BIG ARTS Celebrates 40 Fabulous Years With a New Build

Forty years ago, a group of passionate artists founded a new arts organization on Sanibel, called BIG ARTS or Barrier Island Group for the Arts. When the group first organized there were no production facilities, and performances, art shows and creative writing presentations were held wherever possible, including the beach!

Gradually facilities were added as performance and meeting spaces became necessary, as support for the arts on Sanibel and Captiva mushroomed. Although the non-profit BIG ARTS was formed in 1979, it wasn’t until 1987 that it had a semi-permanent home in a donated cottage, with a mobile stage as a performance space with lawn chair seating!

More and more volunteers stepped forward and the Phillips Gallery broke ground and opened in 1990, housing a gallery, meeting room, performance and workshop space. The first show featured a sculpture by Bob Rauschenberg. The next major milestone was the opening of Schein Hall in 1997 as a performance space that accommodated 410 people in moveable folding chairs.

Despite support for the arts and passionate audiences, ageing facilities could no longer meet the needs of the burgeoning arts community.  After a review of the arts’ long-term sustainability on the islands, BIG ARTS created a vision for the next 40 years – a new facility that would meet the needs of present and future arts enthusiasts.

The vision is meeting reality as the old structures have been torn down and in their place will stand a brand new 27,000 square-foot facility, slated to open in January 2020. A major part of the facility will be a performance space seating 414 patrons and featuring a state-of-the-art sound system, expanded stage space and comfortable seating.

The building will also house a spacious lobby, green room, gift shop, gallery, box office, dressing rooms, an education center and administrative offices. The glass-front exterior will showcase landscaping which captures the beauty of the islands.

Join us in congratulating the arts community of Sanibel and Captiva as their grand new facility will showcase the arts for many years to come!

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