Arts Garage was intended to be a temporary venue—an intimate facility tucked into a converted parking garage—until a permanent location could be established in rapidly redeveloping downtown Delray Beach.
Three years later, Arts Garage is a beloved and booming performing arts center, home to a busy calendar of theater and jazz concerts, educational programs and more, and residents and staff have no plans to go anywhere soon.
Community and business leaders in Pompano Beach are hoping to replicate Arts Garage’s formula at the old Bailey Hotel, renovated and rechristened Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA) last fall.
“I’m so excited about the possibilities,” said Alyona Ushe, CEO and president of Creative City Collaborative, the non-profit organization tasked with establishing and operating Arts Garage and now, BaCA. “All the ingredients are there….”
“Arts Garage is about diversity in programming. When you mix and match various genres and forms and interpretations and give artists a stage, that’s when magic happens,” the Russian native said with a slight accent. “That’s the theme I want to see in everything we do.”
Ushe, the self-described “Czarina” with more than 20 years of previous arts management experience in Washington, DC and New Orleans, is convinced that by following the same formula, Pompano Beach can also become a mecca for artists of all types. When that happens, the audiences will follow.
The other key is to emphasize unusual programming like the Arts Garage Radio Theater, finding quirky and original ways to engage audiences and identifying “what makes people jump out of bed in the morning, lining up the passion with the resources that are available.”
Over the past three years, Ushe has built the Creative City Collaborative staff to 12 full time professionals and many more contractors and tradesmen. The annual budget for Arts Garage has grown from $275,000 to $2 million last year.
Even with the collective experience her team offers, BaCA offers its own challenges.
“When it comes to arts and culture, Pompano doesn’t immediately come to mind,” she frankly pointed out, “We have more venues (BaCA, Pompano Amphitheatre and the planned cultural center) and must envision the city as a stage, connecting the dots between the venues. No matter where you go in Pompano, it’s going to be about arts and culture.”
Both ArtsGarage and now BaCA would never have been possible without the support of the local officials and community redevelopment authorities (CRA) in each city.
“We are a tool for the vision of the CRA and the city. They came up with the funding and facilities. It takes chutzpah and the leadership certainly has that,” Ushe pointed out.
CCC is also seeking corporate and foundation support to fund future programs at both venues. A portion of each ticket sale goes into an endowment to support local arts and culture because a local arts center cannot thrive without local artists.
There is still plenty of work to do. Ushe hopes to expand the stage at Arts Garage and expand educational offerings. And BaCA is still in its infancy, but Ushe is optimistic, “I’m so excited about the possibilities. All the ingredients are there.”
For more information, performance schedules and tickets, go to ArtsGarage.org and BaCAPompano.org.