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Big Plans for Bonita

by Julie Clay

"YOU DO THAT, TOO?" is what I hear all the time from people,” says Patrice Shields, Marketing & Public Relations Director for the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs. Yes they do. The unassuming 10-acre complex on Old Road 41 is chock full of programs and presentations in all kinds of art. From painting to sculpting, music, film, theatre and more, the 52 year old Center for the Arts has something for all ages and interests.

Summer camps and after school programs for kids ages 4-18 include painting, cartooning, clay, cooking, dance and theater. Adult classes offer musical theater, improv, photography, and a myriad of art media like sculpture, glass beading and pottery.

Patrice shares, “People love our watercolor classes and our sculpture program, stone sculpture and clay sculpture,” adding, “We’ll be doing mosaics and printmaking in the new space.”

With so much to offer, it’s no surprise that the Center has outgrown itself over the years. Theater performances are happening (to sold out crowds, no less) in donated spaces. Gallery space is being used as a classroom for summer camps and for dance classes, and adult programming gets shuffled during the summer to accommodate camps. This ‘happy’ problem is about to be remedied with the opening of the Centers’ Performing Arts Campus on the former Living Waters Church property on Bonita Beach Road.

Centers President, Susan Bridges says, “The community in Bonita Springs and its surrounding communities will have their own three-acre performing arts campus. They’ll see all kinds of things like dance troupes, art performances, traveling theater, and it will all be happening in their backyard. It could be an afternoon play, an evening of jazz music and then a dance group from Tampa or Miami.”

Patrice notes, “There is a 400-seat auditorium in the main building, and a separate building with a 250-seat space that will be used for youth education, youth performances and our film series.” Plans for the main auditorium include some high-tech amenities like several screens that will afford every seat in the room the best view in the house.

Susan adds, “Everyone has told me my entire life, ‘It’s all about the seat.’ People seated in the main auditorium will face the stage and see a huge screen up above it, plus other screens next to the stage, with close-ups of the performers. Now I can not only see what’s in front of me, but I can look up and see the highlights of the performance.”

Theatre programs have really taken off, with performances regularly sold out. And this for a program that has had to use space donated by Estero High School and The Promenade. Susan recalls, “We started out with one youth theatre performance for the entire year. That first year, people just came and packed the house. We knew that there was a spark, so the following year we moved to two performances and added an adult theatre. Two nights of performances and the room was packed.”

She continues, “Three years in, a board member and his wife decided to bring in foreign films. We wrote a grant, purchased a gigantic screen that easily comes apart, and started our ‘Films for Film Lovers’ series in another donated space. In the dog days of summer, 50-60 people will come see these films. During season it’s more than 100. So, one of the buildings on the new campus will be a film center, and that program will be allowed to grow in its own dedicated space.”

The grand opening of the Performing Arts Center, located just west of Old US 41 Road on Bonita Beach Road, is scheduled for its annual ‘The Artrageous Event’ on March 28. However, jazz guitarist Dan Heck will christen the space on January 9, followed by its inaugural adult community theatre production of ‘Plaza Suite’ in late January.

At 29,000 square feet there’s a world of possibilities. Susan admits, “It’s one rollercoaster after another with so much potential. Moving our film program over there will open up additional painting studios here. When people see it they are going to be so thrilled about it.” She asks. “Just try to hang on there and stay tuned because big things are coming.” •


September-October 2013













The Grand Opening
of the new
Performing Arts Center
is scheduled for the annual
'Artrageous Event
on March 28.

New 400 seat auditorium
(above)


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CENTERS FOR THE ARTS
BONITA SPRINGS
26100 Old US 41 Rd.
Bonita Springs
495-8989
www.artcenterbonita.org

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