For Lori Oliver, founder of Naples Performing Arts Center, teaching children the arts is a lifelong passion, and one she wants to share with everyone, regardless of economic status. Her growing nonprofit studio’s recent move into an expanded space will help her continue to instruct students of all ages, abilities and backgrounds in a variety of performing arts classes.
“We weren’t able to grow in the building that we were in, but now we have the freedom to grow and add programs and take it to the next level that we dream about,” Oliver says.
Oliver says no child is turned away from the dance, drama and music classes and programs “so that everyone has the opportunity to experience the arts.” About 80 percent of students attend the center on some type of scholarship.
Her center also serves as a “one-stop shop” for parents, she says, some of whom previously had to drive their kids to different locations for voice, piano and violin lessons and acting classes. The arrangement encourages students to develop into multifaceted performers.
“I wanted to be able to have a place where they could study all of that under one roof,” she says.
Since opening in March 2012, Oliver says the studio has grown from 23 students to more than 500. However, that enroll However, that enrollment spike presented a challenge. Oliver outgrew her space and began searching for an affordable location that could accommodate more students.
After two years of searching, the studio found an opportunity to share a soon-to-be-vacated church building with another organization.
“At every corner, we were just coming up against zoning problems or not finding land, so when we found out this church was moving out, it was the perfect situation,” Oliver says. “There is a smaller church moving in, and they will be using the building on Sundays. It left the space and the building open for us to be able to use the building for the entire week.”
Sharing a space with C3 Church will save the Naples Performing Arts Center thousands of dollars, she says.
“We have spent $45,000 a year renting theaters. Now, we no longer have to spend that,” she says.
The church is allowing the studio to use its equipment, which Oliver said typically costs about $25,000 per show. Its musical theater program, for example, produces Broadway-style shows, such as Disney’s The Lion King, with about 1,200 tickets sold per show.
“The partnership with the church financially is definitely going to help us accomplish what we do every year on a much more cost-effective basis,” Oliver says.
They moved into the new location, at 1048 Castello Drive, in late April. Now that it has the studio and the students, Oliver says, the center is seeking to grow its staff of two full-time employees. The center, which has 18 teachers, also has donor opportunities for businesses.
With more opportunities to expand, Oliver says the arts center will be able to better serve its mission of being “a place where the love for the arts is fostered in children and children can really grow in their confidence, believe in themselves, learn how to dream big, feel like the sky’s the limit.”
Oliver’s search for a location has demonstrated persistence to the center’s students as well.
“I want children to know they can accomplish anything,” she says.