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Santa Barbara High’s MAD Academy Receives Funding Boost for New Building

$720,000 gift helps the capital campaign close in on $3.5 million construction cost

The effort to renovate a building for Santa Barbara High School’s Multimedia Arts & Design Academy recently got a big boost in funding and now has raised $2.72 million of the $3.5 million construction cost.

Major renovations are already under way for the academy’s new building, with walls moved to form larger computer labs, studios, offices, locker space for students, bathrooms, storage and conference rooms.

Academy Director Dan Williams said the capital campaign was recently gifted $720,000, which is in addition to $1.5 million from the state and $500,000 from the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Recent donations also include $500,000 from the Pulice Family Trust of Santa Barbara, $150,000 from lynda.com, $50,000 from QAD and $20,000 from the Parker family of Santa Barbara. Williams said donors will have their names featured in the MAD Academy’s new home.

The entire building will be named for the Pulice family, lynda.com will name the large media studio, QAD will appear in the conference room and the Parker family name will be placed on the most prominent part of the Appreciation Wall.

“We are immensely grateful to these donors for so generously supporting a visionary model of education,” Principal John Becchio said in a statement. “The new MAD Academy facility will allow more students to take advantage of an education that is innovative, engaging and relevant, and it will provide years and years of service to the entire high school and the community at large. We can’t adequately express our appreciation to all of these donors.”

The school district allowed construction to begin even though it’s not yet fully funded, but the academy is on the hook for paying off the building.

“It’s really important to us to get it paid upfront,” Williams said. “The building was built in 1926, so everything had to be replaced, basically — all the electrical, HVAC systems, insulation and the walls were moved to accommodate computer labs instead of old machine shops. It’s starting to look really cool; it has an industrial look to it.”

Williams is also fundraising for the $280,000 or so necessary to furnish and equip the new space, all on top of the $500,000 that’s needed every year just to fund the program itself. They’re also investing in a top-notch security system.

The academy opened in 1996 with 47 students and has grown to 250 students occupying a small space — some students sit on counters just to fit into classes. Next year, 270 students will be enrolled.

Williams started pursuing a new space for the academy seven years ago, when there were far fewer students, so the larger space is needed badly now, he said.

It used to be an industrial arts building, so the industrial design honors the past while making a home to students of graphic design, photography, video editing and animation, which Williams calls the career-technical programs of today.

“The opportunities here are going to be awesome,” he said.

The academy has been partnering with Santa Barbara City College for about 12 years, and Santa Barbara High is glad to offer something back, Williams said.

They’ve also been partnering with the Brooks Institute, and some of the professors helped with designing the new space. The biggest studio area, on the corner of Canon Perdido and Nopal streets, has a garage door on one of the walls, so cars and other large items can be brought in for photos or video. Brooks faculty members noted that there were no ground-floor studio spaces in town, so the MAD Academy could probably even rent it out to members of the community.

The academy plans to move into the new building in late February or early March of next year.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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