Founded in 1982, Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Inc. (MBAA) is headquartered in the FireHouse Community Arts Center, a historic 1910 city fire station located at 985 South Bellevue Boulevard.  Through the creative leadership and energies of its founder, Bennie Nelson West, executive director emeritus, MBAA brings to the community performing, literary and visual artists, arts groups.

Since its inception the founding purpose has been to: preserve and promote African-American arts and heritage; sharing information and resources; increasing artistic and economic self-sufficiency; and advocating increased community support for the arts.

Through partnership with the City of Memphis, Shelby County Government, federal and private support, the FireHouse Community Arts Center has been renovated to provide a dance studio, art gallery, piano lab, and private music instruction studio and business office.

The historic fire station has been converted into an inviting and nurturing multi-disciplinary arts center and grounds.

MBAA Highlights

  • First professionally staffed, year-round, non-profit cultural center in Tennessee
  • First cultural arts agency to showcase Grammy-winning Sweet Honey in the Rock in Memphis
  • More than 300 artists, singers, actors, dancers, musicians, and writers employed since 1982
  • Nearly 3,000 students, ages 2 to 82, of diverse ethnic backgrounds and abilities have discovered and refined their talents in music, dance, theater, visual and literary arts thanks to enrollment in MBAA FireHouse Community Arts Academy (since 1996)
  • In August 1998 MBAA acquired title to the historic FireHouse #12 after expiration of a 13-year lease and completed its third renovation in 2004.
  • More than 300,000 as visitors, students, audience, supporters and volunteers from throughout the Greater Memphis region to performances offered by MBAA Artists residencies
  • Educational classes, camps, and workshops for individuals of all age 6 to 80+ years
  • Exhibits of established and emerging local, regional and national visual artists