Arsht Center is building a community


As the Arsht Center enters its 10th anniversary season, now is an excellent time to assess how far we have come and how much further we can advance — as an institution, a neighborhood and a city.

The Arsht Center’s leadership and the Performing Arts Center Trust (PACT) are in the midst of a virtuous cycle. We run a beautiful, world-class cultural center that enriches our community; the neighborhood blossoms around the center; the fruits from that blossoming help the center thrive.

In this new year, it’s time for a community-wide resolution to help Miami-Dade County’s largest cultural institution continue to grow and thrive — and to support the cycle of community growth that the Arsht Center inspires.

The Center is owned by Miami-Dade County, and it is the jewel of the county’s assets. At the PACT, we are the stewards of, and advocates for, this institution. If you step into the breathtaking halls, you will find them as pristine as they were 10 years ago, because our board and the county have committed to keep it like new.

In a visionary moment 20 years ago, the County Commission recognized that the Center could and would become the primary economic locomotive for a then-moribund neighborhood.

In anticipation of increased tax revenues for the area, the county committed to direct those significant funds to the Center. These important resources are now used to promote educational outreach; aid in keeping the Center like new; and, ultimately, supplement what is now a privately funded endowment to ensure future growth and provide protection against rainy days.

Part of our job as trustees is to carry the torch for this public-private commitment.

The PACT also serves as a visionary for a neighborhood on the move. Just as New York’s Upper West Side was in decline when Lincoln Center was built in the mid-20th century, the Arsht Center was built on land that was all but abandoned at the beginning of the 21st Century. And, as was the case with Lincoln Center, the placement of a cultural center has been the powerful catalyst for growth.

Transformation is happening fast.

While plenty of safe parking surrounds the Center, we’re close to a permanent parking solution worthy of our location. Along with parking, thoughtful public and private development of the property surrounding the Center soon will come into focus. Condominiums, apartments, restaurants, shops and families on the streetscape are no longer pie-in-the-sky dreams. It’s beginning now.

Finally, as nurturers of a culture, of a society and of Miami itself, the PACT plays a critical role in the life of the community. My friend Pat Riley often notes that he’s been lucky to work in what he calls the Toy Department of Life. We who work with the Arsht Center share that good fortune, because arts and sports share this common bond. Both are part of our culture where children learn, and communities gather. Children use toys to learn, and we use our culture as metaphors for developing character and teaching core values, like teamwork and collaboration; grit and self-discipline; physical and intellectual development; and imagination and curiosity.

That is why we want the Arsht Center to feel like home to every kid in Miami-Dade County. That is why we have Rock Odyssey for every fifth grader in the public-school system and Free Gospel Sundays for everyone. That is why the best performing artists in the world conduct master classes for young emerging artists.

And that is why we work so hard: All of us, together, enjoying humanity at its best. Now is a good time for everyone to join the movement, participate in the vision and build on the vital culture of our community.

Alan Fein is chairman of the board of directors of the Performing Arts Center Trust.