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BIG ARTS invites public to ‘Sign the Beam’

By Staff | Jul 23, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI From July 8-12, BIG ARTS held its “Sign the Beam” campaign, inviting the public to stop by the construction site and sign a metal support beam that will hold up the complex's front entrance.

As the BIG ARTS “Continue the DREAM” project continues to speed along on schedule, the public recently had the opportunity to leave its mark on a piece of what will make up the new building.

From July 8-12, BIG ARTS launched the “Sign the Beam” campaign, inviting the community – residents and visitors – to stop by the construction site and sign a metal support beam that will hold up the front entrance. Some simply signed names, many shared their thoughts and a few left doodles.

The 65-foot beam has since been put in place, supporting arts on the islands into the future.

“The signing of the beam, I just thought, was a great idea,” BIG ARTS Executive Director Lee Ellen Harder said. “It was just a way to get the community involved because we are here for the community.”

She noted that BIG ARTS, or the Barrier Island Group for the Arts, was founded by community members and artists in 1979 for the islands and it continues to serve the community today.

TIFFANY REPECKI From July 8-12, BIG ARTS held its “Sign the Beam” campaign, inviting the public to stop by the construction site and sign a metal support beam that will hold up the complex's front entrance.

“It was very exciting,” Harder said of the campaign. “The beam filled up in a week.”

She added that there were fun sentiments and well wishes scribbled on it.

“It’s going to be great karma going forward,” Harder said.

As of July 18, the project remained on track.

“The project is going along swimmingly. We couldn’t ask for better progress,” she said, adding that good communication and no hurricanes has a role. “The weather has definitely been a help.”

PHOTO PROVIDED The pouring of the performance hall stage floor for the new BIG ARTS building, which will include a 414-seat theater.

The building’s completion and opening is set for the end of January.

Michael Waskiewicz, the project manager with Stevens Construction, reported that they are three months into what is a nine-month project. The first phase is expected to be done by July’s end.

“The structure is just about completed,” he said. “The structural portions of the building.”

Demolition of the old facility took place in early April, followed by the creation of new concrete foundations. Waskiewicz explained that the new building is a mix of concrete masonry, structural steel and precast concrete planks with re-enforced steel. The team is building upward toward the roof.

“Which is where we’re at right now,” he said.

PHOTO PROVIDED A rendering of the new exterior plaza garden that is planned.

Phase II of the project will a combined effort of closing in the structure by putting on the roof, doors and windows, while also creating the interior layout by framing the walls and installing partitions. The electrical conducts, fire protection system, duct work and inner workings will also go in at that time.

“So that would be like for the next three months,” Waskiewicz said.

The final stretch of the project will cover painting, flooring, ceilings and such.

“The last third of it would be the finishes,” he said.

Waskiewicz described the work done so far as a collaborative effort between BIG ARTS, the city of Sanibel, Sanibel Building Department, Sanibel Fire and Rescue District, and Island Water Association.

PHOTO PROVIDED Walls went up quickly at the BIG ARTS construction site on Dunlop Road.

“Everybody has been absolutely fantastic to work for and helping out in every way they can,” he said. “We could not have asked for a better team of people working together.”

Occupying the same footprint as the old facility, the two-story 27,000-square-foot complex will house a 3,800-square-foot performing arts center with a 414-seat theater. The first floor will also feature a spacious lobby, green room, box office, gift shop, catering kitchen, dressing rooms with showers and an expanded art gallery.

An education center will be situated on the second floor to host lectures, as well as painting, drawing, photography, music, dance and pottery workshops and classes. It will also house an administrative department with conference rooms and offices.

BIG ARTS will feature an expansive, impact-resistant, reflective glass faade at the front of the building, which will overlook an outdoor veranda while reducing the building’s heat load. A broadened driveway for guest drop-off, landscaped walkways and ample parking will provide convenience.

Designed by Amy Nowacki Architect, the project is being constructed with energy-efficient elements, like a metal roof to reflect heat, chilled water heating and cooling system for energy-efficient climate control, spray foam insulation to provide a thermal barrier from exterior to interior, and LED lighting.

Despite the 2020 opening, BIG ARTS will announce its “Dream Season” in early September.

“We’re not completely dark,” Harder said of the programming.

She explained that starting in the fall, classes and activities will be held at the Strauss Theater and the Periwinkle Way facilities. There will be glass fusing, some painting, discussion groups and more. November kicks off the Monday movie series, plus the afternoon documentaries at the Island Cinema.

Sanibel Community Church is giving BIG ARTS use of its space for the two holiday concerts.

“Those will go on as planned,” Harder said. “They (the church) have been wonderful.”

She encouraged the community to keep checking the website.

“For when we launch our upcoming season,” Harder said. “We’ve got a great season planned.”

For more information or to stay up-to-date on the project, visit bigarts.org.

BIG ARTS is at 900 Dunlop Road, Sanibel.