Old Ruskin fire station becomes community hub for art and culture

RUSKIN — There is an old fire house in Ruskin that hasn’t be in operation in years. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t people still inside making a huge difference their community. The Firehouse Cultural Center is rescuing the local art scene.

From the outside it still looks like an active fire station, but when you take a peak inside those big red garage doors, you aren’t going to see firefighters. You’re going to see members of the community taking one of dozens of art classes.

“Painting courses, acrylics, water colors, figure drawing class, it could be theater, could be poetry, we have poetry workshops, we have music nights, live blues, jazz,” said Executive Director Chris Bredbenner.

Bredbenner said up until 2013, when the hook and ladder moved out and the non-profit moved in, the people of Ruskin were severely lacking a creative place to call their own.

“A great opportunity to showcase art and culture to the south shore and provide audiences with an experience that they don’t have to drive into Tampa or St. Pete or Sarasota,” said Bredbenner.

The fire house was perfectly equipped for the cultural center’s needs, lots of space and lots of character. The room where the firefighters used to sleep is now a classroom.

They even maintained the fire station’s old radio tower.

“We also have our own radio station WPHX 101.9, it’s a low powered FM station,” said Bredbenner.

The fire station’s rich history is recognized around every corner, including the same table where the firefighters would eat their meals.

While outside, murals have been painted on every side of the building. One of them features different firetrucks from all over the world.

“That’s a really fun thing when children are here for field trips because we start with them lined out there and talk about firetrucks from different parts of the world,” said Bredbenner.

Just like the firefighters before them, the Firehouse Cultural Center offered their own source of heroism in 2020.

“We offered this up for food distribution sites and several groups gave out thousands of boxes of food,” said Bredbenner.

For more information on the Firehouse Cultural Center and a complete list of classes and upcoming programs go to www.firehouseculturalcenter.org.

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