Grossmont College celebrated the completion of the Performing and Visual Arts Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the new landmark structure on the El Cajon campus.
With its dramatic steel and glass exterior and soaring roofline, the $44 million center at the front of the campus is aesthetically remarkable. What it means for the community as a new performance venue and for students in the college’s performing and visual arts programs is beyond measure. Its professional-grade features and size will encourage multi-disciplinary collaboration, promising to enrich Grossmont College’s arts offerings and to improve training for students on stage and behind the scenes.
The nearly 39,000-square-foot facility, which broke ground in 2017, will serve as an instructional and performance venue for the theater, dance and music programs, and also is the new home for the Hyde Art Gallery. Funded by Proposition V construction dollars approved by East County voters in 2012, the 53-foot-tall structure designed by LPA Inc. is the tallest instructional facility on campus with a 390-seat multipurpose theater replete with one of the largest stages in the county, an orchestra pit and balcony. With dressing rooms, a green room, a costume area and a makeup classroom, it will serve as a learning laboratory for student performers, technicians and designers in the Theatre Arts program.
“This building represents a way to expand on our already successful Summer Arts Conservatory productions by having a space that can now produce a piece of musical theater in the way it deserves,” said Theatre Arts Department head Brian Rickel. “The fly system, the orchestra pit and the larger stage are really going to allow us the opportunity to soar as we move forward into an exciting future and we cannot wait to show off a bit for our audiences who've been waiting for this moment a very long time.”
The Performing and Visual Arts Center will be an asset to the community at large, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Chancellor Lynn Neault said during a ceremony attended by a small gathering and livestreamed for viewing. “While training our students in the performing arts, we can provide excellent performances that will enrich the audiences that attend them,” she said.
Interim College President Marsha Gable said the Grossmont College venue means an expanded exposure to the arts to East County residents who may lack the resources to attend performances and art exhibits in central and downtown San Diego.
“By making art accessible to our neighbors, we bring beauty, diversity and creativity to their lives,” she said. “For many young people – including those who experience our Theatre Arts and Dance departments’ high school tours – this may be the only place they see a live theatrical or dance production.”
Dance department chair David Mullen is particularly excited about the new center after a decade of dance concerts held off campus due to a lack of performing space.
“The completion of this venue means that the dance department can begin to expand its programming, present performances for the community, and provide students with more performance opportunities,” he said.
Interim Dean of Arts, Languages and Communication Joel Castellaw said the stellar acoustics and layout of the main hall will provide the music department with a space and capacity for performances by ensembles ranging in size from small trios and quartets to the full force of the college’s Master Chorale and Grossmont Symphony Orchestra.
Derek Cannon, who heads the music department, said the new venue will also allow the music department to sponsor music festivals and expand outreach efforts with local high schools and the community overall.
“Our desire is to become the cultural center of the East County,” said Cannon, who joined two music students in a jazz performance at this morning’s ribbon-cutting. The college is planning a grand opening in the spring when the return of on-campus instruction will bring the facility to life.
Governing Board member Elena Adams thanked East County voters for their continuing strong support of the college district.
“This is one of the many buildings that the district was able to build and renovate at Cuyamaca and at Grossmont College because East County taxpayers supported Proposition R in 2002, and Proposition V in 2012,” she said. “We are grateful for the East County community’s investment in our colleges.”
Other major projects on the Grossmont and Cuyamaca College campuses being funded by Proposition V include the second phase of the Grossmont College Science, Math and Career Technology Complex, which broke ground last week; a Student Services Building at Cuyamaca College that broke ground in February; and a renovation underway of the Ornamental Horticulture complex at Cuyamaca College.
For more information about Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges, go to www.gcccd.edu