How a historic church became a Sanctuary for the Arts

Miami’s getting a new arts institution called the Sanctuary of the Arts. It’s bringing together some big names and transforming a historic church in Coral Gables into a space for artists, performers, and the community.

One of the people behind the project is the Sanctuary’s CEO and artistic director Olga Granda, who most recently served as executive director of Miami New Drama. 

We talked with her ahead of the Sanctuary’s opening weekend about what she hopes the institution will accomplish and why the project is a full-circle experience for her.

How the project came together

Olga said the concept goes back to her work before Miami New Drama, when she and other arts advocates were working to preserve and renovate the Coconut Grove Playhouse. She was researching and making connections then, and while she worked to help grow Miami New Drama, this opportunity emerged in Coral Gables.

The historic Christian Science church on Andalusia Avenue was available and the city was looking to do something with the space. Then Mike Eidson — who has been a major supporter of the Adrienne Arsht Center, the Miami City Ballet, and the Coconut Grove Playhouse — offered to help push things forward.

“We approached them and it was mostly Mike’s history of producing cultural programming in other places and those credentials that really made them feel like this was the right fit,” Olga said.

So the nonprofit Sanctuary of the Arts was born and Olga began assembling a team of other local artists to help lead the new institution. This included folks like Amy Cozette Trieger, Monica Soderman, Abigail Nover, and Atena Sherry, who have worked in theater, dance, music, and production. 

The team worked to get historic designation for the building over the summer, and then began laying the groundwork for creating the institution.

And for Olga the work was a return to a community she has called home, as she grew up just a few blocks away from the Sanctuary’s location and used to run an antiques shop in the Gables.

“This is the next step to put the puzzle together, to give back to my community and to have a role in engaging civically in my community,” Olga said.

What the Sanctuary hopes to accomplish

The new institution’s name is both a play on the church it’s operating out of but also a big part of the mission for Olga and her team.

“We believe that the arts are for healing and empowering and preserving the community,” Olga said. “And the idea is that a sanctuary is the place where all those things can be explored and developed.”

The Sanctuary plans to offer residences to artists and arts organizations, to co-produce work and productions, and to host community workshops and offer arts education by using the classrooms on the church property.

There won’t be the level of staging and production that fans of Miami New Drama and Gablestage might expect, but Olga said they do plan to host plenty of performances on the lawn outside the building and on the property — including at this weekend’s opening celebration.

How folks can get involved

Olga said that in the next few months the Sanctuary will be releasing more information on open calls to artists and creatives and announcing more details on how they’ll be developing their programming. They’ll also be doing plenty of outreach and listening to the community.

“We really want to be open arms and an anchor in the community,” Olga said. “Our message is one of openness and accessibility.”