SC photos by Chuck Larsen
SC photos by Chuck Larsen

It took a single day to raze the BIG ARTS building. Demolition was April 1, no April Fools joke, with clean up taking just a few days. The next step is getting the area ready to begin construction of the new frame.

The BIG ARTS building began with a small cottage donated in 1987 by the Naumann family. It was moved from the beach to land on Dunlop Road donated by the City of Sanibel and served as BIG ARTS box office, Founders Gallery and administrative offices. A tented mobile stage jutted off the cottage and people brought their own chairs for seating.

Laverne and Bill Phillips – longtime Sanibel residents and friends – gave and organized a community-wide appeal to create a gallery, meeting room, performance space, workshop classroom and fine arts show space all rolled into one. The BIG ARTS Phillips Gallery broke ground and opened in 1990 with a show featuring a sculpture by Bob Rauschenberg.

As audiences, workshops and artists grew, the community once again rose to the occasion. BIG ARTS Schein Hall was dedicated in 1997 and accommodated 410 in movable folding chairs. Hundreds heralded the hall’s opening with a parade down Periwinkle Way. Even rain did not dampen the spirits of all who attended to open Sanibel and Captiva’s only professional performing arts hall.

BIG ARTS is “continuing the dream” with a new building in keeping with island architectural style to be erected on the same sacred footprint that will offer a larger stage, elevators, safe and easy access, comfortable seating, dynamic sound and more room for social gatherings, as well as an outdoor performance space and improved classrooms. Target completion is 2020.