The board of the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach has chosen Donna Guzzo to be its new executive director.
Guzzo takes the Cultural Center's lead position at a pivotal time, as it embarks on a multimillion-dollar capital campaign for construction of larger headquarters to expand its many programs promoting the arts throughout St. Johns County.
"Donna Guzzo is extremely well connected to community leaders and has recruited substantial support for the Cultural Center," PVBCC Board President Arthur Hayden said in making the announcement. "She is an accomplished businesswoman and, most of all, has demonstrated her passion for the Cultural Center's mission as the leading provider of arts programs for this county."
Longtime Executive Director Judy Hixenbaugh retired in late 2017, and was replaced by Latitia (Tish) Sheesley in October 2017. Guzzo is taking over her role.
Established in 1996, the Cultural Center provides more than 180 programs ranging from arts classes, children's camps, and workshops for adults and children taught by regional or national artists. Classes include drawing, print making, pastels, painting in all mediums and all skill levels, culinary, sculpture, clay, pottery, piano, violin, cello, ballet, glass-making and theater. Many of those programs are housed at the current Cultural Center facility at 50 Executive Way. A recently completed feasibility study showed wide support for a new, larger Cultural Center facility with a higher profile and expanded services.
"What an exciting time for the arts in St. Johns County and for the Cultural Center," Guzzo said. "We have a significant role to play in the quality of life for longtime residents and newcomers of all ages. Whether they are artists, students or appreciative spectators, everyone can be uplifted by the diverse creativity this community offers.
"We know there is a healthy appetite for more programs and services, and we can't wait to make that happen," added Guzzo.
Following a career in banking, Guzzo has held leadership positions in nonprofits for more than 25 years. She is the founder of the nonprofit Language Exploration Enrichment (LEE), a language-instruction program in 16 St. Johns County Schools. LEE students have been chosen the Florida Foreign Language Scholar of the Year 11 consecutive years, and Guzzo has been honored as a Florida Foreign Language Most Valued Educator five times. In recent years she has been a featured speaker at international conferences of language teachers convened at Harvard University, at Providence University in Taiwan and at the United Nations.
Guzzo has been a board member for numerous nonprofits in Florida, Ohio and Colorado. In St. Johns County, that includes the Women United of United Way, The Education Foundation (now INK!), Character Counts!, The Jacksonville Children's Chorus, The Foreign Language Educators of Northeast Florida, Durbin Creek Elementary PTO, Hickory Creek Elementary PTO and Murray Middle School PTO. She is a proud Rotarian and Chamber of Commerce member.
Guzzo is married to Glenn Guzzo, an author and the former editor of The Denver Post. Their daughter, Scheherazade, is a former actress, was valedictorian for her entertainment business degree, and now attends law school in Orlando.