Art

Delray Arts Garage Starts Online Petition Before Tuesday Meeting to Avoid Eviction

The Arts Garage in Delray Beach is in imminent danger of eviction. Supporters have put together a petition asking the public to help save it.

This is not the first time the Arts Garage space has been under siege. In 2013, the City Commission considered selling the space attached to the municipal parking garage in the heart of downtown to an attorney for $2.5 million. Thanks in no small part to a large outpouring of public support, the city gave the Arts Garage two years to raise the money to purchase the space while continuing to rent it for $800. That lease is up on March 15, and the Arts Garage has failed to raise the funds.

So, when the City Commission recently put together a list of valuable city-owned properties that could be sold, the venue was listed, and at Tuesday's commission meeting, City Manager Donald Cooper will give his recommendation.

"It's our understanding that on Tuesday, the city manager is giving a report to the City Commission to ask for guidance and direction," says Alyona Ushe, Arts Garage CEO. "Our fate will be discussed and determined, and on Tuesday, the direction will be set."


Though it has failed to raise the funds to purchase the space, Ushe believes that the nonprofit's successes speak for themselves and that the city will see the value in keeping it where it is. In 2012, the Arts Garage received a $30,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant as well as $20,000 as the winner of the inaugural Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award.

"We're hoping they won't decide to sell at this time. There is a bond on the venue right now that they can't sell it for more than $2.5 million within the next two years, and the space is worth three or four times that much. We bring more than $2 million in economic initiatives to the city annually. We're hoping for the status quo. We're hoping to be able to continue to grow and expand our programs, and the only way we can do that is if our rent doesn't skyrocket."


Ushe and her team are hoping that, just like three years ago, public support will again save them and get them the ten-year lease they are asking for. In addition to asking residents to come to Tuesday's meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall to speak up on its behalf, the Arts Garage has started an online petition complete with a link to email the City Commission.

"We're asking people to share their personal experiences at the Arts Garage and to talk about how critical the arts are to all of ours lives."

The online petition has already garnered 870 signatures.


As for the fate of the Arts Garage should Tuesday's meeting not go its way, it's not something Ushe is even prepared to think about.


"We're focused on the positive right now," she says. "We're partners in the city, so we're optimistic they will see us and the value we bring to the city. We will do whatever the city asks us to do. We're hoping to find a solution that is suitable to all of the parties involved. We're confident the city sees our value."

The Delray Beach City Commission meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 16, at City Hall, 1000 NW First Ave. Delray Beach. To sign the Save Arts Garage petition, visit petitionsite.com. You can also make a donation at ccc-arts.org.

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Rebecca McBane is the arts and culture/food editor for New Times Broward-Palm Beach. She began her journalism career at the Sun Sentinel's community newspaper offshoot, Forum Publishing Group, where she worked as the editorial assistant and wrote monthly features as well as the weekly library and literature column, "Shelf Life." After a brief stint bumming around London's East End (for no conceivable reason, according to her poor mother), she returned to real life and South Florida to start at New Times as the editorial assistant in 2009. A native Floridian, Rebecca avoids the sun and beach at all costs and can most often be found in a well-air-conditioned space with the glow of a laptop on her face.
Contact: Rebecca McBane