From its inception in 2011 and its full-time opening in 2013, the Firehouse Cultural Center has faced many challenges. First, a highly committed group of volunteers had to arrange with Hillsborough County for the use of a recently abandoned fire station.
And then they had to transform it from something so specialized into a venue that would be open to the entire South Hillsborough community.
And then they had to open their arms and the doors, reaching out into that community with a mission to make the arts, entertainment, education and more accessible to all.
On the whole, that was no small feat. But now in 2015, the success of the facility, and of the founders and organizers, is becoming clear. The Firehouse Cultural Center has settled into the community and continues to do so.
Where there was once an empty building, there are now arts open to everyone. There is entertainment. There is inspiration. And most definitely, there is education, which is a culmination of all of the above.
This summer the Firehouse Cultural Center hosted the Imagine, Explore, Discover! Summer Camp for school-age children. The program allowed young people to take part in sections or in the entire program. It began in June with the “campers” learning acting techniques for theater and film, with an underlying motive of helping them to develop self-confidence while working on scenes to be performed live or recorded on film.
The next week continued on that topic with a theme entitled “Musical Theater.”
The third week shifted course, with instruction on robotics and coding. The young people used a system called Lego Mindstorms to build and program their own robots, while learning digital coding.
The fourth and fifth weeks went back to the basics with drawing, painting and printmaking, along with learning the secrets to 3D art, with a week entitled, “The Art of Illusion.”
The final week, which just ended last Friday, returned to high technology with cartooning and animation. The campers used MacBooks to create their own characters and several children went well beyond, creating animated three-dimensional objects.
At the end of each week, the young people showed off their accomplishments to their parents.
In all, the camp was an unqualified success. The skills demonstrated by the young people — from a wide range of ages — were breathtaking. And they took it all in stride — both the learning of new skills and making new friends. Both are something they may well carry with them forever.
Although the summer camp has now ended, programs and activities continue at the Firehouse Cultural Center. Each Thursday, from 6 to 9 p.m., the Figure Drawing Group, moderated by renowned local artist and USF Professor Emeritus Bruce Marsh, takes place.
Beginning next month, activities ramp up for the fall season with the Firehouse Pub, featuring Girls Night Out Comedy night on Sept. 18 and Victoria Ginty and LadyHawke performing on Sept. 19. The Ken Loomer Quartet wraps up the month on Sept. 25.
Also coming up will be more technology programs and resources along with programs in cooperation with a major Tampa theater venue.
Where there was once an empty block, an art and entertainment venue has grown and is thriving, settling and growing into the community as an irreplaceable asset. For more information about programs or membership, visit www.firehouseculturalcenter.org.
The Firehouse Cultural Center is at 101 1st Ave NE in Ruskin, near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Shell Point Road.