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WBTT enters final phase of ‘Heart & Soul’ capital campaign

Published: 24 July 2018

Goal extended to $8 million to ensure ample funds for theater renovation and endowment

SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has announced it is extending its Heart & Soul capital campaign, which is funding renovations to its campus and buildings. The organization has exceeded its original $6 million minimum goal and is now preparing to enter the final phase of the campaign: leadership has announced an $8 million final goal to guarantee ample funding for the theater renovation and ensure long-term viability by growing its endowment.

As of mid-July, fundraising stands at $6.5 million. The three-story Education & Outreach Building at the front of the campus opened in April and is in full use, and the parking lot and grounds have enjoyed upgrades as well. Sufficient funds have been raised to begin theatre renovations in May 2019. When completed, WBTT will have a larger theatre with comfortable, permanent theatre seating, soundproof walls, a second stage, larger restrooms, and professional backstage areas for the cast. 

“Our Board of Trustees, Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs and I wish to thank everyone who has participated in our Heart & Soul Campaign. Our hardworking fundraising committee, ardent supporters, and numerous corporations and foundations have made our campaign success possible,” said Executive Director Julie Leach. “We feel that the campaign extension is necessary to ensure that we have ample resources to complete all phases of the theatre construction, even in today’s rising construction cost environment. And our endowment will ensure we are sustainable for decades to come.”

The Heart & Soul campaign is transforming the organization's 2.5-acre, two-building campus at 1012 N. Orange Avenue into a cohesive, state-of-the-art theatre arts center, enabling the organization to more fully develop its education program, and growing its endowment fund for the future of the troupe. Architect for the project is C. Alan Anderson Architect, P.A.; construction management firm is Willis Smith Construction.

Community members are encouraged to be a part of WBTT’s future – many naming opportunities are still available to donors, such as naming courtyard pavers or theater seats, or even naming the newly-renovated Education & Outreach building. For more information or to make a gift, contact Julie Leach at (941) 366-1505 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, attract diverse audiences, while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 941-366-1505.


WBTT to host groundbreaking event for first phase of renovations

Published: 30 June 2017

Improvements funded through 'Heart & Soul' campaign to begin with Binz building

SARASOTA, FL – The morning of Monday, July 10, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking – called “Raise the Roof” – marking the beginning of the first phase of construction to the Binz building on the front of its campus. The Binz – which is currently unoccupied - will become the headquarters for WBTT's administrative offices and education and outreach programs. These improvements have been made possible because of funds raised through WBTT’s Heart & Soul capital campaign.

Plans for the Binz include a first-floor education wing; a 4,000-square-foot space that will mainly function as three multi-purpose education rooms but can also transform into an event space with a capacity of up to 200 dining guests for theatre or private functions; a second floor with weekday box office, conference room, and administrative offices; a library; and a 6,000-square-foot rooftop garden terrace event space for patrons and other community organizations. 

The first phase of enhancements also calls for a paved courtyard between the theatre and Binz buildings, with outdoor seating for pre-show mingling. There will be expanded parking, with better lighting to assure patron safety.

The Heart & Soul campaign, which has a goal of $6 million, will transform the organization's 2.5-acre, two-building campus at 10th Street and Orange Avenue into a cohesive, state-of-the-art theatre arts center, enable the organization to more fully develop its education program, and create an endowment fund for the future of the troupe. Architect for the project is C. Alan Anderson Architect, P.A.; Construction Management firm is Willis Smith Construction.

More than $3.9 million has been raised in support of the campaign. Area philanthropist Gerri Aaron has provided a leadership gift of $1 million to spearhead the fundraising effort and will be naming the theatre building. Board member Doris Johnson is the chair of the Campaign Cabinet and Gerri Aaron is the honorary chair; they are joined on the cabinet by an excited group of board members and other community leaders.

Once the Binz building is finished and sufficient funds have been raised, improvements will be made to the current theatre building; WBTT leadership is already considering options to minimize the disruption to its future production schedule. 

In the theatre building, plans are to add permanent seating (increased about 15% to around 200 seats), soundproof walls, improve sound and lighting features, and upgrade the restrooms and dressing rooms. The lobby will be expanded to 2,000-square-feet and will include a reception area, will-call office, and snack bar. Sprung floors suitable for dancers will be installed. A second stage for rehearsals, and student and young artist productions, will be established. A professional costume and prop shop, and storage areas, will be built.

"From my early days as a camp counselor, to an arts educator, and then a theatre director, my focus has been to nurture minority youth by promoting self-exploration and encouraging growth, both personally and professionally. These improvements will enable us to expand our efforts and serve more artists,” said WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs. “I am so grateful to our generous community for believing in and supporting our vision.”

"As we prepare to ‘Raise the Roof’ and begin the renovations to the Binz building, I must emphasize how extraordinary it is for our organization to have come this far," added WBTT executive director Julie Leach. "Our hardworking fundraising committee, ardent supporters, and numerous corporations and foundations have made this day possible. On behalf of everyone at WBTT, I would like to say ‘thank you!’"

For more information about WBTT’s Heart & Soul Capital Campaign or to make a gift, go to westcoastblacktheatre.org/heart-and-soul.

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates the African-American experience, to attract diverse audiences, to support and develop African-American artists, and to build the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.


William G. & Marie Selby Foundation awards grant to WBTT capital campaign

Published: 5 June 2017

Grant of $250,000 will help to turn 'Binz Building' into headquarters for education and outreach efforts 

SARASOTA, FL – The William G. and Marie Selby Foundation has recently approved a grant of $250,000 to the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) in support of its "Heart & Soul" capital campaign. The fundraising effort, which has a goal of $6 million, will transform the organization's 2.5-acre, two-building campus at 10th Street and Orange Avenue into a cohesive, state-of-the-art performing arts center, enable the organization to more fully develop its education program, and create an endowment fund for the future of the troupe.

The Selby Foundation's grant will help to renovate the building on the front of the campus, called the "Binz Building," which will become the headquarters for WBTT's administrative offices and education and outreach programs. The building will include a first-floor education wing; a 4,000-square-foot space that will mainly function as three multi-purpose education rooms but can also transform into an event space with a capacity of up to 200 dining guests for theatre or private functions; a second floor with weekday box office, conference room, and administrative offices; a library; and a 6,000-square-foot rooftop garden terrace event space for patrons and other community organizations.

To show its gratitude for the generous funding, WBTT will name the second floor of the building "The William G. & Marie Selby Foundation Administrative Wing."

“Our board was very impressed with the large number of community partners who also contributed to this project,” said Dr. Sarah Pappas, president of the Selby Foundation. “We continue to be inspired by the cultural diversity that the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has added to our incredible arts community and are happy to support its education and outreach program with this grant.”

Mentoring young artists has always been at the core of WBTT's mission. Currently, in addition to providing a stage for rising talents in its productions, the organization offers the “Young Artists Program,” through which Troupe members are able to showcase their talents with one-night, one-person shows; the “Jazzlinks” program, which brings history lessons to life for area 11th graders; the "New Playwrights Series," which offers emerging minority playwrights the opportunity to present their new, developing plays in a workshop setting; and the "Stage of Discovery" summer musical theater program for teens.

"We are honored and grateful that the Selby Foundation has chosen to support our efforts to nurture and develop the next generation of minority artists, and we are so grateful to all the generous individuals, corporate partners, and foundations that believe in our vision and are helping to make it a reality,” said WBTT executive director Julie Leach.

The Selby Foundation specializes in supporting area nonprofits with capital grants, which support the construction, acquisition and/or renovation of facilities, as well as the purchase of equipment or software. Projects focusing on education, human services, arts and community projects including history, science, and/or the environment are given top priority.

Currently, the Heart & Soul campaign has reached $3.9 million; the community is invited to be a part of the effort. For more information, call (941) 366-1505 or go to westcoastblacktheatre.org/capital-campaign/heart-and-soul.

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates the African-American experience, to attract diverse audiences, to support and develop African-American artists, and to build the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.


WBTT launches $6 million capital campaign to renovate Orange Avenue campus

Published: 11 November 2016

The 'Heart & Soul' campaign will transform 2.5-acre, two-building site into a state-of-the-art performing arts complex

SARASOTA, FL – During Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe's "Emerald City Ball" gala fundraiser last night, the organization officially launched its Heart & Soul Capital Campaign. The effort, which has a goal of $6 million, will transform the organization's 2.5-acre, two-building campus at 10th Street and Orange Avenue into a cohesive, state-of-the-art performing arts center, enable the organization to more fully develop its education program, and create an endowment fund for the future of the troupe. Improvements will be made to both the current theatre building and the historic Binz Building, which will become the headquarters for its administration and education outreach programs.

Already $2.7 millionhas been raised in support of the campaign. Area philanthropist Gerri Aaron has provided a leadership gift of $1 million to spearhead the fundraising effort and will be naming the theatre building. Board member Doris Johnson is the chair of the Campaign Cabinet and Gerri Aaron is the honorary chair; they are joined on the cabinet by an excited group of board members and other community leaders.

In 2013, WBTT purchased the site containing the existing theatre building  (which it had been renting since 2010) and the historic Binz building, and paid off the mortgage the very next year. While WBTT was able to get its theatre building performance-ready and secure office space on Main Street, the situation has not been the most efficient or cost-effective. Consolidating all operations onto the campus is a crucial goal of the Heart & Soul effort. 

The architecture firm of C. Alan Anderson Architect, P.A. and Willis Smith Construction have been selected to work with the board and staff to modify the existing buildings. In the theatre building, plans are to add permanent theatre seating (increased about 15% to around 200 seats), soundproof walls, improve sound and lighting features, and upgrade the restrooms and dressing rooms. The lobby will be expanded to 2,000-square-feet and will include a reception area, will-call office and snack bar. Sprung floors suitable for dancers will be installed. A second stage for rehearsals, and student and young artist productions, will be established. A professional costume and prop shop, and storage areas, will be built.

The Binz building will be renovated to include a first-floor education wing; a 4,000-square-foot event space with a capacity of up to 200 dining guests for corporate or private functions – this space can be subdivided into three multi-purpose education rooms; box office, conference room, and administrative offices; a library; and a 6,000-square-foot roof-top garden terrace event space for patrons and other community organizations.

The plan also calls for a paved courtyard between the theatre and Binz buildings, with outdoor seating for pre-show mingling. There will be expanded parking, with better lighting to assure patron safety.

"Bricks and mortar are only half of the vision – the other half involves the human element," said WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs. "From my early days as camp counselor, to arts educator and then theatre director, my focus has been to nurture minority youth by promoting self-exploration and encouraging growth, both personally and professionally. If anyone had told me 17 years ago that we would be launching an effort on this scale, I wouldn’t have believed them. But standing here now, knowing the support and love of our wonderful community, I am confident our efforts will be a success!”

The organization is planning a phased-in construction schedule as funds become available. Sufficient funds have been accrued to begin the renovation of the Binz building in the spring of 2017. The theatre renovations will commence once the donations necessary to support the project have been given. WBTT leadership is already considering options to minimize the disruption to its future production schedule.

"Our goal is to create a campus that supports first-class artistic productions that will entertain and enhance our community for years to come as well as education programs that will nurture and develop the next generation of minority artists," said WBTT executive director Julie Leach. "It will be a creative hub where collaboration, innovation, and education flourish. We are grateful to the generous individuals and corporate partners who believe in our vision and are helping to make it a reality."

For more information about WBTT’s Heart & Soul Capital Campaign or to make a gift, go to westcoastblacktheatre.org/heart-and-soul.

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theatre company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience and attract diverse audiences, while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.

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