A Place to Shine 4

Arts Fifth Avenue gives the community a place 
to sing, dance and grow within the arts

Over the past several years, the neighborhood of Fairmount has grown into one of the city’s premier cultural areas. A combination of inventive restaurants, hip nightspots, annual festivals and one-of-a-kind boutiques attracts a steady stream of shoppers, diners and revelers, while many of the neighborhood’s historic old homes stand as showpieces of restoration and tasteful design.

While Magnolia Avenue serves as the neighborhood’s centerpiece, its heart resides a couple blocks farther south, at 1628 Fifth Avenue. There, Arts Fifth Avenue, whose doors opened in 2001, provides a space for community events, classes and performances, while also defining a neighborhood ethos of collaboration, acceptance and esteem for the arts.

Arts Fifth Avenue actually got its start much earlier and in a different part of town. In 1989, Gracey Tune, an internationally-renowned tap dancer, opened Arts on Tap on Fort Worth’s westside. Her goal? To draw attention to the historically under-appreciated dance that ranks with jazz as a broadly significant American original.

“Our goal with Arts on Tap was to help revive a great American dance form and educate the community,” says Gracey. “The impetus behind the vision came from my mother, who always wanted me to have a place for tap dancing.”

Changes to funding for small non-profits led Arts on Tap to close its doors in 1995 — but Gracey was far from discouraged. She refocused her efforts to promote tap on the West Coast, and did extensive work with the International Tap Festival and Portland’s Jazz Society. This period culminated in Gracey’s co-production of three sold-out performances celebrating tap and the music of Duke Ellington, with a total attendance of 6,000 people.

Back in Fort Worth, singer and actress Peggy Bott Kirby had the idea to create a dedicated space for the instruction and performance of percussion and tap. She reached out to Eddie Dunlap, artistic director of Mondo Drummers, and Gracey for help with the endeavor. The trio’s efforts resulted in the revitalization of both Mondo Drummers and Arts on Tap, unified under a single roof as Arts Fifth Avenue. The doors officially opened on September 11th, 2001, a day whose tragedy forged an early bond between the nascent organization’s staff and students.

Over the years, A5A’s offerings have expanded greatly from the original focus on percussion and tap. As a fully-fledged alternative arts organization, A5A has dedicated itself to discovery, experience and self-expression through the arts, and strives to make its services accessible to everyone.

“Our mission is to provide a forum of expression for dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers, and visual and performing artists,” says Gracey. “And also to stimulate and preserve interest in tap dance and jazz music.”

In pursuance of this mission, A5A makes affordability a key component of its programming, with nominal prices and scholarships available by request. On any given week, interested parties can sign up for a wide range of classes and workshops, while special performances give an opportunity to enjoy the arts and support the neighborhood institution.

“Tap remains very popular, as is our home-school program,” says Gracey of A5A’s offerings. “We also have yoga classes, burlesque classes, and a free vocal chorus class where people can come and sing.”

All of A5A’s classes and workshops are taught by recognized experts who have achieved mastery in their specialty fields. A full range of classes is listed on the organization’s website, along with schedules and pricing information.

If you’d like to support Arts Fifth Avenue and its community mission, but do not have the time to take a class, its special performance schedule gives the perfect opportunity. Classical guitar fans will not want to miss a performance on April 9th from Mitch Weverka, a prize-winning guitarist local to Fort Worth. A5A will host a murder mystery fundraiser, Alice Doesn’t Kill Here Anymore, presented by the Crimescene Company on April 23rd.

The Tap Dance Day Celebration, an annual event held in honor of National Tap Dance Day, begins May 25th at 7pm. This free show, open to all ages and held on A5A’s outdoor stage, will feature the direction of Gracey herself, along with tap dancers from across North Texas and music by the Joe Rogers Trio.

Additional volunteer opportunities abound at Arts Fifth Avenue. If you’d like to get involved, buy tickets for an event or sign up for a class, visit them online at www.artsfifthavenue.org