November 23, 2005

Grossmont College Digital Arts and Sculpture Complex is latest Prop. R project to break ground

EL CAJON – – The official groundbreaking shovels put to such frequent use by the college district in 2005 can be put away for the year now that the ceremonial turning of dirt for Grossmont College’s latest Prop. R project is a fait accompli.

With the construction start of the Grossmont College Digital Arts and Sculpture Complex, there are five major projects under way at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges, all funded by a combination of state monies and Prop. R, the $207 million bond measure approved by East County voters in 2002.

Grossmont’s latest project, the digital arts and sculpture complex, is a $17.5 million, two-building project that will include space for five departments: photography, digital art, digital multimedia, media communications and sculpture. Designed by Mosher Drew Watson Ferguson, Architects, the project, slated for completion late next year, features a dual approach to the arts: high-tech, multimedia in one facility, and the traditional fine arts including wood and metal sculpture, and jewelry design in the other.

Dr. Ted Martinez Jr., college president, said instructors have dealt with the challenge of teaching today’s technology in yesteryear’s facilities in creative ways, “shoe-horning students and programs into tiny spaces.”

“The little old woman who lived in the shoe has nothing on us,” he said.

Student Jim Sprague Jr., president of the Grossmont College Sculpture Club and another of the speakers at the event, said the crowded conditions in the existing sculpture facility make it difficult for students to work.

“It is difficult to be productive,” he said. “It is challenging and hazardous to maneuver around the sculpture classroom and sculpture yard, when the challenge should instead be for us as students to explore and fulfill our creative abilities in the proper facilities.”

The new sculpture building will cover 5,400 square feet, about five times the interior space that the existing facility has, and will have amenities such as welding booths and a covered foundry that will make conditions safer and will accommodate more students.

The new facility’s sculpture yard at 8,000 square feet will be double the size of the one currently in use, which means more work space for students like Temecula artist Roxanne McCauley, who makes the 170-mile roundtrip at least twice weekly to use Grossmont’s sculpture facilities.

“This is the only place I can do what I’m doing,” she said, adding that the new facility’s expanded yard and improved equipment will make it possible to create the larger sculptures she’s long wanted to do. And with the increased capacity comes the exciting prospect of students creating public art, said sculpture instructor Jim Wilsterman, chair of Grossmont’s art department.

Also taking the podium at the groundbreaking was photography professor Suda House, who extolled the features of the second building in the complex: the 21,530-square-foot, two-story digital arts building, or DAB, as it has come to be called.

For House, the new facility means nearly double the number of film-processing rooms and traditional darkrooms, spaces specifically for color photography and alternative photographic art processes, a digital photo lab with 30 computers as opposed to the four currently in place, more display space to exhibit works by students and local photographers, a larger photo studio, storage and prep areas.

Even with photo classes in session morning and night from 9 a.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Saturday, the classes are still crowded and shortage of space remains a persistent problem, House said after the ceremony, standing in a cramped hallway that’s been converted into lab space. The photo studio also serves double duty as a classroom, as evidenced by the rows of schoolroom chairs that share space with the requisite studio lights and props.

“I’m looking forward to the day when I will never have to stack another chair,” she said.

The new facility, House said, is the outcome of countless hours of meetings and consultations with architects who encouraged her to “dream big” during the project’s formative years.

“Dreams are vision and thanks to the foresight of our college and district, soon our photography and digital arts media programs will be housed in new cutting-edge laboratories,” she told groundbreaking attendees earlier in the day. “Who would have thought 10 years ago that pixels instead of silver would be used for photographs, or that images could be mailed without a postage stamp…In the new building with our neighbor, media communications, we both see the power of the photographic image as an integral component of our global future and we look forward to expanding our cross-discipline offerings to benefit those Grossmont College students seeking education in the arts, media communication, multimedia and the new media genres yet to be determined in this fast-paced world.”

With the addition of a digital multimedia lab geared to merging music and video, a new multimedia program will be added to Grossmont’s offerings to prepare students for emerging careers in multimedia production. In the new room will be student computers and an instructor station with state-of-the-art multimedia software and multiple projection screens with surround sound speakers.

The new building will also house the campus radio station, KGFN, and the student newspaper, the Summit.

For media communication students, the DAB means larger and better equipped labs, including a multi-track audio recording studio, a music/voice recording studio with a control room, a video studio with production lab, and more.

With the start of construction of the digital arts and sculpture complex, Grossmont College now has three major construction projects occurring simultaneously, all made possible by voters’ support of Prop. R. The other two projects are the $19.7 million science building and the $3.1 million entrance road improvements.

At Cuyamaca College, a $34.1 million communication arts building is currently under construction, as well as a $25.1 million science and technology mall. In February, ground is scheduled to be broken for a $15.2 million student center.

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