on the town
Education MATTERS By Ryan G. Van Cleave
SAINT STEPHEN’S EPISCOPAL SCHOOL AND ITS FUTURE PERFORMING ARTS BUILDING
WHEN ASKED WHY NOW’S THE TIME for Saint Stephen’s to build a new performing arts center, head of school Dr. Jan Pullen says, “We’ve had this on our master site plan since I became head in 2003 and this is the culmination of that entire plan.” Like many facility projects at Saint Stephen’s in recent years – including the Moore Athletic Complex and Marine Science Center – this building will have a huge impact on the west Bradenton campus and its 720+ students. Dr. Pullen admits that “we have children of all grade levels who are extremely talented, creative, and innovative. In the past, we’ve had spaces that have been modified to serve as a stage or venue, but we’ve never really had a space that could truly showcase our students’ talent.” This new building will change all of that. The plan calls for the creation of a performing arts hall with a raised stage and main floor that serves as a seating area. At maximum capacity, it’ll hold about 800 seats, and the openness of the floor plan allows for different configurations, including a 450-seat setup with tables. The venue will also be ideal for plays, band concerts, speaker series, receptions, dances, and a variety of other events. While the Neel Auditorium at State College of Florida is now used to hold Saint Stephen’s graduations, having it on campus will be ideal and more impactful for the graduates and their families. “We’re fortunate to have been gifted with land from Christ Episcopal Church for this new building,” says Dr. Pullen. All the church requires in return for giving a 67,000-squarefoot parcel off Fourth Avenue West (between 41st and 42nd Streets) is the construction of a 3,500-square-foot building that will become a new thrift shop and food pantry. This agreement paved the way for the performing arts center, since Saint Stephen’s 35-acre campus had no more room for growth. The next step was to annex the land for the thrift shop and food pantry into the City of Bradenton, then to select an architect and builder. That’s where the process is at the moment. Once the exact square footage and cost are decided, the school will begin a capital campaign to raise
the estimated $6 million. “I’ve been part of almost every building on campus now,” says Dr. Pullen about her 30 years at the school, including 15 as head, “whether that’s renovating or building. I’m excited to be part of this new project too.” The dream situation is to finish fundraising within a year, and then take one year to complete the actual construction. This would have the new multi-use facility up and running for fall 2019.
Jeannine Elisha, who took over the school’s theater program four years ago, says that this building will be a gamechanger. “The entire school will be impacted, whether they’re watching or performing. Being part of live theater performances is an invaluable experience.” The performing arts are a big part of the Saint Stephen’s experience. From pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, students learn how to get up in front of others and speak, sing, or dance. Those
$6 MILLION the estimated amount needed to be raised by the school’s capital campaign for the project
NOVEMBER 2017 | SARASOTA SCENE
Get ready to gather around the holiday table and enjoy the November issue of Sarasota Scene!