Aundrea Clayborn of Little Rock was entering ninth grade when she joined the first summer program for young people at the Brandon House Cultural and Performing Arts Center.
Now 19, Clayborn is a high school graduate and a choreographer for both Brandon House dance teams, and she’s looking forward to using the organization’s new dance studio.
The arts-based nonprofit community center, founded in 2013 by the Bax family, is expanding its presence in Little Rock to a suite on Colonel Glenn Road on the west side of town. The new 16,000 square foot location will house an art gallery and lab, production studio and multi-purpose event center in addition to the dance studio, said general manager Pamela Bax.
Clayborn said the new space will “bring so much” to the organization and the young dancers she works with.
“It will be so great for us to have our own space to express ourselves in dance and to give children their own little space so they can show their imagination and creation through dance,” Clayborn said.
Brandon House will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the evening of May 5 to celebrate the addition of the new facilities.
The nonprofit’s goal is “to increase education equity and the talent development pipeline for the state’s high-risk youth who have not had adequate access to artistic, professional or academic programming; and to support the creative talents of low-wealth artists, musicians and creative professionals,” according to the press release earlier this month announcing the grand opening.
Young people who participate in Brandon House programs often have the opportunity to put their new skills to good use with companies that seek their help, Bax said.
Brandon House’s first location is at the intersection of West 12th Street and South University Avenue, the former home of the furniture store of the same name that closed in 2004, Bax said.
“We often drove by the furniture store [building] and dreaming of a big performing arts center in this building,” she said.
Bax’s husband, Paul, is the association’s financial director. Their daughter, Patrice, is program director and their son, Dion, is production director.
The new space’s production studio will include a photography lab and recording studio, and the events center will be available for anyone who can book conferences, meetings or social gatherings, Bax said.
The art gallery, funded by the Wingate Foundation, is intended to showcase the work of local artists “in our own backyard”, she said.
“What we envision with our art gallery is really showcasing the work of individuals who don’t have the opportunity to be exhibited in larger art galleries,” Bax said. .
Brandon House’s IHUSTLE program, short for I Have Unique Skills To Learn and Earn, will benefit from the new space, Bax said. IHUSTLE is a violence prevention program that introduces young people to a variety of creative pursuits, such as graphic design, music production, photography, filmmaking and podcasting.
Clayborn participated in IHUSTLE during her high school days, dancing in a music video that other young people produced, she said.
Allan Boston, 22, developed his love of photography and videography through IHUSTLE when he was a student at the now closed McClellan Magnet High School in Geyer Springs. He had just moved to Little Rock from West Memphis in 2017, he said, and needed to keep busy after school.
Boston proved its talent to executives at Brandon House by filming a live music event, he said.
“They threw me in the water, but they held my hand,” Boston said. “They put a camera in my hand and said, ‘This all needs to be filmed, show me what you got.'”
He now works full-time as a photographer and videographer for Brandon House, and he said he is deeply grateful for the opportunities the organization has given him.
“Brandon House is open to everyone,” he said. “Everyone loves everyone there, we are a family, [and] we leave no one behind and forget no one.”
The new facilities have led to more people and businesses requesting creative services from Brandon House, Boston said, while giving it space to work on its audio-visual portfolio.
The facilities also give young people in Brandon House programs more space to work on their budding creative skills, Boston said.
Although the new location has been in use for weeks, Boston said it looks forward to the grand opening in May.
“I’m going to feel some kind of a path because I’ve seen the groundwork,” he said. “I may not have been there since day one, but I spent my first day with them. It’s a blessing to be able to see where we were and where we are now.”