Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center will begin 2021 with an eye towards increasing awareness of its plans for diversity, equity, and scholarship, underscored by a generous $25,000 charitable contribution from the James and Marjorie Kuhn Foundation to assist in these efforts.
Through outreach efforts, WHBPAC has collaborated with Riverhead-based non-profit the Butterfly Effect Project – a program that empowers young girls by giving them the tools to assist in achieving emotionally stable and self-confident futures, in hopes of bringing forth a generation of women who are strong, independent and knowledgeable. The Butterfly Effect Project aspires to ensure that every girl enrolled in the program has a fair chance to broaden their horizons by eliminating obstacles such as mobility, cultural differences and finances. WHBPAC Executive Director Julienne Penza-Boone says: “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 from were hosted by WHBPAC for a screening of the Misty Copeland documentary, A Ballerina’s Tale. Ms. Fulford is looking to the future with WHBPAC: “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. 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,” says WHBPAC Arts Academy manager Justin Harris. James and Marjorie Kuhn’s generous donation will underwrite these programs so that there is no cost to the girls participating – eliminating financial barriers for participants.
“This is the first step towards a permanent initiative to increase inclusion in the arts in the Hamptons,” says 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,” says 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. Says Mr. Kuhn: “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.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 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,” says 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.”
For more information regarding Arts Academy programming and scholarship opportunities, please call Arts Academy Director Kristen Poulakis at 631-288-2350 x112 or go to whbpac.org
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center
The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is a year-round, community-based, not-for-profit 501(c)3 arts organization, founded in 1997, that serves patrons on the East End and beyond. We are a vibrant venue committed to providing a greater understanding and appreciation of the arts and meeting the cultural aspiration of the area by:
- Presenting world-class performing arts, music, dance, comedy, and cinema from around the world.
- Providing premier arts education programs to the widest and most diverse audiences, regardless of socioeconomic status.
- It is also our mission to contribute positively to the local economy and to enrich the community’s quality of life.
Known as the “Crown Jewel” of Westhampton Beach, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center originally opened as Prudential’s Westhampton Theatre in 1932 as a movie theatre before eventually falling into disrepair. In 1996, a group of concerned citizens joined together to revive the art deco theatre and restore it to its former glory. Throughout the process, the community was the backbone of the fundraising effort. More than half the cost of the entire renovation project came from residents and business owners. And on July 4, 1998, the new Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center reopened its doors to the public, where it has since cultivated its reputation as the pioneer of the Hamptons performing arts community. The theatre relies on sponsorship and fundraising to support its mission to keep the arts alive on Long Island and to sustain community growth. Welcoming over 45,000 patrons each year through Mainstage performances and Arts Academy programming, WHBPAC is a visionary of the cultural arts.
Learn more at https://www.whbpac.org
The Butterfly Effect Project
The Butterfly Effect Project is a nonprofit, community-oriented organization started by Tijuana Fulford. It was Tijuana’s goal to start a program that would empower young girls by giving them the tools to assist in achieving emotionally stable and self-confident futures, in hopes of bringing forth a generation of women who are strong, independent and knowledgeable. The Butterfly Effect Project aspires to ensure that every girl enrolled in the program has a fair chance to broaden their horizons by eliminating obstacles such as mobility, cultural differences and finances.
The Butterfly Effect Project started on March 8, 2014 with 8 girls that came from Riverhead and Flanders areas. The program has grown to 437 girls that come from Riverhead, Flanders, Calverton, Mastic, Shirley, Bellport, Westhampton, Peconic, Patchogue and West Islip.
The girls have the option of attending meetings in Riverhead, Bellport, Northville, Flanders, and Aquebogue. We have meetings every other week for most of the chapters during the school year. In addition, we have many events throughout the year which all groups attend.
With the help of our local communities, every child can experience diverse activities that help mold and challenge their minds while promoting academic success, hard work and self-confidence. The Butterfly Effect Project will provide a safe place for young girls to be free, expressive and successful.
Learn more at https://www.bepgirls.org
Photo Credit: Tia Fulford/Butterfly Effect Project