The Van Wezel Has a New Leader


The Van Wezel Foundation has expanded its board of directors and elected Jim Travers as chair.

This new leadership sets the stage for the foundation as it enters a new chapter and extends its mission: to create a world-class performing arts center that enriches the community, supports arts education and inspires young minds.

Established in 1987 as a public/private partnership with the city-owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the Van Wezel Foundation provides grants to underwrite arts education, Schooltime Performances, community access to the arts and capital support for improvements to the Hall.

Since its inception, the foundation has provided more than $14 million to ensure arts education training for over 400 teachers and arts education programming to over 30,000 students and at-risk youth across four counties each year.

“Jim Travers has spent the last three years leading the board’s Strategic Planning Committee,” said Mike Martella, the foundation’s immediate past board chair and current vice chair. “The committee was established to play a key role in helping shape the plan to create a public-private partnership with the city of Sarasota to build a world-class performing arts center at the heart of the bay’s approved master plan. Because of his expertise, the board unanimously agreed that Jim is the perfect choice to lead the foundation into its next chapter.”

Travers is a senior technology executive, having built high-growth technology companies in the public and private sectors over the course of his 35-year career.

Recently, Travers served as chair and CEO of Fleetmatics, a global software service company that was purchased by Verizon in 2016. He remains active with emerging technology companies, working with private equity partners as an investor and board member.

“It is my honor to chair the Van Wezel Foundation’s board of directors at such a pivotal time of growth for our community,” Travers said. “The foundation is committed to helping the community realize its vision for a venue that attracts the most celebrated and acclaimed performers, enhances the patron experience, expands educational programming, creates jobs and adds economic value to the entire region.”

Newly elected board members include Ali Bahaj, who will serve as Governance Committee Chair; Vern Chalfant, who will serve on the Strategic Planning Committee; Jenne Brittel; and Chad Campbell.

The remaining board members will continue their service, including vice chair Mike Martella, Gerald Biller, Brian Ellerson, Mark Famiglio, David Koffman, Elaine McClure, Karl Newkirk, Sharyn Weiner and Michael Wilson.

Ex officio board members will be Mary Bensel, executive director of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and Cheryl Mendelson, CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation.

“I am thrilled to work with Jim and the board as we undertake this legacy project for the community,” Mendelson said. “The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall opened its doors 50 years ago to foster a connection between the city, the people and the spirit of creativity. We remain committed to those founding values and our mission. Together, we will work to ensure that this new performing arts center will be a place for ideas, a place for the arts, a place for everyone.”

About the Van Wezel Foundation
The Van Wezel Foundation operates as a partner, but independently, of the city-owned and -operated Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

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