Pompano’s New Cultural Affairs Director Intent on ‘Enhancing City’s Brand Identity’

Ty Tabing, an internationally recognized expert in creating and activating successful urban destinations, has just taken over as cultural affairs director for the city of Pompano Beach.

He succeeds Phyllis Korab, a veteran municipal employee and longtime arts and culture chief who recently retired. “She left after a long and distinguished career,” said her successor.

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Tabing honed his creative skills working in his hometown and also in Chicago and in Singapore before returning to Wichita in 2020 to operate a consulting firm for nearly two years. 

“Tabing’s appointment comes at an opportune time for our municipality,” said Pompano’s Assistant City Manager Earl Bosworth. “The pandemic was challenging for all cultural venues, but it provided us with the time to determine how to better utilize our spaces by layering on more attractions and experiences for our patrons.”

“With Ty’s diverse skills set,” Bosworth added, “he will bring to fruition the tremendous potential to activate our city with arts and culture.”

Downtown Pompano Beach traces its arts, entertainment and cultural renaissance to the opening of the Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA) venue on April 16, 2014. Built in 1923, the historic Bailey Hotel is the second oldest remaining building (immediately behind the old Farmer’s Bank building next door) and is part of the longest contiguous collection of history-oriented structures in Broward County. 

Since the ribbon cutting ceremony that marked the official re-emergence of the city’s cultural community, the mission of the Pompano Beach Cultural Affairs Department has been to provide programming that includes visual artsdigital media, music, film, theater, dance and public art for the enjoyment and enrichment of residents and visitors.

Ty Tabing, the new cultural affairs director in Pompano Beach, is shown at the new exhibition canopy. (Photo courtesy of city of Pompano Beach)

“BaCA’s emergence fueled the success of the Old Town Untapped events [program] and stimulated the economic development in the surrounding area,” explained Pompano Beach Mayor Rex Hardin. “The importance of Bailey Contemporary Arts cannot be underestimated. This venue put the city’s emerging art scene in the spotlight with its creative exhibitions, support of emerging artists and a robust schedule of events and workshops.”  

The venue still features key structural elements of the historic Bailey Hotel and houses two main galleries on the first floor and studios for the Artists in Residency (AiR) on the second floor.

The department programs and manages the city’s major cultural arts venues, including the Pompano Beach Cultural Center, Ali Cultural Arts Center, Bailey Contemporary Arts Center and the Blanche Ely House Museum. The department also oversees the city’s Public Art Program and the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town grant awarded to the Pompano Beach Crossroads place-making arts initiative. 

“I am thrilled to be working with a city that has become a model for revitalization,” said Tabing. “It’s inspiring to see what has been accomplished so far and what the future vision entails.  I look forward to initiating the type of arts and culture programming that will enhance the city’s brand identity and bring some sizzle to the venues.”

“My goal,” he said, “is to create memorable experiences for our residents and tourists, creating a destination everyone will be excited about.”

Barely three weeks on the job in Pompano Beach, Tabing said he is already impressed with what he sees as his first initiatives, which include the commissioning of a mural inside BaCA to commemorate the upcoming centennial celebration of the former Bailey Hotel in 2023 and the selection of a young, dynamic and diverse set of creatives for the Artists in Residency program at the same venue. 

The new culture boss said the mural will “tell the story of the building and all its uses.” The one-time hostelry has been divided up into studios where visiting artisans ply their trade. “Eight more people – seven visual artists and a dancer — are coming in as part of the Artists in Residency program,” he said. They’ll arrive in September and move out in June, “and one artist will be featured each month.” They will also work collectively on a special project.

AiR “had been going on for years,” he said, “But with COVID, it languished.” Tabing hopes to revive it.

The ardent level of creativity Tabing displayed during two decades of work on a series of revitalization projects led the Chicago Tribune to name him “Chicagoan of the Year” for his programming excellence. In Pompano Beach, he will manage all the city’s cultural venues, oversee public art and will activate the aforementioned Crossroads initiative. That project involves the creation of a walking trail connecting the Cultural Center, Bailey Contemporary Arts Center and Ali Cultural Arts Center.

The COVID contagion is responsible, at least in part, for Tabing’s desire to move forward with his life. “During the pandemic, I discovered that I wanted to change my life which had gotten into a rut.”

During a visit to a friend in Hollywood, Florida, “I fell in love with this area, and decided to take a chance. When I discovered Pompano, I noticed how the city had used art and culture to drive development.”

For Tabing, it was much like what he had done before. “Chicago was unique, with its history, culture and architecture.” As executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, he spent his days and nights working to revive what had been one of the city’s most overlooked tourist assets: the historic commercial downtown center loosely defined by the elevated train tracks that circle the central business district.

During his tenure in the Windy City, Tabing was the community’s point man on bringing Sears back to State Street. He pinned down the North Riverside Plaza office building during the city’s campaign to woo Boeing’s corporate headquarters from Seattle, an undertaking bolstered by the fact that his father had been a truck driver at Boeing’s Wichita plant. And he helped create the city’s financial assistance plan for converting the historic Fisher Building on South Dearborn Street from offices to luxury apartments.

Tabing began his career in Chicago with the Department of Planning and Development, where he upgraded the theater district and made The Loop the fastest growing residential neighborhood in the city. Later, he led the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which garnered global praise for its activities and programming throughout the metro area. 

In addition, Tabing spent time in Singapore, where he created the programs to drive traffic to the river district, and in Wichita, his placemaking initiatives rejuvenated the city through arts and culture. “My background is in developing places and bringing people in.”

One item designed to bring people in is a new marquee “to better message the events happening around the cultural area. This should come next year.”

Also, as part of the planned walking trail already known for its profusion of graphically designed honeybees, Tabing said he wants 10 of them painted in such a way that they will “uniquely represent Pompano Beach.”

The cultural director also plans to pump more life into a couple of existing presentations. “The Latin Dance Program will become a quarterly event, and we will be introducing a new gospel program at the Ali on the fifth Sunday of the month when church attendance is reportedly at its lightest.”

The Lyrics Lab at BaCA “has outgrown its space and will move to the Ali Center in October.” The cultural affairs department’s longest-running program, Lyrics Lab is similar to an “open mike” night, but it allows performers to sing, read poetry, play instruments and otherwise present various forms of entertainment.

In addition, new segments are planned for the Friday Untapped Street Festival that normally draws 2,000 to 4,000 people along with food trucks, music and DJ’s.

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