Sarasota Scene Magazine: Keeping Black History Front & Center: Frank and Katherine Martucci & Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Sarasota Scene Magazine: Keeping Black History Front & Center: Frank and Katherine Martucci & Gulf Coast Community Foundation

By Tom Reese. Photos by Nancy Guth.

The following article appeared in Sarasota Scene Magazine in February 2024:

Dating back to when he was a little boy, Sarasota resident Frank Martucci has always believed that all humans are connected to nature and deserve to live with dignity.

The Martucci’s philanthropic investments do just that – help those with fewer resources live with dignity. This year, Frank and Katherine Martucci made a sizable donation to the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition (SAACC) to expand its efforts to build a new arts, culture, and history center that will host exhibits about Black life and history in the Sarasota area.

Frank grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, and was quite active during his time in high school. While he excelled at sports and played for the Steinert High School football team, he encountered challenges with his schoolwork and learning how to articulate his thoughts. His mother taught him from a young age to always face and attack fears head on. He decided to take her advice and join the school’s debate team to expand his writing and speech education.

man and woman smiling in front of a painting hung on a wall
Frank and Katherine Martucci, Photo by Nancy Guth

Frank married his college sweetheart, Katherine, and eventually found himself working on Wall Street. He went on to get a graduate degree in Philosophy at Fordham University. Both Frank and Katherine share a passion for philanthropy and highlighting causes they believe in. In 2017, they opened their first fund with Gulf Coast Community Foundation and have contributed to several different initiatives and causes. Gulf Coast Community Foundation has a pulse on emerging issues in our region, allowing philanthropists to learn about funding opportunities where their philanthropic investments can make the biggest impact.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation was established in 1995 with the notion of a community caring for its own. The foundation works with over 850 generous philanthropic families to distribute grants to local areas of need such as health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. To this day, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has surpassed granting more than $536 million. Frank and Katherine have been longtime supporters of the Foundation and its efforts.

painting of a black civil war solider holding a gun
Painting commissioned by Frank and Katherine, Photo by Nancy Guth

Frank and Katherine recently commissioned a painting by artist Robert Crofut entitled “Faces of Valor” that is on loan to Gulf Coast Community Foundation and is proudly displayed at their Philanthropy Center in downtown Sarasota. The painting depicts an African American Civil War soldier in the midst of battle.

“The purpose of having this painting commissioned is to embellish and make aware of the contributions of African Americans to this country,” says Frank. “This is my purpose and driving force along with this deep belief that there is a corresponding relationship between all things in nature.”

Gulf Coast Community Foundation connects donors like Frank and Katherine to causes they are most passionate about and works to create the maximum impact from their generosity. Because of Frank’s passion to preserve and celebrate African American history, Gulf Coast Community Foundation introduced him to Vickie Oldham, a former higher education administrator and TV journalist.

In 2015, the City of Sarasota funded the Newtown Conservation Historic District project, also known as “Newtown Alive.” Vickie pitched her proposal for the project and began working with the City to trace the history of Sarasota’s oldest African American communities. The overwhelming success of the project led Vickie to spearhead a new project with the vision of creating an arts and cultural center focused on the Black communities of Newtown and Overtown. This project would become the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition (SAACC). Its mission is to preserve, celebrate and share the cultural, artistic and historical heritage of African Americans in the greater Sarasota area and beyond.

Frank’s philanthropic advisor at Gulf Coast reached out to Vickie to schedule a tour of the Newtown and Overtown neighborhoods, also known as the Rosemary district, so Frank could learn more about their history in Sarasota. Vickie, Frank and a few others hopped in an SUV and explored the communities. He immediately felt a calling to contribute and help SAACC get off the ground. During her proposal at a City commission meeting, Vickie announced a $150,000 donation from Frank and Katherine to launch the organization. The Martucci gift illustrated that there was support for SAACC’s mission, and it provided to commissioners confidence that the project would be launched successfully.

“The Martuccis have been so very supportive,” said Vickie. “They stepped up first with a major gift to us. It was transformative for our start-up organization and created a domino effect. Other donors signed on as partners with us to ensure that the accomplishments of African Americans in arts, culture, and history are amplified in Sarasota.”

Vickie and her team were offered the perfect piece of history to serve as SAACC’s first hub of operations—the Historic Leonard Reid House. The modest 1,400-square-foot house was built in 1926 in Sarasota’s earliest African American community, Overtown, which Leonard Reid, a respected community leader, helped to establish. Vickie and her team were able to renovate and relocate the house to its current location at the corner of Orange Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way in historic Newtown. Gulf Coast Community Foundation was the first organization to hold a private event at the Leonard Reid House. The crowd was moved by the significance of the Reid House and all that it represents for our community.

The renovations to the Reid House were completed in January 2024, and a series of soft public openings are now under way to explore its exhibits and learn more about its history. While this is an important first step in SAACC’s plan, there is a desire to create a much larger space next to the Reid House to serve as a community center. “Faces of Valor,” the painting Frank commissioned, will eventually be moved to the community center upon completion.

The vision is to build a state-of-the-art facility that will have performance space for Black artists and offer public programs and classes in drawing, painting, photography, writing, health and wellness, leadership and entrepreneurship. It will be accessible to individuals countywide and will provide a safe space for discussions about race, identity, class, social justice, history and culture.

Get Involved

Frank and Katherine continue to generously give to various causes and serve on the boards of several Sarasota-based organizations. Frank currently serves on the board of The Sarasota Ballet, Ringling College of Art and Design, and Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Katherine is very involved with Children First, an organization in Sarasota County that provides Head Start and Early Head Start programs to some of the county’s lowest income families and children. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

“We have three wonderful children and five equally wonderful grandchildren,” Katherine says. “We’ve tried to teach them how fortunate they are, and that giving back is imperative. We’re proud to say that our kids have learned that lesson well.”

If you are interested in getting involved with SAACC or donating, please visit www.thesaacc.com. If you are interested in learning more about Black history in Sarasota and taking an educational trolley tour of Newtown and Overtown, you can sign up at www.newtownalive.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Gulf Coast Community Foundation or exploring your own philanthropic passions, please visit www.gulfcoastcf.org.