$50K Donation Helps LI Performing Arts Center Survive Pandemic

Lisa Finn

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, NY — The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, shuttered like so many arts organizations during the pandemic, recently received a $59,000 donation that will help to ensure its survival.

The not-for-profit WBPAC announced the $50,000 in general operating funding from corporate partner American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. The charitable contribution, made possible through the American Portfolios Foundation, Inc., "will help to sustain WHBPAC through the COVID-19 pandemic as it looks for ways to innovate and present the performing arts to audiences in modern ways," WBPAC said in a release.

“Support from partners like American Portfolios is critical to our survival,” said Julienne Penza-Boone, executive director of the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. “Although we represent completely different spheres of business, we share core values — the most important being that we put people first. CEO Lon T. Dolber understands that in a time of crisis, we have to take care of one another. He recognizes the importance of access to the arts, particularly in these dark times."

Currently, the live events industry in New York state remains at an impasse as it continues to advocate for reopening measures, the release from WHBPAC said.

WHBPAC has been shuttered since March, 2020 and was forced to reschedule its summer lineup to 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, "a loss from which the theatre is still recovering," the release said.

Without the theatre and its legendary Mainstage performances, the Westhampton Beach economy has suffered, Penza-Boone said.

“This funding will go a long way towards helping the theatre’s arts academy continue to offer small, socially-distanced arts programs,” said Penza-Boone. “We were able to pivot and offer most of our classes virtually — including Masterclasses with Broadway performers and inspiring webinars with our Moment series — but now we’re facing the reality of what it will take to reopen safely at some point and this generous donation will help us do just that.”

AP has taken a long-term stakeholder approach toward sustainability by implementing a business strategy that considers every dimension in the ethical, social, environmental, cultural and economic realms, AP CEO Lon T. Dolber said.

"While we aspire to touch upon many aspects of sustainability, we have always been committed to serving people and places we are connected to — more specifically, through our corporate social responsibility efforts, in which AP gives us a platform to do good work in our communities, in turn making the world a better place for everyone. Therefore, we are pleased to be in a position to aid WHBPAC during these unprecedented times and are honored to support their mission," Dolber said.

WHBPAC originally opened as Prudential’s Westhampton Theatre in 1932 as a movie theatre before eventually falling into disrepair, the release said.

In 1996, a group of 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.

On July 4, 1998, the new Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center reopened and has since been a mainstay of the Hamptons performing arts community.

A resident of East Moriches, Dolber said he has both a personal and professional connection to WHBPAC and believes the sponsorship of the local not-for-profit arts organization will fit into AP’s sustainability and CSR goals.

“As good corporate citizens, we are obliged to help the communities in which we live and work,” he said. “Social responsibility is a mutually beneficial exercise on a multitude of levels; namely financially. We gain so much more, personally and professionally, by doing good than by worrying solely about the bottom line.”

This article originally appeared on the Westhampton-Hampton Bays Patch