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Rotary Happenings: Rotarians hear from BIG ARTS executive director

By ROTARY CLUB - | Jan 26, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED BIG ARTS Executive Director Lee Ellen Harder was the guest speaker at a recent meeting of the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club.

Since its inception in 1979, BIG ARTS — the Barrier Island Group for the Arts — has provided our community with entertainment, education and quality programs for all of our community members. Just last year, BIG ARTS underwent a huge renovation creating a magnificent gathering place for all to enjoy, just in time for very few people to be able to enjoy. Sadly, just seven weeks after the completion of the renovation, and only a month into its season, BIG ARTS had to close its doors to the public for everyone’s safety. However, even though the doors were closed, it did not stop the staff under the leadership of Executive Director Lee Ellen Harder from using their own artistic and inventive abilities to come up with creative ways to host programs and allow the community to join in.

During the tenure of Harder, BIG ARTS’s operating budget and endowment have more than quadrupled and the membership base has more than tripled. She has steered the expansion of artistic and educational programming, which has led to a broadened audience demographic and has developed and maintained relationships with other non-profit organizations, businesses and key stakeholders. Harder successfully oversaw the construction project of a new 27,000-square-foot facility that houses a performing arts center with a 414-seat theater, fine arts gallery and education center. And most importantly, even through the trying times of COVID, she and her staff have created programs that allow all of us to still enjoy, both virtually and in-person.

During this challenging time, BIG ARTS is practicing the highest standards of safety. All visitors are required to wear masks at all times while in the facility and to practice social distancing. Only 50 percent of the seats in the Christensen Performance Hall will be sold and only 200 seats available for any event, with a maximum of 25 people allowed in the gallery at any given time. An enhanced air filtration system is in place, all surfaces are wiped down in-between uses, a professional fogger is being used after each gathering and hand sanitation stations are available throughout the building.

On Jan. 22, BIG ARTS hosted its first performing art series and there are many more shows planned that should not be missed. Be sure to check out their Webpage at https://bigarts.org.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club holds a meeting on Fridays at 7:30 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel, and via Zoom. To attend in person, email Bill Harkey at William.Harkey@gmail.com; attendance is limited to 20 people. To take part via Zoom, call 239-472-7257. For more information, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary.