Where fire alarms once rang loud and clear over the streets of the Magic City now stands a place full of fresh air—perfect conditions for the embers of creativity to be set alight. Nestled inside of the historic fire station in South Avondale is the Firehouse Community Arts Center. Founded by creative visionary Eric Wallace in 2009 after purchasing the antique 41st Street firehouse, the organization places its focus on a “do-it-yourself” artistic learning approach not bound to the confines of age, gender, or experience. Their goal is to reach anyone and everyone with the desire to create—priding itself on offering accessible, effective, and enriching education through art. 

“Students at the Firehouse will learn in an environment that they may hope to work in one day.” 

(Firehouse Community Arts Center/Facebook)

In addition to this, the Firehouse hosts a range of performances, from pop to heavy metal and everything in between—keeping in line with their “no boundaries” approach. On the first floor of the historic Firehouse is a charming music hall, with an elevated stage and ample floor space. These performances serve the purpose of letting artists broadcast their music to an audience. It also gives artists the experience of being on stage and performing, which helps eliminate stage fright. 


The aging firehouse is a key historical element in Avondale’s history. Although it is nearly a century and a half old, it still stands tall and serves the Birmingham community as if it never stopped. The building has also seen a series of minor renovations in its servitude as the Community Arts Center’s HQ. The interior of the building has been designed to accommodate multiple lesson rooms that also serve as recording studios. On the side of the building, a beautiful mural painted by artist Tim Kerr features portraits of Birmingham stalwarts Fred Shuttlesworth, Sun Ra, Angela Davis, and Spider Martin. Beneath the vibrantly colored profiles is a quote that resonates as loud and true as the music from the Firehouse itself, “Know your history.”


(Firehouse Community Arts Center/Facebook)

After just briefly meeting Eric Wallace, you will discover how deeply he cares about Birmingham and its flourishing arts community. He is utterly devoted to the hard work it takes to uphold the mission of the Firehouse Community Arts Center. In my early days as a young guitar player, I had the pleasure of taking lessons at the Firehouse from Wallace himself. I did not grow up in Avondale, but it now feels like a second home to me because of the impact of the firehouse.


I had been through a number of teachers in my musical journey when I took my first lesson at the Firehouse via the recommendation of a band member. Wallace was so passionate about the use of music and arts as means of universal communication, and it was during this time that I found myself improving more steadily than ever. I was also taught how to write, record, and produce my own music. It wasn’t just my technical knowledge of playing the guitar that improved—I was inspired by the artistic community I saw taking shape around me. I witnessed firsthand the good that the Firehouse did and continues to do for the Birmingham arts community. 

“Through art, you can make your way through this world” – Eric Wallace