By Eric Barton
It’s not easy to define Pompano Beach. It’s halfway between places. It boasts relatively affordable waterfront homes. It’s home to a few fine waterfront restaurants.
But before long, you might be thinking of Pompano as an arts destination, where painters and musicians and spoken-word performers gather, and where those who appreciate their works mingle among the like-minded.
That’s the vision of Alyona Ushe, who’s in charge of turning a historic Pompano hotel into an incubator of art.
“We want to make Pompano Beach into a place where artists want to come and create,” says Ushe, a native of Russia who got her start in the arts by founding a theater company in Washington, D.C., in 1996.
Ushe’s company also runs the Arts Garage, which has grown since 2011 from a scrappy startup into a regional draw. Her expansion to Pompano began when the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency spent $1.2 million renovating the old Hotel Bailey. Ushe took over in December and in April opened the Bailey Contemporary Arts center, or BaCA. The center now holds two floors of galleries and nine bedroom-sized studios where artists and musicians can work.
Already, the center hosts a “paint and sip” art class on Fridays and a Lyrics Lab every Wednesday, where musicians and dancers and spoken word performers take the stage. Next up, Ushe is working on a signature event launching in 2015, an evolving idea that may be a fringe festival for musicians and emerging artists. There will be jazz concerts outside nearby. And on Fridays, she’ll hire musicians and artists to set up around town.
Ushe admits it might take a year or more for people to embrace arty Pompano Beach. “I’m telling you,” Ushe says, “in a couple years you’re not going to even recognize this city.”
Bailey Contemporary Arts ( BaCA), 41 NE First St., Pompano Beach, 954-284-0141, bacapompano.org