Sanibel cultural center celebrates 35 seasons of the arts
If any organization has earned its permanence on the island, it’s BIG ARTS. Proudly celebrating its 35th season, the cultural center has grown tremendously since its inception in 1979, says executive director Lee Ellen Harder. “The success comes from the people involved— the vision of our founders, the dedication of our volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the years and from good oversight,” she says.
The organization began as an idea among artists yearning for a source of local cultural enrichment. The friends expanded their vision by conducting meetings in homes and hosting plays under tents, and quickly realized they were not the only ones on the island who believed in the dream. Through fundraisers and small art fairs, the public raised enough money to permanently house creative affairs.
Three and a half decades later, BIG ARTS has grown into a prominent, multipurpose facility in Southwest Florida, hosting a variety of art- related events and more than 200 educational programs each year. “It’s just like a little college campus,” says Harder of all the expansions that have been made. With continued support and demand for shows and seasonal courses, she says BIG ARTS surely has more anniversaries to come.
The 35th season celebration kicked off with an annual fundraiser January 24. Special offers and performances will continue to honor the milestone throughout the year. Melanie Pagan is the assignment editor and social media Coordinator for TOTI Media. Follow her on our Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages, and at blog.totimedia.com.
Clockwise from top: The familiar welcome sign at BIG ARTS; the group acquired the Herb Strauss Theater in 2010; craft fairs and summer arts camps are among popular programming over the years.