

Following six years of planning and collaboration with civic and public partners, the City Commission approved a master plan to transform the Sarasota Bayfront into a civic gem for the Gulf Coast. Throughout this process, one vision remained steadfast: to build a new, world-class performing arts center. It is Mendelson’s breadth of experience that positions her to step in at this pivotal time and drive this vision forward.

Mendelson served as executive vice president at The Harris Theater in Chicago’s Millennium Park, a theater borne out of a partnership between civic, philanthropic and business leaders to build a multiuse lakefront park anchored by a world-class performing arts center. Mendelson’s role in that success story, and her subsequent leadership of the theater’s strategic vision garnered the theater national acclaim.

As a senior vice president at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, the No. 1 rehabilitation hospital in America, Mendelson raised more than $150 million, generating global attention to the research center’s groundbreaking discoveries in neural engineering.

“Through forward-thinking partnerships and a passionate commitment to respond to the needs of our community, the Van Wezel Foundation is poised to deliver on its mission: to create a world-class performing arts center that enriches the community, supports arts education, and inspires young minds.”


  • Chief architect for $38 million Harris Theater Imagine Campaign, achieving 60% of the goal in the first year.
  • Named to the Top 10 list of Musical America‘s 30 Professionals of the Year.
  • Established the HT Learning Lab, a capacity building program to support the growth of 35 Chicago resident music and dance companies.
  • Received 3 national awards for marketing innovation for the launch of the U.S. tour of the Paris Opera Ballet.
  • Successfully completed $58 million Impact and Influence campaign for Erikson Institute, the nation’s premier graduate school in child development.

Van Wezel Foundation
(941) 366-5578 | VWFOUNDATION.ORG