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BIG ARTS recognized at Angels of the Arts Awards

By Staff | May 4, 2011

Pictured at Monday's 2011 Angels of the Arts awards ceremony is Mary Buck and Lee Ellen Harder.

On May 2, The Alliance for the Arts announced the 2011 Angels of the Arts winners. The 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 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.

Nominated by BIG ARTS, the 2011 Arts Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Mary Buck for her work in development. Mary Buck’s unparalleled dedication has guided BIG ARTS development efforts since 2005 by serving as Chair of Development working toward a $1.25 million goal; by implementing a successful bequest and estate planning program; and through her leadership and active involvement as Vice President of the BIG ARTS Board of Directors.

“My volunteering for BIG ARTS has been a labor of love and I have always been very proud to be associated with such a wonderful organization,” said Buck.

BIG ARTS Executive Director Lee Ellen Harder thanked BIG ARTS volunteers, Board members, sponsors, and staff, when she accepted the 2011 Angel of the Arts Award for BIG ARTS – 2011 Arts Organization of the Year.

“Their dedication and support has made it possible for BIG ARTS to offer quality programs to the community and they continue to help us fulfill our mission,” said Harder. “It is an honor to receive this recognition.”

“I’d like to extend my congratulations to Lee Ellen Harder. She has been an enormous asset to BIG ARTS, and it is wonderful seeing her hard work recognized in this manner,” added Chuck Bonser, President of BIG ARTS Board. “I would also like to congratulate Mary Buck; it has been a pleasure working closely with Mary over the past two years. She has been an indispensible partner and embodies what BIG ARTS volunteering is all about.”

The 2011 Angel of the Arts Lifetime Achievement award was given to Sanibel artist and BIG ARTS pottery instructor, Gail Jones. A friend said of her passing, “Gail had such a kind heart, only in heaven will we find a heart like hers.”

Professor Emeritus Sidney B. Simon, a BIG ARTS committee volunteer, won Literary Artist of the Year. FineMark National Bank and Trust was given the Business Arts Sponsor of the Year award. They have generously supported BIG ARTS, and many other cultural organizations in Lee County, since their inception in 2007.

This year, 80 Angels were nominated for 14 categories, a panel of independent judges residing outside of Lee County chose the winners.

BIG ARTS is a “home for all the arts” with three venues on Sanibel — Schein Performance Hall and galleries at BIG ARTS Center, Herb Strauss Theater and the Gallery and Gift Shop on Periwinkle. Classical, jazz, and popular music; dance; visual arts; lectures; film; live theater; classes, youth programs and workshops – BIG ARTS has something for everyone.

“We are all delighted with the selection of BIG ARTS as the Arts Organization of the Year,” said Bonser. “It is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our BIG ARTS staff and our volunteers in this organization that plays such an important part of our individual lives here on Sanibel and Captiva and is such an integral part of our community.”

BIG ARTS’ mission is to provide quality cultural and educational experiences to the residents of and visitors to Sanibel, Captiva and neighboring communities. From musical concerts, dance performances, family entertainment, visual arts exhibits and programs, writers conferences, lectures series, film and live theater productions, arts and educational classes and workshops, BIG ARTS is known as a home for all the arts.

For more information go to www.BIGARTS.org, stop by 900 Dunlop Road on Sanibel or call the Marks Box Office at 395-0900.