Ever since DASH Center for the Arts Executive Director Candi Hall received word three months ago that the center’s lease would not be renewed at its longtime home at 1504 Martin Luther King Way, she has been searching high and low for a new location to house this important and unique arts organization, the only one of its kind in Tacoma.
It hasn’t been easy. For the time being, the center is working from a temporary location inside the downtown post office building on ‘A’ Street, but securing a permanent place is still the ultimate goal.
For 10 years, DASH – Dancing, Acting and Singing in Harmony – was a vibrant hub of activity in the Hilltop neighborhood, a place on the corner where city kids could go after school and on weekends to improve their lives rather than getting into trouble out on the streets. As long as they keep their grades up in school, the center was then, and remains today, a welcoming place where youth can challenge themselves and come out winners, where they can learn how to flourish in their natural talents and, perhaps most importantly, a place where they can discover their way of making it in the world based on their own gifts. Hall, the center staff and board of directors are all very encouraging of the youth and believe in them, which can make a huge difference in a young person’s life.
Hall recently posted this message to youth on the DASH Center Facebook page, and it reveals perfectly the heart that beats at the center’s core: “If you come to me brand new, lost or broken, I promise I will build you up and set you on the path to greatness. In return you'll owe me nothing. All I ask is that you remember who you were when you came to me and acknowledge the investment I made within you. Go on grow and go but never forget where you came from.”
Hall said it has been challenging finding a new home for DASH. She’s been looking throughout the city, from downtown to Hilltop, from the east side to the Dome District, but no luck yet largely due to the monthly rent costs she’s encountered that would be exceedingly high for this community-based school of the arts.
“Everywhere I’ve gone in Tacoma they want easily $3,000 and that’s on the cheap side,” Hall said. Rent at the former Hilltop location was around $500 a month.
Hall said that ideally she would like DASH Center to move into the vacated Sav-a-Lot/Ride Aid on Hilltop, but she’s hesitant to invest in it even though she has met with the building owners/managers about signing a lease. The maximum length of the lease would be eight years, according to Hall, and considering the changes coming to the neighborhood once the new Link light rail extension goes in, she fears that property values will go way up and that the owners could very well decide to sell the building or raise the rent as one would expect. Then there are the interior improvements that would have to be made to transform the grocery store into a full-fledged school with classrooms, offices and rehearsal areas, another stout financial investment.
“If I knew that in three years they’d be willing to sell it to us, I’d probably press forward with it, but they only want to lease it then who knows what’s going to happen,” Hall said.
When Hall got word of space for lease in the downtown post office building on ‘A’ Street, she opted for a three-month lease there to basically buy more time to find a permanent home for the center. With its 12-foot ceilings, beautiful hardwood floors, tall windows and ample square footage to grow into, Hall and the DASH students have already fallen in love with the place, as it suits their needs in just about every way. Being downtown opens more opportunities to attract new students and a more diverse demographic, and School of the Arts (SOTA) being in the same building offers much for both DASH and SOTA. “We can really start to develop that connection and partnership to keep feeding kids to that school – talented kids to help keep bringing that school up.”
Once the lease is up in March, Hall said extending it just isn’t in the picture. “It’s not really in (the building owners’) plans and I’m not expecting them to do that,” she said. “They want a good, revenue-generating thing to be in that space at the post office.” She expressed gratitude to the building owners and management for their generosity in working with DASH for the time being.
Are there ways in which the community at large can help? Hall said DASH Center really needs the advice and involvement of people who know the ins-and-outs of serious fundraising to help the center get to “the next level,” so to speak. “I need two people who are really good at networking and fundraising that would be willing to be on (the DASH Center) board,” she said, “two good people who could take a lead in fundraising and networking for DASH Center. I desperately need that more than anything else – someone who can take my board and show them what to do and how to do it. If we had that, everything else would come.
“I need two people to say DASH is a great cause to champion. We want people to know the good that DASH does, not just for the black kids in the community but for everybody in Tacoma.”
Those who would like to support DASH Center financially can do so very easily at http://www.thedashcenter.org, either with a one-time donation or an automatic monthly pledge for as little as $25 a month or whatever you can give.
While in the ‘A’ Street location, the center could use a temporary loan of theater curtains and acoustic panels to help absorb and deaden sound. Anyone – individual, business or non-profit – that could help with this is asked to call the center at (253) 507-9466.
Despite the issues at hand, classes at the “new” ‘A’ Street DASH Center began on Dec. 3. There will be some new adult classes beginning as well – adult hip hop on Thursday nights, contemporary adult classes starting in January and an adult acting class.
For those unfamiliar with DASH, there is Free Day on Dec. 21, an open house for the community to come in and try out a class or two before the new quarter starts on Jan. 7. Looking ahead, the fantastic dance showcase KRUNK returns on March 15 at Theater on the Square – tickets go on sale Jan. 7 with presales happening on Free Day.
Hall said she will continue to search for a permanent DASH home, and asks anyone with solid leads to please call the center. “I haven’t given up – we’re not closing shop just yet. But we need help,” Hall said.
Visit http://www.thedashcenter.org or call (253) 507-9466 and on Facebook at D.A.S.H. Center for the Arts.