Relief Campaign for WHBPAC’s Arts Academy

A performance from a kids acting workshop at the WHBPAC. Craig MacNaughton photo.

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center has launched a critical relief campaign to raise funds to sustain the Arts Academy through the COVID-19 crisis. The Arts Academy has been the lynchpin of the theater and it serves nearly 10,000 students per year through performances, after-school programs, programs for children with special needs, summer camps, adult classes and more.

The Academy was in the midst of a banner year of record attendance and had just begun rehearsals for its spring semester when WHBPAC was forced to close on March 13 due to COVID-19. Since then, the WHBPAC has been offering free virtual programming alongside virtual master classes and private coaching sessions.

Now, the Center is turning to a virtual platform to do the critical work of raising funds to sustain the Arts Academy and the theater through the COVID-19 crisis.

“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 WHBPAC’s executive director Julienne Penza-Boone. “That said, there’s no denying the difficult challenges we face. Theaters 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, called “Set the Stage … for the Future of WHBPAC Arts Academy,” utilizes a platform that enables crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising, a concept that will allow donors to build their own teams to raise funds among their own network of contacts.

“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,” WHBPAC communications manager Heather Draskin explains. “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.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a real, tangible impact,” adds Penza-Boone.

WHBPAC has received 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 chair and current board member, has given a lead gift of $20,000 to kickstart the campaign.

“We cannot thank our generous donors enough for these incredible gifts,” says 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 make a donation to the cause, visit