Student-produced artwork and live demonstrations greeted people who stepped out of the rain and into Allan Hancock College’s newest building on Feb. 24.
The 88,000-square-foot two-story Fine Arts Complex with a corrugated metal facade includes a 400-seat concert hall, a film screening room, and student lounge areas for students in the college’s dance, drama, film, graphics, music, photography, and multimedia arts and communications programs.
The building has been in the works for more than 30 years, Hancock Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers told the Sun during the Fine Arts Complex’s grand opening festivities.
“The faculty started planning for this in the ’90s, and I literally saw a memo from the mid 1990s where they were talking to faculty about what kind of space you would need,” he said. “So they were already doing space planning 30 years ago, and now today, to see what it came to, it’s pretty incredible.”
Walthers explained that funding was the primary roadblock when it came to constructing the building. Funds for the Fine Arts Complex were provided by Measure I, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, and the estate of former Hancock faculty member Patricia Boyd.
With $48 million in hand, construction on the building commenced in September 2020, and the complex has been open since January.
Students and faculty have been excited about the new building, said graphic design professor Nancy Jo Ward, as some students jokingly refer to it as UC Hancock. And they have good reason to be excited about it—before its construction, students and faculty were scattered across the campus in various outdated buildings, she told the Sun.
Theater teacher Michael Dempsey said he used to walk half a mile from his office to his classroom and hold rehearsals outdoors due to a lack of space.
“It gives me a focus-dedicated space for theater and all of the technology in the building is state of the art,” Dempsey said. “You walk in here and there are hundreds of students doing the same thing they do. And there’s growth by them, seeing what the other is doing and the conversations that go on between them about art and politics and everything else.”
Adrienne Allebe, associate professor of art, told the Sun that her new classroom is much larger than the one she used to teach in. Fitting several easels and workstations, the new classroom is also equipped with large windows and LED lights to provide versatile lighting for budding artists. Prior to the Fine Arts Complex being built, Allebe said that there was only one classroom available to teach painting, drawing, and design classes.
With more classrooms in the same building, Allebe said she’s noticed that collaboration between faculty is starting to bloom.
“We didn’t even really run into our colleagues on a day-to-day basis. … So now it’s just nice for all of us to see each other all the time,” Allebe said. “We can easily walk into each other’s classrooms and have collaborations, and the students can all mingle together.”
For first year art student Natali Camacho, the additional lighting in the newly redesigned art classrooms really made a difference when it came to creating new pieces.
“So I feel like with these lightings and like the way it’s set up, essentially, it feels very more like you can zone into what you’re doing,” Camacho told the Sun, adding that the fluorescent lights in the older classrooms didn’t do her artwork justice. “I know that instructors definitely struggled a lot more in the past with lighting. So I think that they are going to really enjoy all the lights that they have now.”
Graphic design professor Ward noted that those common spaces for the students were particularly important in the building’s design.
“As you walk around, you’re going to find pockets of areas for the students to hang out. That builds the culture and builds opportunities for conversations,” Ward said. “And then students start to kind of open their eyes up to maybe a discipline that they hadn’t considered.”
And a new, larger building means more growth for the Fine Art Department, John Hood, chair of the Fine Arts Department told the Sun.
“I think certain programs are going to grow more than others, like game art, animation, drama, theater, they will grow,” Hood said. “What’s funny is that we have to be careful of how much we grow because this is it, but we definitely have room to grow as sections.”
• The Santa Maria Public Library, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Santa Maria Branch, and the Women’s March invites locals to Women, Life, Freedom (Zan, Zendegi, Azadi), a free presentation in recognition of International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8. The event begins at 5 p.m. in the Library’s Shepard Hall. Dr. Golnaz Agahi—a writer, educator, and practitioner of social work for more than 20 years—will speak about living in Tehran during the Iranian revolution and connect her experience to women’s rights in Iran and the world. A question-and-answer session will follow. The presentation will also be offered over Zoom; register at cityofsantamaria.org/library. The library is located at 421 South McClelland St. Call (805) 925-0994, Ext. 8562, for more information.
Contact New Times Staff Writer Shwetha Sundarrajan, from the Sun’s sister paper, at [email protected].