Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Bronx digs for BAAD!

Dance artist Arthur Aviles, artistic director of BAAD! (Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance) sent this update on the the organization's move from its longtime Hunts Point location to a new home at Westchester Square.

Charles Rice-Gonzalez and Arthur Aviles
in front of their new arts building
on the grounds of St. Peter's Episcopal Church
(photo courtesy of Arthur Aviles)
BAAD! has been through a beautiful storm this summer.

First, I want to share that we have officially moved from our beloved Hunts Point. Through all the challenges this has posed for our organization, one of the shining silver linings has been the people and organizations who have stepped up, and in, to help us.

Since, Taconic/Denham, Wolf our current landlord, let us know about a year ago that they wouldn't be giving us a long term lease, and would only consider a one year extension at twice the rate of our current lease, we began our quest to find a new home. We have been humbled and uplifted by the support that has come our way.

After Taconic/Denham, Wolf created the conditions that forced us to leave, the Banknote. Denham, Wolf showed us a space and led us to believe that we'd be let out of our lease, we entered into a lease negotiation with St. Peter's Episcopal Church. As I sought help to raise money for a move that was not in my budget, St. Peter's offered a month of free rent and I asked Taconic for help with a free month or two. Instead, Taconic co-CEO, Charles Bendit, stated that since two years were on the lease, we needed to pay them to let us out. After being clear on our financial position he then brought that down to one year. (There is also precedence of Taconic/Denham Wolf paying a tenant to leave and finding them a space with Bronxworks led by Carolyn McLaughlin at that time, but for reasons I'm sure they have, they didn't extend that to Charles and me.)

Although being a small ($300,000) arts organization we would have preferred to be let out of our lease and paying double rent will be crippling to us (and they have a full understanding of that), they have the law on their side, and since we want to abide by the law, they have agreed to give us a lease termination with the conditions of paying them a maximum of 6 months rent, on a month by month basis, unless they find a tenant for our space before the six months are up.

There are many aspects to our story, including the classic David and Goliath one, with BAAD! being a small budget arts organization and essentially grappling with the multi-billion dollar Taconic Titans, as the media has called them, and although moving from Hunts Point and leaving the space we've built over 14 years has been difficult, to say the least, we decided to be as strategic as possible to keep providing a space to serve our artists and audiences.

We will be located at 2474 Westchester Avenue in Westchester Square in a gothic revivalist building on the grounds of St. Peter's Episcopal Church. It's a fully equipped theater.
As you know in the Bronx, several other groups have lost their spaces including the Rebel Diaz Art Collective and Casa Atabex, it's one of the ways progress in the borough is manifesting itself.

Charles and I know we can call on the Bronx Dance coalition community for help.  So we count you among our champions here in the Bronx. We have also gotten great support from other community members and audience who have said where you go, we will follow.

So, off we go to Westchester Square, to build a new temple for dance and the arts, and to expand our audience and make new inroads, and help make Westchester Square a cultural district (along with BCA and it's new building).  Although, we didn't wake up one day and decide to move, finding a wonderful new place to land has been exciting.

Charles and I hope you can visit our new home soon.  We are having an open house on Sunday, October 27 from 1pm to 6pm and will kick off our BlakTina Performance series on Saturday, November 2 at 8pm with a dance tribute to Whitney Houston called Love Will Save the Day.

We will have a few more events to invite folks into the new space and will keep you posted.

With respect, admiration and deep appreciation,

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