A New Home: How An Emerging Local Theater Landed A Big Gift

“We like to lay eggs where we nest, and we nest here,” Patty Baker, wife of former president of Kohl's Jay Baker, once told a local outlet. The nest in this case is Naples, Florida, where the Bakers moved to retire. 

The Bakers are active philanthropists and much of this giving has an arts bent. Patty holds a degree in theatre and art history and is a Tony-winning Broadway producer. They've backed Broadway musicals such as the award-winning Memphis. Naples is also home to the Baker Museum of Art. The couple through their charitable vehicle, the Jay and Pat Baker Foundation, earmark funds for other arts outfits like Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, The Naples Players, Milwaukee Repertory Theater (Kohl's is headquartered in Wisconsin), and Public Theater in New York. In the 2013 tax year, the couple's foundation also gave a $100,000 grant to Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, an emerging theater complex in the area.

Now comes news of more support of Gulfshore Playhouse by the couple, to the tune of $10 million. The new theater is set to open in 2019. The Bakers' gift is contingent on the theater raising an additional $10 million in funds. The gift kicks off the outfit's capital campaign. Gulfshore Playhouse is in the midst of negotiating a space that will serve as the home of the new theater, and will include a 400-seat mainstage, a 175-seat Studio, a large airy lobby featuring an atrium, cafe, art gallery and VIP lounge, as well as an Educational Wing replete with rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and space for Children's Theatre events. 

Guflshore Playhouse Founder and CEO Kristen Coury hopes that the Bakers' gift brings them "even closer to becoming that Tony Award-winning regional theatre about which Naples can be proud."