Got Space? Launching A New Online Directory of Performing Arts Spaces

By Julie Potter

November 1, 2010, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

HAVE SPACE? NEED SPACE? Starting November 15, the Bay Area Performing Arts Spaces (BAPAS) online resource holds the keys to hundreds of venues throughout the Bay Area. The BAPAS website is a free, comprehensive database allowing artists to search for rehearsal, performance, and multipurpose spaces for dance and theater. The new online directory includes suitable workspace within 11 counties from Sonoma to Monterey, and enables dance and theater venues to earn extra income by promoting their underused, available spaces. The BAPAS tool also provides arts advocates and policy makers with valuable information about the arts community in the San Francisco Bay Area, leveraging increased funding and resources for the arts; it is a joint project of Dancers’ Group and Theatre Bay Area, powered by Fractured Atlas and part of the Bay Area Cultural Asset Map funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

BAPAS is modeled after the highly successful NYC Performing Arts Spaces, a website developed by Fractured Atlas over the past decade, which has grown to include more than 1,600 spaces. Kirstin Nordine of Fractured Atlas spearheaded New York’s resource and has been contributing to the development of BAPAS. Regarding New York’s resource, Nordine said “The response has been fantastic, from renters and venue managers alike. The sites have helped connect performers with space they wouldn’t have otherwise known about, and we’ve heard from spaces that they receive many rental inquiries from the site, which hopefully helps increase revenue from rentals. Even when venues don’t have available space, they appreciate having one central resource to direct artists to for alternatives.”

The BAPAS database offers numerous search options allowing visitors to identify locations according to discipline, size, cost, physical features, equipment, location, floor type, and many other specifics. Users can find out if a barre, a piano, a shower, mirrors, chairs, and parking are available, or if, for example, a column exists in the studio. Space profiles include photos, detailed descriptions, and other features to give a sense of the venue. In addition, an online map shows the geographic distribution of search results and provides directions from one’s current location. Each space profile includes a contact at the space and information about how to book. Once the user has found a venue conducive to needs, they can contact the space directly to secure the location.

At the time of the public launch, numerous spaces will already be included in the database. “Dancers’ Group and Theatre Bay Area, our partners for the project, are working on getting the word out about the resource so that we have a critical mass of spaces participating when the resource becomes available to the public,” said Nordine.

Those who currently manage a space available for dance or theater are encouraged to consider listing on the free BAPAS website. The space doesn’t need to be a traditional theater space or rehearsal studio; religious institutions, gyms, yoga studios, event spaces, community centers and museums are all encouraged to list, making the site more comprehensive. By participating, the venues will be seen by artists and companies throughout the Bay Area seeking space.

For Dancers’ Group and Theater Bay Area, BAPAS is another valuable resource to assist artists in doing their best work. Kegan Marling, Program Director at Dancers’ Group, is part of the team creating the new website along with Karen McKevitt, Director of Communications at Theatre Bay Area. (At press time, Karen McKevitt left her position at Theatre Bay Area; assistant editor Elana McKernan has taken over BAPAS duties.)

“Fractured Atlas has created an amazing tool in BAPAS. It’s detailed and robust: organizations with several spaces, like Fort Mason or Exit Theatre, for example, can connect all their spaces with their organization profile and provide a plethora of technical detail—even photos—about those spaces. BAPAS is the perfect tool for both companies looking for space to rent and companies looking to rent their space, no matter what the rental market is. And, most importantly, it’s a free resource,” said McKevitt.

A robust administrative user dashboard provides venue managers with full control over the organizational profile, management of multiple spaces per organization (even at different addresses), and various levels of user privileges. After the initial launch, the database will be self-sustaining. “Spaces are responsible for keeping their listings up to date; they can log into their accounts anytime to do so. Of course, managers of venues are incredibly busy people, so we sent out automated reminders every few months to them to log in and make sure all their information is still accurate. This has worked out really well in NYC. Since venues will be getting rental inquiries based on the information they post on BAPAS, it’s definitely in their best interest to keep everything current,” said Nordine.

For both Dancers’ Group and Theater Bay Area, BAPAS offers a streamlined alternative to previous space directory services. “As a hub for Bay Area dance artists, Dancers’ Group has maintained performance and rehearsal rental information in a variety of resources: our Bay Area Dance Directory, Artist Resource Guides, and on the California Dance Network. Over the years, these have seen a number of upgrades as technology has changed, but it’s always a struggle to stay current with the ever changing landscape. It’s exciting to have this new resource to refer potential renters and new spaces to a user-friendly, self-sustaining and interactive resource,” commented Kegan Marling.

As the BAPAS project team works to bring the resource to the Bay Area for the first time, they are designing a brand-new feature that aims to close the loop between rental customer and space provider to be implemented in the spring of 2011. Think “Open Table” reservations for performing arts spaces. For artists in need of space to rent, the system will make finding, booking, and pre-paying for the right rehearsal space a seamless online process. BAPAS will integrate with participating space providers’ business operations, sharing an online calendar management tool for reservations and bookings. Therefore, any designated representative from the organization will be able to manage all of the booking calendars from anywhere with a web connection. In addition, the possibility of a space reservation system through BAPAS motivates users to revisit the site and maintain venue data.

The Big Picture

The BAPAS resource is a component of the Bay Area Cultural Asset Map, described as “an online, interactive visualization of all the performing arts organizations, venues, and artists of various stripes who constitute the region’s cultural ecosystem, as well as the connections among them,” by Ron Ragin, Performing Arts Associate Program Officer at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Ragin approached Fractured Atlas, Dancers’ Group and Theater Bay Area to partner in creating the BAPAS component of the overarching Cultural Asset Map.

The Cultural Asset Map as a whole strives to serve many facets of the Bay Area performing arts community. “First, of course, are artists and arts organizations, which are the creative engine of the arts ecosystem,” said Ragin in a Hewlett newsletter Q&A regarding the Cultural Asset Map. He hopes the map will enable artists to share information about their work, connect with audiences and other artists, and learn about resources, such as performance space.

It will also help grantmakers make informed decisions about funding by providing comprehensive information about artists, and the community at large. As more types of information are added to the map, the resource will become robust and more valuable. A self-sustaining design helps the tool grow and provide reliable data. After users initially enter their data on the site, the request to maintain the entries becomes smaller.

Nonprofit arts organizations will be able to use the Cultural Asset Map to better understand whom they are serving, and for-profit venues can locate and connect with artists. Policymakers can use the map to understand the role the arts play in a specific community and how that may be affecting the local economy. In the long term, the map will also serve as an advocacy tool, for policymakers and arts advocates alike.

McKevitt agrees, “BAPAS isn’t just about renting their space—though of course that’s important. It is about being counted as part of the greater Bay Area cultural community. It’s everyone’s goal for BAPAS to include every space in the greater Bay Area where any sort of cultural activity takes place… NEA and Irvine studies show that cultural participation doesn’t just mean walking into a theater and absorbing a show, it also means actively participating in a cultural activity, like singing in a church or local choir. It’s vital that we have those spaces on the site, not just to make it robust, but also to identify all the areas where cultural participation takes place, including spaces that serve only the neighborhood around it. Having all those spaces is not only useful for people looking to rent space, but also useful for arts advocacy efforts.”

BAPAS will be available to the public beginning November 15. To be notified when the site is launched or to add a space and create an organization profile email

This article appeared in the November 2010 issue of In Dance.

Julie Potter is a public practice specialist, performance curator and writer based in San Francisco. As the Director of ODC Theater, she provides artistic and administrative leadership including season programming, artist residencies and public engagement. Potter was previously the Creative Ecosystem Senior Program Manager at YBCA and completed her M.A. in 2016 at Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance.