BY BUDDY NEVINS
I grew up in Manhattan with an artsy-Mom, so I was introduced to Broadway, opera and the symphony at an early age.
For many kids in South Florida, their only chance to see performing arts is in a unique public schools program — the nationally award-winning Student Enrichment in the Arts Program (SEAS) run by the Broward Center for Performing Arts.
Since 1991, over 1.5 million students have seen everything from “Sesame Street Live!” to “Step Afrika”.
Students attended the center’s reading programs and summer academies. They’ve learned from some of the world’s best backstage talent — stage designers and electricians to dancers and musicians.
For a handful, this first brush with showbiz blossoms into careers. Many more learn to enrich their lives with the performing arts.
The Broward Center has given all this to children. Now they want something back.
The Center is asked the School Board this week for $5,750,000 to be paid over 10 years for an elaborate expansion. The first payment is October 2015.
The deal is an exceptionally good public/private partnership.
Of the roughly $50 million needed for the project, more than half is from private donors. Rich guys like
H. Wayne Huizenga. Big local companies like AutoNation. Average folks kicking in $25 extra when they buy tickets.
That adds up to $27 million in private donations.
The rest comes from Broward County ($12 million), Fort Lauderdale ($4.5 million) and the Downtown Development Authority ($1 million).
Now the School Board is being asked to pony up.
For its money, the public schools will see built a new Rose Miniaci Arts Education Center next to the Broward Center as part of the expansion. Other parts of the project include new seating, enhanced lighting and sound, a novel added club level in the main performing hall complete with a bar, a restaurant on the river and a ballroom.
The education center will include classrooms for thousands of additional students and dozens of new courses being developed in coordination with the schools.
Technology is being installed throughout the Broward Center to enable distance-learning programs to reach every school in the county. It will also connect students and artists locally, nationally and around the globe.
And a new JM Family Studio Theater will easily transform from a lecture or rehearsal hall to a production-ready performance venue for students.
Programs like those offered at the Broward Center are a necessary part of a well-rounded education. We live in a society where performing arts – whether it be YouTube videos put together in a garage or the philharmonic – are finding new outlets on the Internet. Our children should be educated to be part of this.
Spending this money is a great deal. The taxpayers are getting the maximum bang-for-the-buck because private money is paying more than half.
Most of all, we need the Broward Center’s innovative arts programs in our schools.
Because tomorrow’s world will not be just reading, writing and math. It will be the arts, too.
We should want our children part of it.