Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Theater under construction at Grossmont College reaches new heights

Steelworkers put up the last structural beam at a topping off.
A construction milestone of the Grossmont College Performing and Visual Arts Center was celebrated Thursday by educators and officials autographing the last structural beam going up on what promises to be a landmark structure.

The customary “topping off” ceremony also marks the nearly halfway point for the $42 million project being funded by Proposition V construction dollars approved by East County voters in 2012. The nearly 39,000-square-foot facility, which broke ground in 2017 and is targeted for completion in fall 2019, will serve as an instructional and performance venue for the theater, dance and music programs. In addition to a 390-seat, multipurpose theater replete with one of the largest stages in the county, an orchestra pit and balcony, the center will also house the Hyde Art Gallery.

President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh signs a construction beam.

Standing 53 feet tall, the structure designed by LPA Inc. is the tallest instructional facility on the campus. In addition to a performance venue, it will serve as a learning laboratory for student performers, technicians and designers in the Theatre Arts program. Dressing rooms, a green room, a costume area and a makeup classroom are part of the center.  The theater entrance will feature a dramatically transparent lobby, a box office and concession area.

President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh said the new facility will change the face of Grossmont College because of its size and location at the front of the campus.

“This building will be the front door to our college,” he said. “With this facility, we are sending the message to the community that in addition to being a fantastic place of learning, we are a house for the arts in East County.”

Beth Duggan, Theatre Arts Department chair, said the shared use of the new building encourages collaboration between departments and the size of the stage is perfect for elaborate productions like those put on by the Summer Arts Conservatory program.

“Having a state-of-the-art facility where our high school and college performers and technicians can hone their craft is a very exciting prospect,” she said.

Music Department chair Derek Cannon can barely contain his excitement over the addition of a long-awaited performance venue. Cannon said the new theater with the orchestra pit opens up the possibility of the music and dance departments putting on joint productions. 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.

“I foresee the music department putting on workshops and master classes, events we haven’t been able to pursue because of a lack of adequate space,” Cannon said. “Our buildings have been around since the ‘60s and we have pretty much run out of space for the 1,600-1,800 students enrolling in music classes each year.”

After the performance center is completed, the construction of a new 7,000-square-foot music building is set to begin in 2021 for more classroom and lab space. Also included will be a new recital hall with improved acoustics – good news for the many ensemble groups limited by the colleges aging music facilities.

“Grossmont College is highly regarded for its outstanding music faculty, but we haven’t had the facility to match the excellence of our instructors,” Cannon said.

For the Hyde Art Gallery, moving into the new Performing and Visual Arts Center means a higher profile for art exhibits, as well as a designated room for framing, exhibition preparation and constructing display sets, said gallery technician and curator Alex DeCosta.

“This will also allow me to offer workshops for students on art handling, installation and framing, which isn’t possible in our current gallery,” DeCosta said.

Better environmental controls will also expand opportunities to exhibit art loaned to Grossmont College by local art institutions and museums. DeCosta added that a modernized look to the gallery will attract more established artists and its more prominent location will draw more visitors.

Building on Proposition V

Proposition V is the funding source for completed projects including an air-conditioning plant that has reduced Grossmont College’s energy costs by nearly 70 percent and at Cuyamaca College, the refurbishing of the college’s track and a building remodel to establish a new Center for Water Studies.

Future Grossmont College projects include a building renovation to house the Science, Math and Career Tech complex. At Cuyamaca College, the renovation of the Ornamental Horticulture Complex and construction of a new Student Services and Administration Building are in the planning stages. Both colleges are also building and renovating facilities to better serve student veterans.

Grossmont College is at 8800 Grossmont College Drive. Cuyamaca College is at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in the community of Rancho San Diego. For more information about the colleges, go to

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