Funding of $30,000 from Gulf Coast Community Foundation - in response to economic impacts of COVID-19 - will help WBTT to pivot operations

SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, the only professional black theater company on Florida's West Coast and one of only three in Florida, was thrilled to recently receive an emergency Arts Appreciation Grant of $30,000 from Gulf Coast Community Foundation. WBTT was one of 10 of this region's signature arts organizations to receive funding totaling $470,000 in April, to assist arts and cultural organizations hit the hardest due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding is providing much-needed cash flow for WBTT as well as helping WBTT shift its operations – with regard to keeping its education and mentorship efforts strong and available through virtual means – until a return to a traditional live format is possible and safe. WBTT is proud that, even with the significant financial hit the organization has suffered in the wake of the cancellation of the majority of its 2019-2020 performance season, it has kept its entire staff on the payroll.

“While our prior fiscal health has put us in a less dire situation than it could be, this emergency funding will have a significant impact on the long-term survival of our company,” said Julie Leach. “We are currently working to figure out how we can transition our operations in order to continue our impact and reach throughout the community. Recent influxes of cash – including the emergency Arts Appreciation Grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation – are helping us to get through this crisis as well as affirming our value to the community.”

In an effort to keep the organization afloat and its staff fully employed, WBTT applied – and was approved – for a Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loan, and has also applied for a recently-announced National Endowment for the Arts grant program to assist arts organizations impacted by COVID-19. WBTT was also astounded and thrilled to have raised more than $190,000 during the recent 2020 Giving Challenge, coming in seventh out of nearly 700 participating nonprofit organizations.

Gulf Coast typically awards its Arts Appreciation Grants once a year to key arts and cultural partners. With minimal paperwork and wide flexibility for how the funding is used, the grants are designed to let the organizations focus on what they do best: advancing their artistic missions. Gulf Coast awarded the same amount to WBTT earlier in Gulf Coast's 2019-2020 fiscal year, in October of 2019.

For more about WBTT, go to

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. Its mission is to produce professional theater 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, visit the website at or call 941-366-1505.