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Firehouse Cultural Center adapts to changing times

Published on: September 10, 2020

JEFF KNAUFF PHOTO
The Firehouse Cultural Center has renamed the venue formerly known as the Firehouse Pub to Center Stage at the Firehouse.

Firehouse Cultural Center adapts to changing times

By LOIS KINDLE

The Firehouse Cultural Center is rebranding its live performance venue to increase public awareness of its presence and more fully represent its wide array of offerings.

“As we have adjusted to a new way of bringing people together, our Firehouse Pub brand doesn’t fit any longer,” said Chris Bredbenner, executive director of the Firehouse Cultural Center. “While our music and comedy series grew to be immensely popular, the sold-out audiences we were experiencing on Friday nights in our Black Box Theater are a thing of the past for the foreseeable future. Due to COVID-19, large gatherings cannot occur.”

Subsequently, the venue formerly known as the Firehouse Pub has been renamed Center Stage at the Firehouse. Anything occurring on that stage or within the room is included in this new name.

“The space is the center of all we do on our campus,” Bredbenner said. “It’s the nucleus of programs that impact the quality of life for so many in the community. We are committed to maintaining and expanding our impact with the growth of our Center Stage Music, Theater, Comedy and Lecture Series and to providing a place where people and organizations can come to safely connect.”

The Firehouse Cultural Center has adapted to a new world of masks, temperature checks, deep cleaning and the re-creation of its community programming to accommodate “small classes in big spaces,” said Beth Stein, marketing and operations coordinator. Public safety has become paramount.

“In this new world, virtual streaming has become a delivery platform used by many organizations out of necessity,” Bredbenner said. “And while we embrace this, there are challenges.

“We are a small, community-supported nonprofit organization, and purchasing the technology and hiring people to produce virtual programming is financially limiting.

“Additionally, teaching a watercolor, acrylic or drawing class virtually has its own significant challenges,” he added. “And let’s be honest. Right now people are settling for virtual event platforms, but they are yearning for live programming. They want real world experiences.

“We are safely offering something more.”

A former truck bay of an old fire station transformed into a theater room has now become so much more.

It’s a community room where organizations of all kinds have found a place to safely meet, while social distancing. It’s also the distribution site for food given to thousands in need during several local drive-thru events.

“We successfully completed eight weeks of summer camp for children, with scholarships funded by public donations at a time when our finances were strained,” Stein said. “We are grateful to the community for stepping up to help.”

The Firehouse Cultural Center is a nonprofit organization supporting arts and education in the South Shore community. For more information on its mission and programming, call 813-645-7651 or visit www.firehouseculturalcenter.org.

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