Founded in 1988 as part of the effort behind the restoration of San Antonio’s historic Majestic and Empire Theatres, Las Casas Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the development of the performing arts through education and scholarships and the restoration and preservation of historic theatres.
Spanish for “the houses,” the Foundation’s name reflects San Antonio’s cultural diversity and originated from the idea of the venues (Majestic Theatre and Charline McCombs Empire Theatre) serving as houses for the performing arts.
The San Antonio Performing Arts Center, the name for the combined venues of the Majestic Theatre and the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, was officially dedicated on September 11, 1989.
Las Casas Foundation invests in the past, present, and future of the performing arts by preserving historic theatres, cultivating young theatre artists, and supporting theatre programs within the community.
The performing arts – the people who create them and the spaces where they are created – are critical to San Antonians’ daily lives and inspire human transformation and cultural and civic engagement.
In 1987, the City Council of San Antonio approved the purchase of the Majestic Theatre and Empire Theatre. The theatres were master leased to Las Casas Foundation for preservation and restoration purposes. Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) was retained by Las Casas to manage the Majestic Theatre and the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre. ATG is responsible for the overall management of the theatre complex, which includes programming, marketing, maintenance and daily operation of the theatres.
Las Casas Foundation’s first commitment was to restore the Majestic Theatre as the cornerstone of the San Antonio Performing Arts Center. In 1928-1929, it took 11 months to build at a cost of $3 million. In 1988-1989, it took 11 months to restore at an approximate cost of $4.5 million.
The Empire Theatre was renamed by the City of San Antonio in 1998 as the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre to recognize a $1 million gift by Charline and B.J. (Red) McCombs. After being dark for nearly 25 years, this golden jewel was restored in 1998 at an approximate cost of $5.5 million.
The San Antonio Performing Arts Center is also known as The Joci Straus Performing Arts Center in honor of Straus’ tireless dedication to the San Antonio performing arts community.
As part of furthering its mission to develop the performing arts in San Antonio, the Las Casas Foundation Performing Arts Scholarship Program was created for college-bound high school students to assist them in their future education and produce continuing art lovers, supporters and audience members. The Foundation works to nurture the performing arts through education and exposure and is committed to developing additional educational efforts that support the development of the performing arts.