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Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center Launches Critical Relief Program to Sustain Arts Academy

Sydney A. Braat

Set the Stage…for the Future of WHBPAC Arts Academy will utilize a platform that enables crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising. (Photo: www.facebook.com)

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) launched a critical relief program campaign on Friday, May 15 that focuses on raising funds to sustain the Arts Academy through the COVID-19 crisis. The Arts Academy has been vital to the theatre and serves nearly 10,000 students per year through School Day Performances, after-school programs, summer camps, adult classes, the Moment program, Songwriting Circle, landmark daytime music program for children with special needs, and many more.

When COVID-19 hit, The Academy was in the midst of a banner year of record attendance and had just begun rehearsals for their spring semester. WHBPAC was forced to close its doors on March 13 and since then has been offering a myriad of free virtual programming alongside virtual master classes and private coaching sessions. Like many organizations, virtual experiences are the only option, although do not always provide the same experiences.

"Our message throughout this time has been one of positivity - we have always served as a beacon for our patrons, using the arts to uplift," said Executive Director, Julienne Penza-Boone. "That said, there's no denying the difficult challenges we face. Theatres were the first to close, and will be the last to reopen. We will be relying on our community to help see us through this so that we're able to open our doors and welcome our students back as soon as we're able."

The campaign is called Set the Stage…for the Future of WHBPAC Arts Academy and will utilize a platform that enables crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising. This is seen as an exciting concept that will enable donors to build their own teams to raise funds among their personal networks. "It's a wonderful opportunity to make a real, tangible impact," noted Penza-Boone.

"It's a very modern platform, and one that will allow our donors to engage with their own networks that will benefit the Arts Academy," said Communications Manager Heather Draskin. "Participants can donate individual monetary amounts or choose to cover itemized gifts, ranging from costumes to teaching staff to scholarships to even an entire semester of performances."

Throughout the past few months of closure, the theatre has received generous matching donations from the Louis Auer Foundation, which will match dollar for dollar up to $50,000, the Julia and Gilbert Merrill Foundation which will match an additional $10,000, Dr. Stanley Zinberg, former WHBPAC Board Chairman and current Board Member, who has given a lead gift of $20,000 to kickstart the campaign.

"We cannot thank our generous donors enough for these incredible gifts," added Arts Academy Director Kristen Poulakis. "We are starting off on the right foot for our fundraiser to make a positive impact for our students."

To get involved with Set the Stage…for the Future of WHBPAC Arts Academy, visit give.whbpac.org.


Sydney Braat is a Hamptons-raised and NYC-living journalist. She enjoys splitting her time between the bustling city life and relaxing atmosphere of the Hamptons. When she's not writing, Sydney is traveling. She thrives off of new experiences, cultures, cuisine, and languages. Sydney writes about the arts, philanthropy, food & wine, and shopping. https://www.sosydneyny.com/ sydneybraat




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