SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Shovels in the ground Wednesday morning officially signaled the start of construction of the long-awaited Fine Arts Complex at Allan Hancock College.
Led by Hancock College Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers, an official groundbreaking was held at the project site, located on the southwest side of the Santa Maria campus, behind Building C.
"It's a tangible ceremony that shows we're moving forward and that's the exciting part, that our fine arts faculty in particular have been waiting for this for a really long time, so for them to have a chance to see all the plans they've been putting in literally for 15 to 20 years to come to fruition, is really fantastic," said Walthers.
When finished the 88,000 square-foot Fine Arts Complex will house the school's dance, drama, film, graphics, music, photography and multimedia arts and communications programs.
It will be widely used since more than half of all Hancock students study fine arts in some capacity.
"When you're getting your college degree, fine arts credits are part of that, so they come through the program, they might take a painting class, or art history class, or computer animated design," said Walthers. This is really a high-tech program. We think of fine arts being dance and painting, there's a lot of high-tech work. We have animation programs, and graphic arts programs, our digital photography is second to none, so it's really going to be a great program for us going forward."
The building will also include a 400-seat music venue.
"To have a new 400 seat auditorium that will be great for our students doing recitals, but also great for our community," said Walthers. "There's really no place in the community where you can just go and have an event for 300 to 400 people that's a seated event, and so, we think that's going to be a tremendous opportunity for the community as well."
The $48 million project is being funded through a variety of sources, including Measure I bond money, which was passed by area voters in 2006.
Other funding sources comes from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, and financial support from the estate of former Hancock faculty member Patricia Boyd.
The start of construction coincides with the college centennial celebration that just kicked off earlier this month.
"If we had to wait this long, at least we get to celebrate it during our centennial year," said Walthers. "We're excited. It's going to take a couple of years to get it all up and running, the fences are going up. It's going to be really exciting and it's going to be a great gem for this community for decades to come."
Completion is expected by fall 2020.