San Benito High School District formally unveiled the new Visual and Performing Arts and Academics (VAPAA) building and a new student art gallery on Wednesday, April 18.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the bond measure-funded building featured school staff, teachers and administrators, local elected officials and the presentation of a proclamation from Assemblywoman Anna Caballero’s office. After some opening remarks, guests were encouraged to tour the two-story structure which houses dance, ceramics and art spaces along with other classrooms, including history and American Sign Language.
VAPA Department Chair and dance teacher Heather Nichols told the gathering that the building will provide “professional-level opportunities” for students. She said teachers in the building “are so grateful that San Benito High School District values arts education and has made this gesture to provide our students with meaningful opportunities for self-expression.”
Gavilan College Vice President Frederick Harris read a letter from the college’s president and Board of Trustees congratulating SBHS for the new building, which they said would be a “hub for the arts in the Hollister community” and an “innovative and contemporary learning environment.” He also noted that the college looks forward to continuing its partnership with the high school district, which has included offering classes at the Hollister campus.
District Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum thanked current and former members of the Board of Trustees, VAPA educators, local elected officials and the architects and construction crews that worked on the building. He also expressed appreciation to voters for approving two bond measures totalling $102.5 million, which has helped fund recent and ongoing campus improvements.
“The vision for these classrooms were next-gen, 21st Century mobile classrooms with a flexible learning environment,” he said.
Architect Joe Vela noted that the new building replaces the old, crowded art studio space and now contains outdoor learning areas and well-lit instructional facilities. The former dance studio, which was in a portable building with columns in the middle of the dance floor, has been replaced with a mirrored room with proper flooring.
Upstairs classrooms feature large-screen televisions through which teachers can project their lessons and the walls are white boards, which allows for students and teachers to have ample space for discussions, lessons and group projects. The desks in the classrooms are shaped so that they can easily be rearranged into sets of four for team projects and they are made of a material so that students can draw directly on them with erasable markers.
After the tour of the VAPAA building, another tour and ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in the hallway of the main administration building on Monterey Street, where a hallway between the principal’s office and the student support office has been transformed into a student art gallery. The naturally-lit, windowed walkway features framed art pieces from SBHS students as well as ceramics project and a video screen that scrolls through a video presentation highlighting more student work from the VAPA department.
Tennenbaum said the hallway gallery is designed to “accentuate the award-winning art that is coming out of this district and also have a showcase in perpetuity for our students.”
Art teacher Luisa Toste said that this is the first school at which she has taught in her 20-year career that has a designated gallery for student art work, which she said is “so important” to highlight.
Art teacher John Robrock, who is planning to retire at the end of the school year after 17 years at the school, said the gallery features new and older student art work.
Photos courtesy of SBHS: