Cardinal Dolan, blessing the newly named Frank Shiner Theater at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in lower Manhattan, prayed all who use the sacred space “be filled with the spirit of joy and leave here uplifted, conscious of the human solidarity that the arts bring about.”
Formerly known as the Black Box Theater, located on the lower level of the Sheen Center, the Frank Shiner Theater is named for award-winning musician, actor and entrepreneur Frank Shiner who, with his wife Suzanne, funded recent renovations of the 80-seat theater. The couple belong to St. John and St. Mary parish in Chappaqua.
Cardinal Dolan, in remarks at the Feb. 28 blessing, graciously thanked the Shiners. “This is a great occasion of joy and thanksgiving,” he said.
The cardinal prayed, “Dear God our Father, we see in this dedication…our fulfillment of your final mandate, to go teach the nations, teaching them truth and goodness and beauty that are so evident in your works of art, in music and song and dance…We thank you for the generosity of the Shiner family.”
Noting the beginning of a path to achieve “full financial sustainability,” William Biddle, executive director of the Sheen Center, called it “a very important day for the Sheen Center.” He described various plans, those that are “visually appealing” and would “increase the production capabilities” and “decrease our operating expenses.”
The Sheen Center, located at 18 Bleecker St., offers theater, film, music, art and talk events in a state-of-the-art theater complex that, in addition to the Frank Shiner Theater, includes the 270-seat Loreto Theater, equipped with five-camera high-definition TV and live-stream capability and a multi-track recording studio; four rehearsal studios and an art gallery.
Shiner’s relationship with the Sheen Center began in 2019 when he was invited by board member, actress and singer Vanessa Williams to perform at the Center’s inaugural Christmas benefit concert. Last December he was the lead sponsor and host of the Sheen Center’s annual fundraising event, “Christmas on Bleecker,” sharing the stage with Ms. Williams and other performers.
Shiner, in remarks at the blessing, shared a poignant story about his faith and career and expressed his thanks for the opportunity to bring to the Sheen Center both his “business acumen” and “the artistic side.”
He said he is grateful to be able to fulfill his promise. “My promise is I formed Frank Shiner Music and I promised God I won’t take anything for it. Every dollar goes to some type of a charity. Every dollar that comes in goes back out again. And if this naming can further that mission a little more too, then so be it.”
Ms. Williams appeared via video at the cardinal’s blessing ceremony, where she thanked the Shiners for being “such great supporters,” congratulated and welcomed Shiner to the Sheen’s board of directors. “He’s such a wonderful person, and his eyes lit up when I told him all that we were doing at the Sheen Center,” she said, noting she has known him for years, including at St. John and St. Mary parish in Chappaqua.
Shiner, speaking with CNY after the blessing, said he often asks himself, “What are we without the arts? When it’s all business and it’s all struggle for survival—and all necessary—our only real release is the arts.”
The majestic brilliance of God, “the greatest artist,” is unmatched, Shiner said of paintings and photographs that cannot adequately capture the beauty God has designed in nature. Still, “if we’re made in His image and likeness, we need to express that; we have an obligation to express that. And only then do we feel truly human.”