Hot Spot — the FCC Mascot

Hot Spot Quarterly Report – Winter 2018

Happy New Year and welcome to the winter edition of FCC’s quarterly newsletter. As reported in the fall issue, Firehouse Cultural Center has purchased a 1600 square foot building on land adjacent to our current property in Ruskin. We are happy to announce fundraising efforts are in full swing, and that the community is showing great support for this massive undertaking.

From The Observer News

Reporter Mitch Traphagen writes:

“The Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin has come a long ways since it took over an abandoned Hillsborough County fire station. If you haven’t seen it lately, I would encourage a visit.”

Read Mitch’s full article.

We who know and love the Firehouse Cultural Center are excited about our new acquisition and we hope all of our current members will spread the word. We encourage everyone to come to our shows, take our workshops, and enjoy the many programs for both kids and adults that we offer. Please invite others to join our ranks!

More GREAT news:  FCC is a FINALIST!!!

We are very pleased to announce that FCC is one of the six finalists in the 2018 WEDU-PBS Be More Awards, Be More Category! We are thrilled to receive such high praise for our 2017 Summer Camp “Imagine, Explore, Discover” program. Be sure to keep an eye out for information about our upcoming 2018 Summer Camp program which promises to be the best FCC camp for kids EVAH!!!!

Oh—and by the way—things are really happening here at FCC!!

Save the date for our GALA, March 3, 2018

Gala 2018 invitation

Last year’s Gala was an amazing event, and this year we promise an equally fantastic time on Dickman Island with live entertainment, outrageous drinks, dining and dancing, a silent auction that will bring you to your knees, and more! Hope to see you there!!!!!

Space is limited! Register online or call 813-645-7651 to reserve now!

We hope you had fun over the holidays!! We sure did …

The year 2017 closed at the Firehouse with a dizzying array of events. Guests included everyone from Santa Claus to Opera Tampa to British Videographer Vivien Morgan to artists from Peru to the Pelican Players’ funny and heartbreaking stage performance of Love Letters. Not to mention all of the music our Pub delivered! Musical magic from blues great T-Bone and the All Stars, songstress Valerie Gillespie and her Jazz Ensemble, Ken Loomer’s Big Band, and James Suggs Quartet —to name just a few.

But now it’s time to welcome the New Year …

See the complete information on this brand new program for kids: Children’s Art Studio.

Children's Art StudioBeginning February, new fun and creative activities will be offered every Saturday morning from 10:00 a.m. until Noon. Instructors Dee Hood and Susan Fredericks will present activities ranging from how to create mobiles and kaleidoscopes to printmaking and more. This program begins on February 10 and runs through April 14. The weekly fee is $10/member ($15/non-member). Call our office at 813-645-7651 for information on special discounted pricing for more than one child.

Kids will love their regular Saturday mornings at the Firehouse Cultural Center, and parents will be happy, too! Creativity reigns!

See our Workshops & Classes page for more information on the Children’s Art Studio and many other upcoming workshops, lectures, and programs. Here are just a few of the things we’ve got lined up for you!

Winter – Spring, 2018:

Fiber Arts (starts Jan. 20)
Painting: Session 1 (starts Jan. 17)
Painting: Session 2 (starts March 7)
Painting with Watercolors: Session 1 (starts Jan. 18)
Painting with Watercolors: Session 2 (starts March 8)
Plein Air Drawing & Painting (starts Jan. 10)
Printmaking: Session 1 (starts Jan. 10)
Printmaking: Session 2 (starts March 7)
Children’s Art Studio, grades 1 – 12 (starts Feb. 10)
Leland Faulkner Teacher Workshop (Feb. 17)
Patel Conservatory Musical Theater, grades 2 – 12 (starts March 19)
Hydroponic Gardening (Saturdays)
Figure Drawing Group for ages 18+, working from a live model. (Thursdays)

Musical Discovery Lecture Series

2nd Tuesdays, January – May 2018, 10:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. This FREE Straz Center Arts Education Series for adults will explore music written for the symphony orchestra; music from cultures around the world; and popular music genres developed in the U.S. from the early 20th Century.

Leland FaulknerAnd — for our wonderful teachers — we offer something a little different:
The Leland Faulkner Teacher Workshop!

Explore magic and myth. Learn new intriguing ways of presenting ideas and curriculum. Teachers earn Professional Development Points! Saturday 2/17 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.

So the Burning Question is: How can I support the Firehouse and donate to the Expansion Fund?

There are several ways to offer your gift: cash, check, or credit/debit card. The donation page also explains how to donate stock shares, should you so desire. And the expansion campaign page makes it easy to direct your donation to that fund. Here at the Firehouse we are all seriously “fired up” about this move forward, and we hope you will be, too!

We ask you to support the FCC Mission to offer quality programming to the community with a focus on the performing, visual, and literary arts, and education for all. We invite you to share the FCC Vision to provide a lively, multi-use, cultural and educational facility that will be a vital catalyst and resource contributing to the quality of life for all in our diverse community and region.

To keep up-to-date on all of the action at FCC, do be sure to CHECK our most important link, the link that will link you to all the other links, the MOTHER of all links: You will see how much is going on right in Ruskin. There are links to all of the programs, all of the Pub events, information on venue rentals, how to become a member, how to volunteer, and more.

FCC Board of Directors

Bruce Marsh, President
Craig Hardesty, Vice-President
W. Thomas Grimm, Secretary
Robert Mohr, Treasurer
Janice Bayruns
Patricia Beckett
Laurie Burhop
Dolores Coe
Tom Cook
Sandra Council
Shawn Geitner *
Ann Hathaway
Jeff Knauff
Gabriel Mbulo
Ann Mohin
Lorrin Shepard

Hillsborough County Commissioner,
Sandra Murman (Ex Officio)

* Welcome to our newest Board Members.

Our Staff

Georgia Vahue, Executive Director
Frances Hereford, Volunteer Coordinator
Beth Ann Stein, Rental & Programming Coordinator
Rudy Ortiz, Facility Tech & Maintenance

Hot Spot — the FCC Mascot

Hot Spot News — Fall 2017

Welcome to the fall edition of FCC’s newsletter! Designed to inform, involve, and communicate with our growing membership, this issue of Hot Spot News brings with it a major announcement which will not only impact the immediate future of the Firehouse Cultural Center, but also has the potential to alter Southshore in exciting ways not seen since we first opened in 2011.

We are thrilled to announce that the FCC is growing!

A fund raising campaign has been launched to purchase the 1600 sq. ft. building which sits on one-half acre of land adjoining our current property. The new building will be remodeled to accommodate an artist’s studio and additional workshop space. In addition, our own Phoenix Radio Station (WPHX-101.9) will continue to rise, finally getting a more satisfactory recording studio! The new property will allow for future FCC expansion, while immediately adding much needed parking space. Most exciting of all is that the FCC will be able to schedule more art programs and events on an extended, ongoing basis!

Expansion Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Firehouse Expansion Ribbon Cutting 2017

On Monday, October 23 at 4:30 p.m. dignitaries including Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman and Representatives from Commissioner Stacy White and Congressman Vern Buchanan joined Executive Director of the Hillsborough County Arts Council Martine Collier, and CFO of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Lorrin Shepard, Tampa Museum of Art Director Michael Tomor, Hillsborough Community College SouthShore Campus President Allen Witt, Ph.D, FCC Executive Director Georgia Vahue and the FCC Board of Directors in a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception to celebrate our new acquisition.

So, yes, Friends of the Firehouse, we will be calling on you to help support this expansion. Our funding goal is $300,000 for the purchase of the property and an additional $50,000 for the remodeling. The great news is that we already have $75,000 in hand to match contributions! LET’S SEIZE THE MOMENT!!!!

How can you donate?

There are several ways to offer your gift: cash, check, or credit/debit card. The donation page also explains how to donate stock shares, should you so desire. Here at the Firehouse we are all seriously “fired up” about this move forward, and we hope you will be, too! We ask you to support the FCC Mission to offer quality programming to the community with a focus on the performing, visual, and literary arts, and education for all. We invite you to share the FCC Vision to provide a lively, multi-use, cultural and educational facility that will be a vital catalyst and resource contributing to the quality of life for all in our diverse community and region.

Positive, positive, positive!

Hot Spot News thinks the following email reveals much about the affection and enthusiasm generated by the Firehouse Cultural Center. Everyone who walks in the door—be they visitors from out of state, guest artists and entertainers, or local residents— falls in love with the FCC.

To: FCC Board and Committee Members
From: Janice Bayruns, FCC Board Member
Re: Culture, the Firehouse & WHY

Greetings Board and Committee Members of the Firehouse Cultural Center,

I am both excited and so humbled beyond words by the passion and perseverance each of you has exhibited in advancing our mission at the Firehouse Cultural Center. The acquisition of the new property will give us all the opportunity to see our visions of the Firehouse and culture in Ruskin and Southshore grow in a whole new direction.

During my interactions with many of you as a board and committee member, I found that each of us has at times felt the struggle with articulating exactly THE WHY. WHY are we so passionate about not only the existence of culture in our community, but the continued growth of this profoundly important component of our lives? WHY do we happily put hours of sweat and time into supporting the Firehouse Cultural Center and it’s mission?

This past year I attended my nephew’s graduation from a college in upstate New York called St. Lawrence University. One of the keynote speakers was Caroline Mastin Welsh, an art historian, curator, advocate of arts in the Adirondack area. Her eloquent speech on why we should support culture and arts moved me to no end and I sought a copy of her speech.

Today I share with you an edited excerpt from that speech that I hope will help you as we go out into our community and ask for support of the Firehouse and advancement of the arts and culture in Southshore.

“Why do the arts and culture matter? Imagine society without the humanizing influence of the arts and you will lose most of what is pleasurable in life. The value of arts and culture always starts with their intrinsic value to illuminate and enrich our inner lives.

“Life without the collective resources of our libraries, museums, theatres and galleries, or without the personal expression of literature, music and art, would be devoid of creative analysis about the past and creative responses to frame the present and dream of the future. Support of culture nourishes the creativity of artists and writers and preserves our historic and cultural heritage.

“Art and culture can be a means to achieve ends beyond the immediate intrinsic experience and value of the art itself. We know that arts and culture play a transformative role in promoting social and economic goals through community regeneration, attracting tourists, developing talent and innovation, improving health and wellbeing and contributing to the delivery of public services.

“The arts are a major catalyst for stimulating awareness, compassion and new thinking. Without them none of us will reach our full potential.”

[Edited – Caroline Mastin Welsh]

How was your summer? Ours was pretty fine, thank you!

Even though that nasty Irma did some damage to the roof, building overhang, and air conditioner, we lucked out with no flood damage. A very big thank-you to all of the staff who pitched in with the clean-up!

Things are generally a little quieter around the FCC during the hot summer months, but the Drawing Studio continued meeting with Bruce Marsh at the helm every Thursday evening. And, while The Pub takes a little breather in July and August, Summer Camp 2017 was wild and woolly.

The nine-week camp was funded in part by the Children’s Board Hillsborough and Hillsborough County. This year ninety-six campers participated with half receiving scholarships to attend. This year’s camp revolved around an innovative movement known as STEAM.

Championed by the Rhode Island School of Design, the program couples varying aspects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math in a summer camp setting. In this fun environment, learning happens at the FCC!

Campers kept journals to encourage literacy and reading, were introduced to robotics and programming, and, at the end of each week, they presented a performance or “show-off” for family and friends.

“My nephews love your summer camp and appreciate every moment they spend there.”

“Very impressed…my daughter absolutely thrives at musical theater. The instructors are a treasure. She begged to come back.”

Free upcoming events at FCC

Our calendar is full! You can find EVERYTHING going on at the Firehouse—programs, workshops, performing arts, lectures, music, and more—on our website. There will be events of all types for the remainder of 2017 and some of them are FREE! You can check the website for more information about these presentations.

Space is limited! Register online or call 813-645-7651 to reserve now!

Musical Discovery Lecture Series

2nd Tuesday November 2017 – May 2018, 10:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
This FREE Straz Center Arts Education Series for adults will explore music written for the symphony orchestra; music from cultures around the world; and popular music genres developed in the U.S. from the early 20th Century.

Opera Tampa

November 18, 2:00 p.m.
A FREE mini-performance and Q&A for all ages in partnership with the Straz Center.

Family Holiday Concert with Santa

December 2, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
A celebration featuring choruses from South County schools with Marines on hand to collect Toys for Tots.

Vivien Morgan: How Videography Changed Journalism

December 14, 7:00 p.m.
Join BBC TV News video-journalist Vivien Morgan on the history of broadcast media. This is a FREE Inside Journalism event.

Inside Journalism: PolitifactIf you missed the October Inside Journalism Politifact Panel, don’t miss this December Inside Journalism event. This photo shows the October event with L-R: Ernest Hooper, Tampa Bay Times; Kelli Burns, Mass Communications USF; Rob Lorei, WEDU; Joshua Gillin, Politifact, Tampa Bay Times.

The Greatest Ever 4th Annual BBQ & Blues Fundraiser!

If you missed this Fourth Annual bash held on October 7th, you missed a heck of a good time! The live music with Rick Hatfield and Kenny Carlyle was hot, and the feast from Buttman BBQ was smokin’ good. A big round of applause goes to Ann Hathaway for organizing this bash and to all who helped out.

DON’T FORGET our most important link, the link that will link you to all links, the MOTHER of all links is this one: It is here that you will find EVERYTHING happening at the Firehouse between now and December. There are links to all of the programs, all of the Pub events, information on room rentals, the Figure Drawing Group, how to become a member, how to volunteer, and much more.

FCC Board of Directors

Bruce Marsh, President
Janice Bayruns, Acting Vice-president
Tom Grimm (Past President)
Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman (Ex officio)
Patti Beckett
Laurie Burhop
Dolores Coe
Tom Cook
Craig Hardesty *
Ann Hathaway
Jeff Knauff
Sandy Council
Laurie Kepler
Gabriel Mbulo *
Ann M. Mohin
Bob Mohr
Michael Parker
Melanie Rimes
Lorrin Shepard *
Allen Witt

* Welcome to our newest Board Members.

Our Staff

Georgia Vahue, Executive Director
Frances Hereford, Volunteer and Facility Coordinator
Beth Ann Stein, Rental & Events Coordinator
Rudy Ortiz, Facility Tech & Maintenance


Hot Spot — the FCC Mascot

Hot Spot News — Premier Issue

A quarterly newsletter, designed to inform, involve, and communicate with the Firehouse Cultural Center’s growing membership.

In the future we will ask our readers to share their own thoughts and visions for the Firehouse. We will cheer our performing and visual artists, our writers, and all seekers and lovers of the arts. We will share their successes, publicize their shows and readings. We will nourish harmony and creativity within our local arts community and provide, we hope, an inclusive, personal setting for all SouthShore artists and Firehouse members.

Today, we invite you to learn more about us.

Say “Hello” to the FCC Board of Directors

As a non-profit organization, the FCC is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of South Hillsborough County residents. Our Board Members are not only willing to oversee the activities of the FCC, but they also are willing to roll up their sleeves and help with the practical work. They have strong ties to the community and share passion and commitment to the FCC Mission which is to offer quality programming to the community with a focus on the performing, visual, and literary arts, and education for all. They are also deeply aware of the FCC Vision which is to provide a lively, multi-use, cultural and educational facility that will be a vital catalyst and resource contributing to the quality of life for all in our diverse community and region.

In their own words, meet our Members of the Board:

Bruce Marsh, President: I’m a painter and a teacher, and have more years of experience in both than I usually own up to. My paintings almost always involve Florida, particularly our skies, lakes, bays and rivers. My paintings are made to be very convincing in terms of the light, the color and the space. I also try to make them hold up to extended viewing, and to point to some issues of perception. In my next life I hope to be either a photographer with an 11″ x 14″ antique view camera, or be adept in programming.

Janice Bayruns, Acting Vice-President of the Board: I am the owner of FirstLight HomeCare and a lifelong lover of the arts. As a 20-year resident of the SouthShore area, I am passionate about everything outdoors, including fishing, diving, and kayaking.

Tom Grimm (Past President): I am a retired executive from Westinghouse Electric, a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator, and a real estate broker and consultant. Currently I’m an Adjunct Professor teaching American Government and World Politics at Hillsborough Community College. In addition to the FCC, I also serve on the Board of the Mary Martha House and am a member of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce. My personal goal is to continue to make Ruskin and SouthShore shine and the Firehouse certainly helps do that. Thanks to Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman’s efforts, the SouthShore area is no longer neglected. We are becoming the place to be!

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman (Ex officio): I am humbled to be a part of the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin. We are making it our mission to uncover the arts and culture that have always been, and will continue to be, the roots of this community in South Hillsborough County.

Patti Beckett: My goal is to make the Firehouse a household word!

Laurie Burhop: I was an Art Educator for most of my career in a Fine Arts Magnet School in Evanston, IL. I just retired as Art Director at SouthShore Regional Library. The SouthShore area really needs a cultural base and the FCC certainly fits the bill. I look forward to growing and involving more people interested in the arts in the SouthShore area.

Dolores Coe: I am Curator of USF’s Art in Health Programs, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the Institute for Research in Art. As an artist and educator I have a special passion for community-based arts and eduction initiatives for all.

Tom Cook: I am the Director at Integra Management Consultants, and have a personal goal to make the FCC a well-known commodity in our community.

Ann Hathaway: I have been a resident of Apollo Beach since 2001, and I am the Account Manager for Pearson Capital, Inc. For twelve years I have been the Coordinator of the Pearson/ SouthShore Toys for Tots Campaign, the largest collection event in Hillsborough County. I also volunteer at the Redlands Christian Migrant Association Charter School in Wimauma, FL. Being a part of the FCC indulges my love of the performing and visual arts and giving back to the community.

Jeff Knauff: Ruskin is incredibly fortunate to have a facility and organization like the FCC dedicated to the Arts, Community and Culture. With my background in the Performing and Recording Arts, I’m honored to be able to serve on the Board.

Ann Mohin: I am a playwright, a novelist, and a former sheep farmer from upstate New York with years of editing experience acquired in Washington D.C. As a new member of the Board I am delighted to contribute to the continued growth of the FCC and am inspired by the community-minded spirit and creative heart of this dynamic organization.

Dr. Allen Witt: In my career, I have served on dozens of civic and corporate boards. Few of these have been as exciting as the Firehouse Cultural Center. This is truly a grassroots effort to fill a cultural need in our community. In an era of low public budgets, the FCC makes the most of every dollar. From children’s camps to stellar entertainment to local radio, the FCC strives to meet the real needs of our citizens. The SouthShore area is rapidly growing from six communities into a single metropolitan area. The FCC reaches across all of our communities and unites us for the common good of our area. I am proud to be associated with this great community resource.

Our outstanding Board of Directors also includes Sandy Council, Ruskin Community Development Foundation President , Laurie Kepler, Executive Director of Mary & Martha House, Bob Mohr, Sun City Center Attorney, Melanie Rimes, Executive Director SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, and Michael Parker, Artist.

Meet our Staff

Georgia Vahue, Executive Director
Frances Hereford, Volunteer & Facility Coordinator
Beth Ann Stein, Marketing & Operations Coordinator
Rudy Ortiz, Facility Tech & Maintenance

About our Volunteers

We currently have 18 adult volunteers as well as several college students who work for community service hours toward college credit. It’s not too much of a stretch to say they find fun and friends while being part of something very, very essential to the Firehouse! Volunteers make all the difference to small non-profit organizations like us. We need you. Our hope is that every volunteer gets more from the experience than they give. The more you volunteer your time, the better the Firehouse will be. It’s righteous and it’s fun!

Volunteers make it happen!

Here are some opportunities:

  • Help out at live PUB Performances by taking tickets or assisting at the snack and beverage bar.
  • Assist teachers and/or students at our many Workshops or Classes.
  • Direct, assist, and monitor the students who attend our Educational Field Trips.
  • Attend and help out at our Free Family Events.
  • All of our special events need you to help us out— for example maybe to set up BBQ & Blues day, or being on hand during Summer Camps, or even assisting at our annual Family Holiday Concert when Santa and the Marine Corp Band arrive to delight kids of all ages.
  • There’s always something that needs to be done in the FCC office—a couple hours every once in a while would be eagerly welcomed—help get the word out on shows and exhibits, for example.
  • Could you help put up our posters?
  • Help artists hang or transport exhibits.
  • Any building skills to offer?
  • Check out our Phoenix Radio Station WPHX 101.9 for volunteer opportunities.
  • Are you an artist, musician, or crafter willing to teach and/or demonstrate your technique?
  • Underwrite a PUB performance, perhaps?
  • Last, but not least, consider joining an FCC committee. The Programming, Fundraising, and Marketing Committees could all use your fresh ideas!

Any ideas we missed?

Check out the Volunteer page.

So wait—what, exactly, is the PUB?

Here are a few quotes from three “first timers” who attended the Phil Provenzano & the Jazz Experience at the Pub on May 6, 2017:

“Wow. Enlightening that talent of such high caliber is right here in Ruskin!”
— George Mitchell

“Fabulous music!
Fabulous people!”

— Jennifer

— Gabriel Mbulo

FCC’S Pub is the best kept entertainment venue in Ruskin. From September to June you can come on down to hear anything from blues to folk to stand-up comedy, from classical guitar to rock and jazz and opera, plus all that falls between. It is a place where you will feel comfortable even if you come alone because The PUB doors open at 7:00 p.m. with nothing but friendliness and great entertainment in mind. There is always a discount for our FCC Members. See the calendar of performances.

2017 Classes & Workshops

Tech+Art Classes for Girls and Women

Last year’s Instructors Anat Pollack, Art Professor and Coordinator of Digital Video/ Electronic Arts at USF, Lynne Hansen, Filmmaker/Screenwriter, Patricia Yontz, Artist/Educator, Sheryl Haler, Film Faculty at Ringling College of Art and Design, Selina Roman, Artist/ Photographer, Maria DelCastillo and Rebecca Sexton Larson all taught FREE tech+art classes. So what is tech+art all about? These classes for girls and women approach the seemingly unimaginative world of technology from an artistically creative point of view. They were so popular when offered in 2016 that we are doing it again in this Fall 2017. The two separate four-week workshops—one for Girls (ages 11-14) and one for Women (ages 15 and up)—will be coordinated by two amazing and highly renowned Ruskin artists, Dolores Coe and Dee Hood. Tech +art is precisely the kind of unique program that makes the FCC such an invaluable asset to SouthShore residents. Check the tech+art page for complete information.

Patel/Straz Partnership: Theatre & Improv Classes

The Patel/Straz/Firehouse Partnership is one more reason to stand up and applaud! The Straz Center works with partner organizations to provide exceptional educational outreach experiences and has selected the Firehouse as one of the partners. It is a rigorous selection process, but we have been able to bring exceptional talent to our Firehouse stage thanks to our Patel/Straz Partnership. One of many examples—Spanish guitarist extraordinaire Pablo Sainz-Villegas wowed us in February with a FREE concert and a wonderful discussion about his music. OK— here’s another example: On May 23, the last session of the FREE Patel/Straz-sponsored, amazing, not one, not two, but SEVEN-week Theatre & Improv Class will be held. This to be followed immediately at 5:00 p.m. with a Family Showcase where our drama students will take to the stage to show to share their work. Where else can you find programs like this but at the Firehouse Cultural Center? Check our website to find future Patel/Straz programs, all presented FREE of charge!

Introduction to Drawing Class

Bruce Marsh, co-founder and President of the FCC, is once again teaching Introduction to Drawing for beginning and experienced students. This class covers basic pencil and charcoal drawing with an emphasis on observation. You’re bound to learn something from an artist who says, “If it’s really successful, my work reminds people of the whole process of looking.” Bruce has had numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, including the Allyn Gallup Gallery in Sarasota, the Vero Beach Museum of Art, and the Clayton Galleries.

Painting with Watercolors Class

Barry Goodman’s class Painting With Watercolors, is another outstanding learning opportunity. Barry’s background is in printmaking, painting and watercolors. He studied at the London School of Printing and his work has been exhibited in public and private collections across the UK as well as The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Thursday Evening Figure Drawing Group

If you are looking for a quiet place to sit and focus on your own work while benefitting from the companionship of others, consider joining the on-going Figure Drawing Group. This is not a formal drawing class, but a weekly, open session—a creative space where Bruce Marsh shares his evening with anyone who wants to unpack their materials and set up an easel. Where else can you find a studio, a live model, a famous artist who will discuss your work with you AND the camaraderie of like-minded souls—all for $10!

Growing Healthy Gardens

Another highly popular program we will continue in 2017 is our series of hands-on gardening classes at the FCC grounds in Ruskin. Volunteer Christine Peet designed these classes for children from 7 to 18 years of age. Food sustainability, balanced nutrition, and gardening are approached in a way that is fun, educational and healthy for all. The children participate in planning their own gardens, learning about soil, planting, harvesting and preparation of good, clean food. Students grow right along with the fruits and vegetables that they themselves have planted, and have fun doing it!

Pop-up Art Program: Exhibitions and Gallery Talks

You just never know what’s going to “pop-up”! In September 2016 we brought you the Cuban Arts Show and Sale which featured original artwork from Cuban galleries and studios. The greatest Cuban restaurant in Ruskin—The Ybor Grille—provided Cuban sandwiches and salads, cafe con leche, Cuba libras and mojitos. The food was delicious; the show was outstanding! Proceeds went to scholarships that enabled kids to attend a week of summer camp at the FCC. Look for another Pop-Up Art show in October 2017!

FCC Radio? Yes!

The Phoenix Radio Station WPHX-101.9 On Your Dial

If you haven’t tuned in yet, you’re missing some seriously entertaining and educational local radio. WPHX is a link to the community and beyond, providing a variety of arts, music, education and information programming the connect people to each other. On air since 2015, this station is continually evolving and we are excited to announce that programming will soon include LIVE broadcasts of some of our local high school football games! The Phoenix rises!

About our Annual Fundraising Gala

Each year the FCC holds a fund-raising Gala to celebrate our growing membership and our continuing presence as a vibrant SouthShore cultural center. The 2017 Spurs and Bling Gala was held on March 4 under a stunning starlit sky at the Diehl Farms and Ranch Estate in Wimauma. Hosted by Ora and Frank Diehl on their 1600-acre tomato farm, the elegant, Western-themed event was attended by about 250 guests. Not only was the dining superb, but there was a lively rodeo demonstration by Diehl Farms’ cowboys, a local horseback square-dancing group, a silent auction, and fireworks, too! All Gala proceeds go to FCC programs and scholarships—what a win-win night!

The Brenda Knowles “Inside Journalism” Series

But the Firehouse Cultural Center is not only about the visual arts, the performing arts, gardening, or classes. Nope. We’re also about timely and serious issues of the day. The Brenda Knowles “Inside Journalism” Series aims to de-mystify journalism in all of its forms through presenting panel discussions on specific topics with professionals in the field. The first of the series, Women in Print, was offered in 2016, followed last March by The Future of the American Press. Rob Lorei, WMNF News Director, Ernest Hooper, Tampa Bay Times, and Emily Topper, Plant City Observer, discussed the press and politics today and engaged the audience in a lively Q&A session. Check our website regularly so you won’t miss our next FREE Inside Journalism discussion in October.

Until the next issue of The Hot Spot News, remember to check our website often for new programs and events. We urge you to consider becoming a FCC member and/or volunteer. Please get to know us better—we’re sure you will agree that the Firehouse Cultural Center is one of SouthShore’s many precious gems!

In the words of our Executive Director, Georgia Vahue:

“We are on FIRE!!!”

101.9 WPHX Radio – a project of the Firehouse Cultural Center

On August 17th, 2015 The Phoenix radio station went on air for the first time. The radio station is located in a small building that was previously used as the backup communications center for the sheriff’s office and is wired to a tower. The station’s organizers Dolores Coe, Sandy Council and Pamela MacDonald were granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission for the noncommercial radio station. Jeff Knauff a local recording studio owner was also enlisted as help. The radio station was then granted $29,970 from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay South Shore Council and $3,600 from the South County philanthropically group, One Hundred Women Who Care. Ruskin Community Development Foundation chipped in $750 for funding as well.

WPHX is a link to the community and beyond, providing a variety of arts, music, education and information programming that connects people to each other, to ideas, experiences and resources. The station will broadcast performances, workshops, visiting artists, music and special events scheduled at the Firehouse Cultural Center, as well as a variety of programming that engages, informs, educates and inspire listeners.

Have a show idea or want to learn more about radio?

Please visit or email email hidden; JavaScript is required

Gala 2015: A Great Time and a Success


On Saturday, March 7th supporters of the Firehouse enjoyed an enchanting elegant evening “Under the Stars, Beside the Little Manatee River, Among the Azaleas.” Hosted by Ross and Vicki Elsberry, the Firehouse Cultural Center Gala 2015 celebrated  its achievements and its substantial growth in a few short years. As guests arrived they were greeted by the silk acrobatics of the Aerial Dragons  serving sparkling wine. Before a moonlit dinner, guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while strolling the grounds viewing a beautiful sunset, bidding on silent auction items and listening to the jazz finesse of the Tony Castellano  Trio.   At dinner, Board President, W. Tom Grimm welcomed guests, Gala Honorary Chair and advocate for South Hillsborough County, Commissioner Sandra Murman . Commissioner Murman spoke about the Cultural Center and its role in the exciting changes taking place in South County stating “We’re on Fire!” Executive Director, Georgia Vahue, thanked Gala Hosts and Sponsors: Vicki & Ross Elsberry; The Dickman Families; The Mosaic Company; BMO Harris Bank; the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, South Shore Council. The evening culminated with illuminating Sky Lanterns floating skyward across the Little Manatee River. Funds raised go to support the Cultural Center’s  quality programs  in arts and education for all ages. Thank You to Scattered Pics Photography for the amazing photos!



Help Create a Mosaic Mural on The Firehouse

The Firehouse Cultural Center and South Hillsborough County residents worked together with Cero Design to create and install an extraordinary mosaic on the exterior of the Firehouse Cultural Center, completed in one week.

Thanks to all of our contributors!

Thank you for your “cracking good” support!


Supported by:
Arts Council of Hillsborough County

Firehouse Ribbon Cutting Marks Full-time Opening

Sandra Murman, Hillsborough County Commissioner, District 1, will join FCC Board Members and other elected officials to officially open the Firehouse Cultural Center on Wednesday, September 25th at 10:00 a.m. A reception, free and open to the public, will follow in the FCC theatre. Business Sponsors and First Responders Founding Members will be recognized.

See more Events →

Firehouse Cultural Center welcomes new Executive Director, Georgia Vahue

Georgia VahueGeorgia Vahue has been named Executive Director of the Firehouse Cultural Center as preparations are made to open full time to the public. She joins the Firehouse with a great range of experience and enthusiasm—and with roots and interest in this area.

Georgia was most recently Director of Education and Gallery Programs at Great Necks Art Center, Long Island New York. She is a Fulbright Fellow, a Certified Teacher of K – 12 Art and Gifted and Talented Education with 12 years of teaching experience in Florida, London and New York. She was for seven years the Arts Educator here at Wimauma Elementary. She graduated from the University of South Florida, College of Fine Arts and attended the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in Maine.

Her many accomplishments comprise: working with numerous curators including internationally known artist James Rosenquist and Ned Rifkin, Under Secretary of Art, Smithsonian Institution and former Director of Atlanta’s High Museum; published arts articles and arts education curricula; and The University of Georgia, Atlanta, recognizes her as a “Southern Scholar on Women.”

In addition to her arts administration, teaching and curatorial experience, Georgia brings to the Firehouse significant experience in gallery and business administration and marketing. She has curated and contributed to numerous art exhibitions from Florida to New York as well as participated as a guest juror, and lecturer at State, National and International venues.