BIG An­niver­sary

Sani­bel cul­tural cen­ter cel­e­brates 35 sea­sons of the arts

Times of the Islands - - In The Community -

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 at­ti­me­

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.

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