Grantee Feature: Bay Arts Alliance Reflects Upon Post-Hurricane Michael

About the Bay Arts Alliance

Founded in 1978 and located in Panama City Center for the Arts, Bay Arts Alliance has served as the local arts agency for Bay County. Their mission is to inspire a lifelong appreciation for the arts. They provide opportunities for cultural enrichment through exhibitions, educational experiences, and quality performances.


On October 10, 2018, Bay County was hit with a Category 5 hurricane named Michael. As the year anniversary of the storm approaches, Bay Arts Alliance, Bay County’s Local Arts Agency, reflects on recovery and expresses hope for the future. We asked the new Executive Director, Jayson Kretzer about his thoughts about the current state of the Arts in Bay County.

Marina Civic Center before Hurricane Michael

“When Michael hit, we were shell shocked…we’re probably still shocked. Nothing can prepare you for the devastation of a storm that strong.

Our community lost over 90% of our trees, tens of thousands of jobs, and 100% of our buildings were either damaged, or simply destroyed.

The arts were just as devastated.

Out of all the arts buildings, theaters, and galleries in the county, only a few remain.

We lost one of the venues we’ve managed for decades, the Marina Civic Center —the largest performing arts venue in Bay County—but the other, the Panama City Center for the Arts, reopened a few days after the storm, and we’ve been able to provide much needed arts programming to the community as we recover.

Damages inside and outside the center
Wreckage of the Marina Civic Center sign

As the anniversary approaches and we take stock of the arts community, we can honestly say that things are improving. Arts groups have combined forces in the galleries and arts buildings that remain open. Performance groups have adapted to smaller, alternate venues, once again able to host music and theatre performances. And artists are slowly finding inspiration again despite the upheaval of homes and businesses.

As our galleries and theatres reopen over the next few years, we are hopeful for the future.

We aren’t going to pretend that the road ahead will be easy. As with most communities there are many obstacles in the way—chief among them will be gaining city and public support to keep the arts at the forefront of rebuilding efforts.

We all know that the arts are powerhouse economic drivers, but now it’s our job to remind our local and county officials of that fact as they make plans for the future.

Arts are essential to the health of a community. Right now Bay County is suffering, but we are going to continue to do everything we can to ensure our city, our arts organizations, and our artists have the resources they need to survive and thrive.”

For more information, please visit the Bay Arts Alliance website: https://www.bayarts.org


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