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Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center Collaborating With The Butterfly Effect Program To Make The Arts More Accessible

Sydney A. Braat

A Butterfly at WHBPAC. (Photo: Tia Fulford/Butterfly Effect Project)

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) is focusing on giving back and increasing its plan for diversity and equity. Thanks to a generous charitable contribution of $25,000 from the James and Marjorie Kuhn Foundation, the WHBPAC will be able to achieve this goal. WHBPAC has decided to collaborate with Riverhead-based non-profit the Butterfly Effect Project, which empowers young girls by giving them the tools to assist in achieving emotionally stable and self-confident futures.

WHBPAC Executive Director Julienne Penza-Boone said, "Working with Butterfly Effect is a dream come true. The two organizations share the same core values, and as we seek to make the performing arts accessible to more students than ever, their partnership is vital."

In November 2020, 25 "Butterflies" and their parents were hosted by WHBPAC for a screening of the Misty Copeland documentary, A Ballerina's Tale.

"The Butterflies are thrilled to partner with WHBPAC. This is a true partnership. Our girls are being given the opportunity to dream without boundaries, embrace who they are while being exposed to opportunities that are not normally accessible to them," said Tijuana Fulford, Founder of The Butterfly Effect Project. "WHBPAC, like a Butterfly, understands the change that is needed to move not just our country…but how can I be of assistance? We are looking forward to working, collaborating, and building with the WHBPAC one child at a time."

New programs designed for the Butterflies (a musical theatre showcase program and a monologue class for older girls) are underway for the spring and fall from the Arts Academy that will help girls of all ages "understand the intersection of personal narrative and storytelling," said WHBPAC Arts Academy manager Justin Harris.

James and Marjorie Kuhn's generous donation will support these programs so that there is no cost to the girls participating. Eliminating the financial barrier for participants is a huge gift.

"This is the first step towards a permanent initiative to increase inclusion in the arts in the Hamptons," said Penza-Boone. Mr. Kuhn, who serves as WHBPAC's Board Chairman, has been working closely with WHBPAC staff to move toward more diversity in its board leadership, staff, patron base, and student body. By offering scholarships, the theatre is able to serve the community and its mission to a broader audience - and through intentional programming, dual-language advertising, and community outreach, WHBPAC is confident it will reach more students than ever before.

"It is the belief of WHBPAC that every child should have access to the performing arts, and alleviating a financial barrier is one way of doing that," said Penza-Boone. The Kuhns' donation, in particular, will assist the theatre with effective outreach and awareness of the availability of financial assistance for participation in the center's Arts Academy programming. In addition to the free Butterfly Effect programs, scholarships are available in ALL of the Center's landmark Arts Academy programs - including music classes for the very young, children, and teens, and highly acclaimed after-school musical theatre programs.

"In order to serve our mission, we must make sure that our programs reflect diversity and inclusivity, and that we invest in our communities as much as they invest in us," said Mr. Kuhn.

While the global pandemic could have easily forced the WHBPAC to flounder, the team has rallied and continued to provide opportunities to the community. WHBPAC has worked tirelessly to offer virtual programming, live-streamed concerts, summer camps, virtual and in-person film screenings, music classes, and its revered After School Musical Theatre program. During the summer, the theatre organized two incredibly successful drive-in concerts, one of which was praised by Governor Andrew Cuomo for its extreme caution in social distancing and safety protocols.

"We haven't stopped creating," said Penza-Boone. "We took this time to make sure we were always giving something that our audiences could connect to. We serve all ages, all skill levels, and we had a very successful year for programming in spite of the pandemic. We look forward to returning even stronger in 2021."

WHBPAC is located at 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. For more information on WHBPAC, visit 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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