Sacramento’s Celebration Arts receives $700,000 state grant

A recent performance at Celebration Theatre. Courtesy photo

Funding will help the Black theater organization expand Its operation

By Verbal Adam, Sacramento Observer

This story is co-published with The Sacramento Observer, a newspaper with more than 58 years of bringing public service journalism to the Capital City.

Sacramento theater company Celebration Arts has received from the state a game-changing grant of more than $700,000.

“It’s definitely going to take us quite a ways,” said Dr. Halifu Osumare, who sits on Celebration Arts’ board of directors. She added that founder James Wheatley told her the grant exceeds the cumulative funding the nonprofit has received from the state and the city since its incorporation in 1986.

The funds will be used to increase administrative staff and make necessary capital building improvements to Celebration Arts’ theater at 2727 B St., said a news release. The $714,068 grant also will support acquiring new theatrical lighting and technology investments, which will allow Celebration Arts, Sacramento’s premier Black theater, to expand to a new level of operation.

“This is a major amount that will take us to a new level,” Dr. Osumare said, “but it should be only the beginning.”

Celebration Arts trains Black performers and showcases Black performances, and traces its origins to the mid-1970s, when Wheatley — an actor, director, singer and dancer — established Celebration Dance Company at the First English Lutheran Church.

Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, who presented a ceremonial check March 10, said an infusion of money into the state budget created opportunities for one-time funds “to reinvest in our communities.” He added that the nation’s summer 2020 racial reckoning sharpened the focus on the “true issues” faced by Black people, including in Sacramento.

“So the last couple of years, I’ve looked long and wide across Sacramento to worthy recipients, and this one certainly rose to the top,” McCarty said. “So the only condition is spend it wisely and make a difference. And I know that you do, so thank you for bringing the arts to Sacramento, especially for telling the story.”

In addition to training and performances at its B Street location, Celebration Arts still provides outreach dance classes at the First Tongan Taulangau United Methodist Church in Oak Park.

“Celebration Arts has been serving our community since 1986, creating opportunities for aspiring performers and uplifting Black voices” said City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela. “This kind of amazing work is so critical to maintaining healthy communities, and I’m very grateful to Assemblymember McCarty for supporting these efforts in such an impactful way.”

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