Commissioner Murman quoted in this Observer article on FCC:


Firehouse Cultural Center looks to the future with expansion plans

MITCH TRAPHAGEN PHOTO Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman and Firehouse Cultural Center Executive Director Georgia Vahue speaking at the Oct. 23 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center’s expansion.


Art and culture are more than pastimes or pretty things to look at. Both can bring diverse people together as neighbors and serve as the foundation to bind communities together. They also mean jobs and money: A 2016 study commissioned by the Arts Council of Hillsborough County found that nearly 15,000 fulltime-equivalent jobs are supported by the nonprofit arts sector, contributing $433 million to the local economy.

A part of those numbers is the growing presence of the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin. The center, which opened in 2012 in a closed Hillsborough County fire station, as the brainchild of a cadre of dedicated, community-minded volunteers, began full-time programming in 2013, has served more than 30,000 people in the local area through a vast array of programming, including arts, education and entertainment, designed to reach nearly every demographic in the region. That was in 2016 alone.

Georgia Vahue, the cultural center’s first and only executive director, came to the center from running a cultural center in the New York City area. She appreciated not only the vastly different dynamics involved in coming from a much more densely populated area, but also the opportunities she had to be among the first to bring the arts to the southern part of the metro Tampa Bay area. Soon the center became a full-time presence, expanding the reach through educational programs for all ages and interests, and entertainment opportunities where none existed in the past. Today, the Firehouse Cultural Center has a strong relationship with the Straz Performing Arts Center in downtown Tampa and even has its own radio station at 101.9 FM.

And now they are planning an expansion to an empty building, formerly a hair salon, across the street on 1st Avenue N.E. in Ruskin. The plans for the building include meeting the growing needs and demand for the arts, education and entertainment resulting from a rapidly growing South Hillsborough population. The 501(c)3 nonprofit center is working towards a $350,000 fundraising goal.

On Oct. 23, the public was invited to join with the center’s board of directors, county representatives, and center patrons to celebrate a ribbon-cutting for their new, increased presence and future, larger capacity for serving the region.

MITCH TRAPHAGEN PHOTO As if to prove the regional footprint of the Firehouse Cultural Center, the ribbon-cutting was an event for three area chambers of commerce: SouthShore, Riverview and Sun City Center.


Speakers at the event included Bruce Marsh, president of the FCC board of directors and one of the original founders; Janice Bayruns, vice president of the FCC board of directors; Lorrin Sheppard, chief financial officer of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts; Dr. Allen Witt, Hillsborough Community College; Martine Collier, executive director Arts Council Hillsborough County; and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman.

“This is an investment — a long term investment,” Commissioner Murman said. “I am very honored to be a part of this.” The commissioner has supported the center since the beginning.

The event also included a performance by young musical theater students.

For more information about the Firehouse Cultural Center and how you can help, become a member or take part in their programming, visit