SANFORD, Fla. – A Sanford theater is hoping the community can help keep the arts alive and raise funds to keep the doors open.
Theater West End opened in September 2018 in a building on West 1st Street in downtown Sanford.
The founders, Quinn Roberts and Derek Critzer, said they had a successful first season with 19,000 ticket sales to all of its productions.
"We really want to be a pillar here in the community, not just for Sanford but for Central Florida," Roberts said.
Felichia Chivaughn Ellison is an actor and directed her first show at Theater West End. She calls it her home and said it's a space for all artists.
"They've taken bold stances with the type of shows they do, being inclusive and diverse. That means so much for us," she said.
But the stage lights are at risk of going dark. Roberts said they are struggling to keep operations going.
"We've come to the realization that we really can't keep doing it just the two of us. It's growing more than us," Roberts said.
Roberts and Critzer said they poured all of their money into the theater. They estimate they spent $250,000 on renovations to the building, creating education programs for students, and staging high end professional productions with paid artists.
The founders said the cost of running a business is catching up to them.
"We really brought art front and center to the community and got a lot of recognition for that," Roberts said. "Where we need to be is get our business legs underneath us."
They are hoping the community can help them get results. They launched their first fundraising campaign.
The founders said they need to raise $29,000 by Dec. 20 or the theater might have to close.
"Every penny is super important to help us be able to continue operating," Critzer said.
Roberts and Critzer are hopeful they can raise the money and said they'll do whatever it takes to keep the arts alive.
“People are here, people are experiencing, people are loving to be here and we want to keep that growing,” Crtizer said.
Chivaughn Ellison said she can't even imagine downtown Sanford without Theater West End.
"It needs to stay. We need Theater West End to continue," she said.
Click here for more information on the fundraising efforts to save Theater West End.