MISSION & HISTORY:
Our mission is to provide quality cultural and educational experiences to the residents and visitors of Sanibel, Captiva and neighboring communities.
Known as Sanibel and Captiva’s home for all the arts, BIG ARTS has been providing cultural enrichment and fulfillment to island residents and visitors since 1979. BIG ARTS began when a group of artists dreamed of a cultural center on the island. Today, BIG ARTS members and participants enjoy a wide spectrum of performing and visual arts events, and the community participates in more than 200 educational classes and workshops each year.
The creative spirit, driving force, and hard work of volunteers have shaped BIG ARTS into the vibrant organization it is today. More than 250 talented volunteers assist the staff each season to ensure the professional management of BIG ARTS. Now a prominent cultural institution in Southwest Florida’s region, BIG ARTS has fulfilled its original mission to provide cultural, social, and volunteer opportunities to island residents. As new residents move to the area, they see how BIG ARTS enriches island life, and many are eager to participate and support the arts as they did in their former communities.
BIG ARTS activities were held in private homes around the island until 1987, when a small cottage was donated and moved to its present location on Dunlop Road. Founders Gallery opened in this cottage and concerts were held in the garden under a tent. Due to the popularity of the programs, the organization quickly outgrew these facilities. Through the generosity of BIG ARTS supporters, Phillips Gallery opened in 1990 as an art gallery, concert hall, and classroom.
The West Wing, Schein Performance Hall and sculpture garden were added in 1997. Designed by BIG ARTS member Irwin Stein, Schein Hall is a 400-seat concert hall with surround sound in high definition and a recently added high definition projection system. Classrooms provide space for pottery, clay, metal works, and many other offerings. The beautiful sculpture garden, renamed Boler Garden, was restored in 2006, including an ongoing project with installation of an etched stone walkway.
BIG ARTS Administrative Offices and Classrooms are located at 2244 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, near Sanibel Bean coffee shop. Additional classrooms and meeting space there allows BIG ARTS to further its mission to support the arts.
In 2010 the Boards of the Herb Strauss Theater and BIG ARTS joined together to combinine the support functions and volunteers of the two organizations, making both stronger and more efficient. The Herb Strauss Theater is now part of the BIG ARTS family of programs and productions. The goal is to further the tradition of quality cultural and educational experiences to the residents and visitors of Sanibel, Captiva, and neighboring communities.
BIG ARTS Herb Strauss Theater presents professional live theater, and offers Broadway-caliber talent in an intimate atmosphere. The 160-seat Theater is located at 2200 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.
BIG ARTS celebrates its 35th season with an extraordinary line-up of performances and educational programs. Whether your interest is in classical, jazz, or popular music; dance; the visual arts; lectures; film or live theater; or in attending a class or workshop – BIG ARTS has something for everyone!
2011 Chrysalis Award:
Video created by Ken Sneeden and Associates for the 2011 Chrysalis Awards. BIG ARTS was the winner in the Cultural Achievement category.
On May 19, 2011 The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce honored eight local individuals and businesses at the annual Celebration of Business & Tourism "Chrysalis" Awards.
Organizations were judged on innovation, how they have distinguished themselves in the community, their efforts to promote Southwest Florida, their contributions to business and tourism partnerships for the overall benefit of the county, and their work to foster growth and sustainability.
2011 Angel of the Arts Awards:
- Arts Organization of the Year
- Arts Organization Leader of the Year
Alliance for the Arts Angels of the Arts Awards Program recognizes the positive contributions and essential impact of artists, arts organizations, arts educators and supporters in Lee County. The 2011 award for Arts Organization of the Year was given to BIG ARTS, and Arts Organization Leader of the Year was given to Lee Ellen Harder, Executive Director of BIG ARTS.
Photo: Lee Ellen Harder accepting the Angel of the Arts Award for BIG ARTS - 2011 Arts Organization of the Year on May 2, 2011.