events

Staci Jacobs joins TOWN STAGES as VP Business Development

Staci Jacobs. photo by  Michael Kushner

Staci Jacobs. photo by Michael Kushner

Sokoloff Arts (501C3) is proud to name Staci Jacobs as VP of Business Development for their new storefront Performance & Event Venue, TOWN STAGES.

Riding it’s 5 year success supporting emerging creatives at Loft227, Sokoloff Arts is building TOWN STAGES to feature a cabaret theater, a mainstage venue, and multi-use event space to house a combination of ongoing rentals, sponsorships, and fully produced works from both the public, and their newly inked Fellowship Program.

Sokoloff Arts is a platform for emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and their supporters; with an emphasis on the advancement of young women, minority, and LGBTQ voices. Jacobs came on board in 2016 at Sokoloff Arts managing events and outreach at Loft227 as it geared up for expansion to a larger facility.

Staci talks about how a night out to support a fellow artist turned into a career jump.

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“I discovered Loft227 attending a friend's film screening, a night of all female filmmakers.  Looking around the beautiful, stylish space... I wanted to meet the owner.  I walked up to Robin, introduced myself and we started chatting about Loft, her background our shared passion for supporting women in the arts (film. She gave me a quick tour, pointing out everything in the space- that she built! The beautiful kitchen tiles, the refurbished wooden sliding doors ... I knew this was a woman I wanted to know more and collaborate with in some fashion. A few weeks later we had a lunch date. During that lunch, Robin started speaking about the need to expand and she was looking for someone to do outreach, make connections as well as manage the Loft events.  As a NYC tour guide for 10 years leading and organizing large groups combined with my customer service background I said "I Think I'm your person" A week later, I was officially employed by Loft227 and working my first event.”

Although Loft227 had been operating without outside support of any kind for 4 years, Jacobs began strategically managing key partnerships, and developing accounts for long-term growth. Sokoloff explains, “For many reasons, 2016 was a landmark year for pairing arts performances with social justice giving, and Staci’s passion and expertise was invaluable every step of the way.  Staci has an extraordinary mind for making connections between our clients, their projects, and how they can strategically draw support above and beyond their immediate network. She knows how to get people engaged in a way they’ve never imagined.”

Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Staci talks about her NYC hustle, how her talents put her in front of hundreds daily, preparing her to manage a high volume venue space. “I came to NYC as a musical theater actor, booking gigs mostly out of town... As many creatives know, being an actor is essentially the life of a professional auditioning, it can feel powerless and unfulfilling. I've always been great with people, so naturally I turned to the concierge and tourism industry as my survival job. Helping people organize their NYC trips, recommending what/where to explore, showing guests the magic of the city; more fun and less crazy. As a tour guide for TV and movie locations I had the pleasure of showing NYC to a global audience. I was able to utilize my leadership skills, entertain, inform and organize hundreds of people every week. The ability to think on your feet, problem solve, and navigate the crowded NYC streets as a stage on a daily basis was crucial.”

Before building Loft227, Sokoloff worked in countless venues that suffered from turning away young and diverse artists, as both renters and staff. As a performer, choreographer, and entertainment director, Robin experienced first hand what it was like being undervalued for her contribution to countless entertainment projects and spaces. As a departure from more traditional venue operations, Robin hires working artists like Staci in a combination of salary, day rates, and revenue sharing - depending on their needs.  As such, her creative team members are partners in the facility’s success.  

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She explains, “Artists are what bring live experiences to life. If you are putting yourself in front of of a live audience, you’re gonna want a team of artists at the helm. That’s almost always who IS at the helm. Yet too often, what artists give is not recognized; let alone realized in compensation. At Loft227, we serve so many creatives looking to us to be creative too; looking for our resources and our collaboration. It takes real talent and guts like Staci’s, to rise to the occasion on our end.  I wanted to build a new kind of company where creative talent can be recognized for what it is, and the value artists bring can be shared across the board. It’s tough out there. We take a lot of risks as artists, and the more we can do to change the game, the more opportunities we can create all around. ”

Staci describes her experience making her award-winning web series, SAVING UNICORNS. “I took the leap to produce my own work a few years ago. Putting myself in the driver’s seat, writing my own content, starring in my own my own show, doing the material I wanted to - empowering. Creating my own content also gave me the ability to build a team, a team that included talented women. My director and animator were both women. My first project was successful, winning awards and now being distributed on an Indie platform. Taking that risk paid off.”

Robin saw that kind of leadership in Staci. “Staci is a consummate theater person, comedian, great writer and content creator, and she’s incredible with people of every walk of life. She really listens to what others need and what matters to them most… and she has a real talent for finessing their message and overall mission to take center stage at their show. She jumped in at Loft227 with both feet, and took charge in our busiest year. Building a great company requires hiring people even smarter than you, who know what it’s like to be the boss. Adding a team member who takes ownership of whatever she is working on and follows through with her work start to finish, is invaluable. Jacob’s is a tried and true New Yorker, and I can’t think of a single person who knows more about our city; who loves and understands it more, and cares about the names and faces filling it."

With the new facility set to open this fall, Sokoloff is correcting a number of staggering gender and racial inequities in the workplace. It’s no secret that very few women build spaces at all; let alone run them. Bucking the trend, the team at Town Stages is led by diverse women with diverse backgrounds in the arts and business sectors. Each team member runs their own company and produces their own work.

Jacobs explains, ”Robin and I share a passion of putting women at the forefront. Giving them a space to tell their stories. Seeing Loft227 expand into Town Stages only opens that platform on a larger scale. Now more than ever, it’s essential for people to have a space to tell all their stories of all backgrounds. Content creators don’t necessarily see the long term game when they embark on a project. It’s holding a fundraiser. Holding production meetings. A casting. Booking multiple shoot locations. Then a screening…  it all requires space.  How great is it to know there’s finally one place that can do all of that for you. That place is Town.”

You can catch Staci on streaming on Seed & Spark and get updates for her latest webseries: Behind The Cereal

TOWN STAGES Welcomes Casandra Rosario As General Manager

Casandra Rosario. photo by  Michael Kushner

Casandra Rosario. photo by Michael Kushner

Coming this Fall, the team from Loft227 will bring together emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and their supporters under one roof at their new space: Town Stages.

Alarmed by the quickening pace of city-wide performances space closures in 2012, Robin Sokoloff took bold and decisive action building Loft227: A shared collaborative space connecting like-minded entrepreneurs and artists under one roof.  With an emphasis on the advancement of young women, minority, and LGBTQ voices, Robin Sokoloff and her woman-led team run spaces in one of the most competitive real estate environments in the world so that their local community can self-sustain, and thrive.

At a crucial point in the Loft227’s growth, Rosario came on board as the Events and Venue Manager. Casandra Rosario produces results that make sense for small businesses through digital marketing, events and business strategy. Executing on Sokoloff’s vision for a new financial model for the arts and entrepreneurship, Rosario helped make Loft227 profitable in less than a year, and demand grew faster than they could have imagined.

“Casandra Rosario is a consummate hospitality professional with a proven track record developing unique social engagements in cities across America. Having built her own incredible New York City hospitality-based brand, Food Before Love, Casandra brought a huge fashion forward, creative, and business minded crowd ages 20 - 40 to Loft227. She hit the ground running, developing our social media presence and communicating our unique identity far beyond our network. We went from a word of mouth rental space to a must-have destination for any and every occasion, overnight. People didn’t just come for their one special day anymore. They began showing up for shows and events at Loft227 they had little or no connection to. We became everyone’s go-to home to hang, to experience something new, and connect with someone new. In a word, Casandra is unstoppable. We owe so much of our success to her efforts, across the board in marketing and management" says Founder & Executive Director, Robin Sokoloff. 

With this increased awareness, Loft227 quickly reached it’s capacity. Sokoloff and her team were forced to turn away over 7,000 projects. For years, they’ve been hunting for a bigger facility to relocate to.

Casandra explains, “Sometimes, one of the hardest things to do in this city as a creative, is survive. It’s also not an easy task to do so gracefully. Loft227 gave a platform to everyone who was trying to make a name for themselves in their respective industries, despite the odds, which is something I’ve always admired. Finding a space to succeed as an entrepreneur is the true struggle many face in New York City. Considering the amount of care and love Robin and Scott have for this community, I have no doubt we can make Town that home for those seeking open minds and fertile ground for their development.  I’m excited to see every play, launch, and landmark event that finds its first home with us, and watching how that helps their journey become what it’s meant to be.”

Starting construction Fall 2017, the new TOWN will feature a Cabaret Theater, a Mainstage, and multi-use Event Space; Capacity 229.

Sokoloff remarks on New York City’s changing landscape, concerned, but hopeful. “If New York is to remain a beacon of progressive cultural leadership on the world stage, a dramatic move is needed to solve our home grown real estate crisis. What good are shuttered theaters and vacant luxury condos? 35% of NYC’s storefronts are empty, and climbing.  It’s time for a new approach to small business. No one can survive this alone. We’re building a new kind of creative home at TOWN where all are welcome to congregate, connect, and collaborate for the next fifteen years and beyond, and we are doing it together.”

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Keeping a venue open isn’t easy, but Casandra and Robin have more than earned their stripes in the space game. Right before they met, a sudden shut-down at a previous location forced Rosario to find new homes for a calendar full of events. Sokoloff explains, “I’ll never forget the day I met Casandra. She called Loft227 explaining where she works was suddenly shut down. Obviously, this puts her out of a job. And yet - she was still taking the time to serve every single client and find them a place to relocate. She was looking out for them, going above and beyond; despite her own uncertain future. Anyone who’s ever tried to book a NYC venue knows it’s not easy. Anyone who’s ever tried to relocate several events all at once, is a goddamn hero. That’s the kind of person I want on my team. Casandra is a very special, hard working woman with impeccable character, a cool head, a huge heart, and big vision. No matter what this town throws at her, and the people she collaborates with, Casandra leads with what’s right, and what’s true.”

In 2015, Rosario was named one of the Top 10 Women to know in the Culinary space by Essence Magazine and she’s still killing it. This fall, she’ll be honored by the Rochester Institute of Technology with the 'Women Leaders In Hospitality Award'.

Check out her featured spot on 'Inside New York', with British Airways:

You can follow Casandra Rosario on her blog at FoodBeforeLove.com, and get updates as she builds TOWN at @TownStages. Stay tuned!