Van Wezel Foundation Hires Experienced Development Executive as it Expands its Mission-Based Programs

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SARASOTA, February 5, 2020 – The Van Wezel Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of Suzanne Hudson-Smith, CFRE, to its Development team. Ms. Hudson-Smith will serve as the foundation’s associate director of leadership gifts, where she will be responsible for cultivating donor relationships and experiences in support of the Foundation’s mission to develop a world-class performing arts center that enrichens the community, supports education and inspires young minds. Ms. Hudson-Smith joins the Foundation at an important time as it looks to expand its art education programs to inspire a greater number of children in five counties. Ms. Hudson-Smith has extensive experience in fundraising, development and nonprofit leadership and has worked across the country, including Sarasota, to improve local communities through unique programs and outreach services with performing arts organizations, community libraries, food banks and public television.

“I am delighted to have Suzanne Hudson-Smith join the team at such a pivotal time as we launch planning for a new performing arts center and expanding our arts education programs in meaningful ways throughout our community,” states Van Wezel Foundation CEO, Cheryl Mendelson. “Her breadth of experience in campaign planning and her success in aligning donor passions with mission-driven projects will be very meaningful as we look to the future.”

Prior to joining the Van Wezel Foundation, Ms. Hudson-Smith was the executive director at Players by the Sea Theatre, a community theatre in Jacksonville Beach, FL, where she was responsible for growing the mission of the organization and revenue impact. For nearly a decade, Ms. Hudson-Smith has also served in leadership roles and fundraising positions with notable organizations including the Florida Theatre Performing Arts Center, Community Connections of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation, where she designed and implemented the Level-Up Challenge, a data-driven, research-based summer reading program to minimize the summer learning slide.

With a passion for theater and the performing arts education, Ms. Hudson-Smith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in pre-professional acting and arts management at Southwest Texas University and an equity internship at the renowned Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA. She has been a Certified Fund Raising Executive since 2012. Ms. Hudson-Smith looks forward to returning to Sarasota with her family and re-establishing alliances within the community.


Since 1987, The Van Wezel Foundation has partnered with the City of Sarasota to foster a connection between the people, the bay and the spirit of human creativity. Through this collaboration and the generosity of donors, the Foundation has provided grants of more than $14 million to invest in arts education and capital projects at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The mission of the Van Wezel Foundation is to create a world-class performing arts center that enriches the community, supports arts education and inspires young minds. For more information, visit To learn more about the many ways we can grow our vision for the community together, visit


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