Brooklyn Arts Exchange
, a 16-year-old institution, has been ensconced on 5th Avenue in Park Slope since 1998. But it outgrew its location a few years ago. Recently, a fortuitous turn of events led the organization to grow down, acquiring the floor below and doubling its size.
BAX founder, Marya Warshaw
Executive director and Park Slope mom, Marya Warshaw, the teaching artist who founded BAX, says that the hundreds of kids who pass through the doors each year may not have realized that part of BAX was missing; rehearsal space for professional dancers was a few blocks away. By consolidating its operations, BAX can now keep its artists together, creating an even stronger sense of community.
What matters most to area parents is the programming, which will expand as BAX grows. The first impact will be felt this summer, when the performing arts camp doubles in size. Traditionally, the camp had a long waiting list, but now with separate groups for kids in grades K-2 and 3-5, more children can try out the various offerings.
Previously, because of their limited space, the philosophy had been “to do what we do, well,” Warshaw explains. Now, with more space, “areas we have long wanted to explore” can begin. For example, a popular circus class was limited to the summer, but come fall, it will be included in the regular children’s classes. BAX will also now provide classes for homeschoolers during in-school hours. And classes to serve children with special needs, as well as family programming for all that combines live dance and film will be opening, while the theater program will be expanding.
And BAX has a group of local teens to thank for getting the new spaces up and running. Through a unique partnership with The School for Cooperative Technical Education, an alternative high school that teaches teens the construction business, students worked alongside construction professionals to get three new studios open in less than three months.
BAX was an innovator in offering dance classes specifically for boys. Warshaw’s two sons, now 20 and 25, are alumni of the dance program. They stayed involved in BAX long after they outgrew student classes. The addition of a separate changing room for boys in the movement classes is a benefit of the BAX expansion. As a mother of BAX veterans (originally The Gowanus Arts Exchange), I remember well the girls being ushered out of the changing room so the boys could have privacy.
Warshaw admits that being a mother influenced some of her choices in class offerings; “I always have my ear to the ground,” she says. She is also adding birthday parties, partly in response to requests from moms. In nurturing Brooklyn Arts Exchange, she has helped provide a home for both artists and students, one that will soon serve its second generation.
BAX is at 421 5th Avenue; for information on classes and performances, go to www.bax.org.
Dance students at BAX