Have you ever found yourself wishing for a decent space to rehearse a scene, but no idea how to get one? Or maybe you wanted to put on a show, but had no idea where to do it? Theatre Bay Area and several other arts organizations got together to address the artist’s common need for space. Their solution was to build a directory of spaces in the Bay Area available to rent to artists for rehearsals, workshops and performances: bayareaspaces.org.
Bay Area Performing Arts Spaces (BAPAS) currently has about 263 spaces over 11 counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sonoma. There’s a wide variety of spaces, from yoga studios to the Aquarium of the Bay. Just think: hundreds of venues listed in one place, searchable by size, location and genre. It’s kind of like a Yelp for performing arts spaces; users can even submit reviews. Now you can finally find a space for that class, audition, showing, film shoot, special event, recording, reading, workshop or meeting you were planning.
BAPAS came out of a larger project which the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation commissioned the New York-based, nonprofit arts organization Fractured Atlas to create, the Bay Area Cultural Asset Map. They hoped that having a better documented lay of the performing arts land would aid arts advocacy efforts. In 2009, the Bay Area Performing Arts Spaces website was created. It was adapted from NYC Performing Arts Spaces (nycPASpaces.org), a similar database created by Fractured Atlas that has also been the model for Space Finder LA, Sac Spaces to Create, Philly Space Finder, Chicago Spaces, DC Space Finder, Atlanta Spaces and SpacemART Minnesota—and soon, Austin Venue Menu and Salt Lake City Spaces. Theatre Bay Area and fellow Bay Area nonprofit arts organization Dancers Group took on the task of filling and administering the directory.
Since completing the first phase of the project, in 2011 Theatre Bay Area and Dancers Group were awarded another grant for the next phase of the project. The goal of this second, two-year phase is to grow the directory to provide a more comprehensive roster of Bay Area arts spaces, bolstering the numbers of venues in outlying areas especially; to increase the use of the website; and perhaps to implement a reservation system through which individuals can book space.
In order to bring in venues from outer regions, Theatre Bay Area and Dancers Group plan to hold community meetings in these areas—specifically Napa, Sonoma, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties—to educate potential spaces about the existence and usefulness of BAPAS. Being listed in the directory increases a space’s visibility, potentially providing it with new renters and the possibility to rent space that might not otherwise be used. If the reservation system is implemented, it could save spaces time and money by making it easier to rent their space.
In the next month, Theatre Bay Area and Dancers Group will be reaching out to venues and artists across the Bay Area to gauge the level of interest in a reservation system. Like the website, which was created from the prototype NYC Performing Arts Spaces, the reservation system would be built from Fractured Atlas’s preexisting model. Before implementing such a system, however, Theatre Bay Area and Dancers Group want to determine if it would be useful and self-sustainable in the Bay Area market.
The idea is to take the website from something like Yelp to a model more like City Car Share, the Bay Area nonprofit car sharing organization: to create a website through which artists can find and rent spaces. That way BAPAS can help the arts community share resources, a frequently recommended—but underused—solution for the budget woes of nonprofit performing arts organizations.
Caroline Anderson is listings editor for Theatre Bay Area.