My name is Andrea Virgin, and I currently sit as president of the Boca Raton Center for Arts & Innovation
. My role in this transformational project results from two totally different career paths colliding into a new one. I’m here to share with you how you can reinvent yourself at any age or in any field.
Most people think they are either more right-brain or left-brain and not somewhere in between.
Of increasing importance these days is for individuals to be agile, creative, and innovative. This no longer applies only to art and culture – the term “creative industries” now includes everything from architecture to tech, from logistics to hospitality.
In a highly competitive world where everyone is looking to secure more eyes and attention, using both sides of our brain — the creative and analytical — has become critically essential.
This was not always the case, and if you attempted to pursue both, you were seen as odd. Case in point – me, an anomaly at the time.
As a child, I wanted to become a professional ballerina and tour the world, dancing in beautiful venues. Upon graduation from high school, I took on a full-time dance career with Houston Ballet II (the second company to Houston Ballet, America’s 5th largest ballet company). Because of my very persistent Cuban parents, I also enrolled full-time at night at the University of Houston with a focus on civil engineering. Cue the head tilt.
Much like most physically demanding athletes, dancers’ careers typically expire in the mid-thirties, and at that point, reinvention is a must – either in an arts position or otherwise. I made the decision that upon “retiring” as a dancer, I would embark on something new and figured “they’ll take an engineer at any age.” I was also good at math and science, and my mom was an accomplished civil engineer.
After only about five years in the professional dance world, the ‘08 recession happened, and arts organizations took a huge hit, and many artists were forced into tough decisions. Knowing an economic recovery would not be quick, I decided to switch my pointe shoes for a hard hat. Although I felt grateful I had a back-up career to fall back on, it was like a sudden breakup. I wasn’t prepared for the unexpected switch from “the left side of the brain to the right” and felt I didn’t get my fill of performing. It took quite some time to get past that feeling.
Well, as they say, “the show must go on,” so I pursued my second career in land development in earnest. In the years that followed, I led large design teams to create large-scale commercial developments for prominent developers all across the South Florida region.
Using my creative side, I was able to set myself apart from other, more black-and-white civil engineers, who can often be rigid or plain, and developers took notice of the difference.
Carrying that momentum and market recognition, I decided to start Virgin Design in 2018, a full-service land development civil engineering company, in partnership with my mother and set my eyes on making waves in this local market.
It was at this point that the merger of my two careers began. In the same year, I decided to give back to the local dance company where I trained as a child (Boca Ballet Theatre) and became the first alumnus to join their Board of Directors. For decades, they and other local cultural organizations have performed out of date, run-down high school auditoriums on the fringes of Boca Raton, an otherwise well-capitalized city. At that first board meeting, I decided I could make a difference by combining my passion for the performing arts with my experience in land development to help spearhead the effort to develop, fundraise, build, and ultimately operate a performing arts center that would finally mirror the quality of the local cultural offerings.
Since then, the combination of my past experience, my relationships with arts and culture organizations, and my connections in the world of commercial real estate has taken this vision to a whole other level. We reached a point where over $1 million in both seed money and in-kind services have been donated, the Center’s Board has expanded, a cross-sector Advisory Board has been formed, major stakeholders have gathered in support, some of the world’s best consultants have been engaged, an iconic design has been created, a unanimous consensus has been granted by the City Council for a long-term ground lease for this to be built on some of the most desirable lands in Downtown Boca Raton, and promising discussions for major philanthropic support have begun to materialize.
If you asked me back in 2008 if I would ever be part of the art world again, let alone creating a cultural infrastructure for the audiences of the future, I would have thought you were crazy. And yet, the opportunity presented itself. Although I didn’t know the ins and outs of developing, let alone operating a performing arts center when we set out to do this, I knew that I could find the right people at the right time to join this venture and that the passion behind the project would carry us through the process. And it has.
It goes to show us that even if we are taken off our “path”, something many are facing amidst this pandemic, we can still pick up as much as we can along the way and keep our minds open to the possibilities of combining prior chapters into a new one.
If you’re wondering whether you too could take the plunge to reinvent yourself or to pursue a new passion, I invite you to take all you’ve learned to date and apply it to that new mission. If there are gaps, fill them. If there are obstacles, find ways to overcome them. Because it’s never too late to pivot, reposition or reinvent ourselves.
About the Boca Raton Center for Arts & Innovation:
Conceptually announced in 2018, the Boca Raton Center for Arts & Innovation is a non-profit mission to create a state-of-the-art hub for arts, culture & entertainment for the community of Boca Raton, Florida. The Center imagines six diverse & adaptive performance & event spaces — indoor & outdoor — ranging in seating capacity from 99 to 3,500 seats. These can be programmed as individual spaces or combined to host events for nearly 6,000 total attendees.
The venues include a state-of-the-art, 1,100-seat concert & performance hall, designed as a multi-form theater; an amphitheater stage that can be transformed into a 450-seat “Black Box” space through the use of an innovative bi-fold door; the 3,500-seat Mizner Park Amphitheater, which can be programmed simultaneously with the “Black Box” space; a jewel-box, 99-seat performance hall that can be converted into a large rehearsal studio; an outdoor rooftop terrace, which can accommodate an estimated 200 patrons; & a large, open-air lobby situated above ground level, protected from the elements by an innovative canopy feature.