Performing Arts Network, Destroyed by Arson in 2009, Returns to North Miami

Miami can be an unforgiving city. Amidst the swaying palms and the sauntering sex bombs straddling the cracked sidewalks, there are some unpleasant individuals doing unpleasant things. Rapists and robbers, vandals and vagrants, assholes and arsonists. It was one of these fare that destroyed the Performing Arts Network (PAN), setting it on fire just shy of its ten-year anniversary.

In 2009, the nine-year-old PAN -- where scores of this city's dancers of all disciplines would come together and practice their craft, as well as host performances -- was turned from an artistic focal point of the community to a gutted hulk of charred drywall and broken glass. Over the last four years, PAN's creative director, Ilisa Rosal, and her husband, Michael George, who oversees World Arts Village Inc., owner of the plaza where PAN is located, have been working like madmen to bring this once grand establishment back to life. The process has not been an easy one.

"It [the fire] was very devastating," said Rosal. "We'd built this organization up over many years, many people had worked to make it successful, and just to have it all burn down in a couple of hours with no warning was really a shock. It was really traumatic."

And while the financial ramifications were "tremendous," as Rosal put it, there were much more painful losses that had to be dealt with in the aftermath of the inferno.

"My husband's art studio burned down," she continued, "all of his paintings, years of his work - all reduced to ashes. Oil paintings, watercolors, acrylic paintings...that was one of the worst parts -- all the artwork that could not be replaced...To walk into PAN and see the mirrors all crashed to the ground, the wardrobes and costumes all burnt up, the archives gone -- it was incredibly difficult. And then it was even an uphill battle to get our insurance settlement... It's been a long, hard road since 2009."

But Rosal and George had no interest in the prospect of throwing in the towel. They did what they had to do, persevering through litigation to get the money they were owed, the money they needed to resuscitate their business. They moved to a temporary smaller space, where dancers could still come to practice and learn, but where they no longer had the room for shows.

And in January of this year, the Performing Arts Center began to reap the benefits of that hard work with a soft opening that will last until October, when the grand re-opening celebration will take place.

Until then, Rosal wants people to know that "things are going really well with new artists and new programs."

"At this time we're now seeing kind of a new surge of energy and participation in the programs and we want to let everybody know that we are open for business. We have many classes, we've already had several performances and events, many of our artists are coming back, along with new artists to the Performing Arts Center, which has all been very exciting," noted Rosal.

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Travis Cohen is a writer for Miami New Times and covers subjects ranging from arts and architecture to marijuana and monkeys with herpes. He graduated with honors from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor's degree in English in 2012 and began working with New Times shortly thereafter. He was born and raised in Miami.

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