Steven Marshall, Allan Hancock College's facilities director.
Steven Marshall, facilities director, talks about mirrors and special floors that make up a studio for dancers at the new Fine Arts Complex on Allan Hancock College's Santa Maria campus. Credit: Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo

After years of seeing the Allan Hancock College Fine Arts Complex on two-dimensional plans, John Hood almost can’t believe the reality of the finished facility.

“To actually physically walk around in these little two-dimensional drawings, it’s a little overwhelming,” said Hood, an instructor and Fine Arts Department chairman.

The state-of-the-art Fine Arts Complex on the Santa Maria campus continues to receive finishing touches but started serving students and faculty in January for the spring semester.

The college will show off the 88,000-square-foot facility during a grand opening ceremony scheduled for 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 24. The event is free and will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony plus self-guided tours with live demonstrations planned by fine arts students.

Hancock officials are eager to host community members and to provide a peek at the facility. 

“Without the community, this wouldn’t have happened. Without that bond, this wouldn’t have happened, and to be able to see that come back is huge,” said Steven Marshall, Allan Hancock College’s facilities director.

Traditional fine arts programs such as dance, art, music, photography, applied design and film have been scattered across the campus in some buildings dating back to the early 1960s, making them older than the parents of today’s community college students.

“This is not only a performance center, but it’s also a learning center so it has a teaching theme,” Marshall said.

Recital hall in the Allan Hancock College Fine Arts Complex.
Members of the media record the 400-seat recital hall in the Allan Hancock College Fine Arts Complex. Credit: Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo

Students have expressed amazement, according to Hood. 

“They can’t believe we’re all in one building,” he said. 

It’s also providing new opportunities for faculty members who once worked in separate locations.

“It just is creating a different atmosphere for everybody, more collaboration, just random bumping into each other, which we rarely had before, so that’s just been a dream come true,” Hood said. 

The two-story building includes classrooms to accommodate the various fine arts programs with windows letting spectators watch as ceramics students show off their skills or painters work on canvases.

Areas were designed for the programs they would house with acoustical features being a key component throughout the building. A studio wall has been lined with mirrors and features a floor designed for dancers.

The building also boasts a 400-seat recital hall, funded by a $12 million donation from Patricia “Patty” Boyd, a former Allan Hancock College faculty member.

Designed not only as a recital hall but also a teaching classroom, the facility includes a catwalk and control room for sound and lighting to provide a variety of learning opportunities beyond music.

Various areas with comfortable seating, tables and ample electrical outlets exist throughout the building for students to study, recharge or otherwise gather. On the second level, rows of tall tables and chairs provided other study areas. 

“They’re intentional spaces for that type of use,” Marshall said.

Students quickly began using the areas as intended by the design once the facility opened.

Allan Hancock College Fine Arts Complex.
Areas for studying exist throughout the Allan Hancock College Fine Arts Complex in Santa Maria. A grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 24. Credit: Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo

“This is their space,” he said.

The project’s cost is about $53 million, with some of the funding coming from Measure I and about half from the state in addition to the Boyd donation. Measure I was approved by voters in 2006.

Work began in fall 2020 but ramped up in early 2021 with the project expected to be open by fall 2022. Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, the project also dealt with supply chain issues, leading to some delays. 

The design includes environmental features such as lighting that dims when an area is empty, solar panels and a rooftop garden on the second level. 

“This complex is now the hub for fine arts learning and collaboration at Hancock and a tremendous asset to the community,” Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers said.

For more information about the grand opening ceremony, click here.