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Academy of Performing Arts Leadership Team and Their Goals

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First and foremost, this is a community reinvestment and reinvigoration project. The property of Goldblatt Elementary School is currently an eyesore and a liability in the community. It once was a vibrant school that educated hundreds of children. This project will not only reinvent the location to its former glory and beyond, and enrich the lives of children, but we want to take it much further, bringing additional businesses, jobs and resources to the community. 

The project is employing best-in-class Black-owned businesses for additional inspiration in the community. This collaboration of Black project development experts, construction companies, lawyers , architects, consultants and others will further empower the community and its children.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot - Mayor of Chicago

The leadership team driving the development of the Franklin Vanderbilt Academy of Performing Arts  includes top-tier professionals in architecture, construction, education and professional services with an emphasis on leaders who are Black and of diverse backgrounds, reflecting the West Side community including:


  • Franklin Vanderbilt

  • Lenny Asaro - Legal - Faegre, Drinker, Biddle & Reath LLP 

  • Deryl McKissack, McKissack & McKissack – Architecture & Design

  • Lee Reid, Revere Properties –Project Development Manager

  • Glenn M. Harston II, Gemini Group– Communications and Marketing

The project team is working collaboratively with City leaders to advance the project in an efficient, cost-effective and timely manner. 

A national search will be conducted for the Academy’s Executive Director, and that candidate will bring expertise in nonprofit management and operations.

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“When you take away arts and cultural programs in underprivileged and disadvantaged areas you create generational damage. When you take away young people’s outlet to create, you set the community up for failure.
Investing in the community builds lives, careers and wealth – along with self-esteem.”

- Franklin Vanderbilt 

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The Franklin Vanderbilt Foundation is a 501c(3) non-profit organization created by Franklin Vanderbilt for the purpose of operating the Franklin Vanderbilt Academy and future philanthropic endeavors. The board will abide by all best practices in governance established by the National Council of Nonprofits. 

The Foundation’s Mission Statement: “The objective of the Franklin Vanderbilt Foundation is to light a fire in the hearts and souls of children by providing programs for self-discovery, opportunities for inspiration and the tools to be successful.”

The foundation's most significant asset will initially be the Nathan Goldblatt Elementary School property.
Charity concerts and other business endeavors of Franklin Vanderbilt will provide additional revenue to the foundation.

Officers of the Foundation include:

  • Franklin Vanderbilt

  • Antonio RomanucciFounding Partner of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC

  • Deryl McKissack, President & Chief Executive Officer of McKissack & McKissack

Additional Board members will be added who bring subject matter expertise in business, performing arts, non-profit management and passion for community invigoration projects.

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