Delray Beach nonprofit, the Arts Garage, is a "cultural hub" in Palm Beach County, presenting jazz, drag, and an eclectic mix of multi-disciplinary programming and performances in Palm Beach County. The two-years young organization was recently granted $80,000 in matching funds from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. And, as of this week, the home of the Arts Garage is being threatened.
On February 12, the Delray Beach City Commission will decide between two bid to purchase the space currently occupied by the org. It's strategically positioned at the gateway to the Pineapple Grove Arts District and Downtown Delray. One of those options will transform the current space into law offices for the personal injury firm Kanner & Pintaluga. The other would secure the spot for Arts Garage for the next 10 years with an option to buy.
"Moving the venue would be devastating to our success and to the further development of arts and culture of Delray Beach," Arts Garage executive director Alyona Ushe emphasizes.
Since November of 2010, when the Delray Beach CRA decided to re-purpose the storefront space located at the lower level of Old School Square Parking Garage into a venue for cultural and arts activities, Arts Garage has been a center for visual artists, musicians, performers, film presenters, and arts educators to show their work and take workshops to develop their ideas.
"We have gone above and beyond the tasks that were set for us by the city," Ushe says. "We bring thousands of people a month to Delray, continue to be a powerful magnet for creativity, and offer an array of educational and scholarship programs. Our patrons travel as far as Miami and Tampa to experience Arts Garage, and Delray residents are thrilled to have world-class cultural activities taking place in their own backyard."
To get an idea of the breadth of their programming, in a two-month span this past fall, Arts Garage hosted gay choral group Voices of Pride, iconic Cuban ensemble Orquesta Aragón, and esteemed jazz artist Paulette Dozier. And beside having two prestigious Knight Foundation grants already under its belt, Arts Garage also garnered four nominations by the Carbonell Awards for their inaugural production at the Theatre at Arts Garage.
Clearly driven by a very highly-motivated team of arts fanatics, Arts Garage will not give up its namesake spot without a fight. They've launched a petition at Change.org to rally community support in an effort to keep their current location at 180 NE First Street open and active. In the past 48-hours they've already received the support of over 750 advocates.
According to Gene Fisher, on behalf of the Directors of the Pineapple Grove Arts District, it's a common misconception that Arts Garage could easily move to the Arts Warehouse, a site near the railroad tracks that was proposed as the future home of Arts Garage. Of the proposed new location, Fisher said it is, "unproven in its draw appeal, not to mention lack of covered secure lighted parking, dark streets and no restaurants or nightlife. [Art Garage's] presence at the Warehouse would not bring people to patronize the area's restaurants or stores like the current location."
Next Tuesday, the Delray Beach City Commission will cast a vote to decide between the two $2.5 million offers, effectively determining whether Arts Garage will continue to strengthen its roots at its current location for the next 10-plus years, or whether a dark space will occupy the keystone corner of this flourishing South Florida nightlife and arts hub.
"We hope the Commission understands the long-term ramifications of their vote," Ushe says. We need to work together to find the best solution for the city and for the regional arts and cultural community."
To show your support for Arts Garage, sign the Change.org petition here -- and if you want to go the extra mile, attend the petition rally, taking place at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, February 12, outside Delray Beach City Hall.