Well drawn

Butte College debuts new state-of-the-art—and very green—Arts Building

Grand Opening
Saturday, Aug. 29, 7-9 p.m. A celebration featuring an opening for Robert Burridge’s No Full Disclosure exhibit in the new Coyote Gallery, plus music, impromptu skits, food, wine and tours of the new facility.

“We were teaching in trailers that smelled like skunk and had rats in the fixtures.”

Butte College 2-D-animation instructor David Hall laughs when he remembers what it was like to teach in the school’s former art buildings. And when he stands with Digital Art and Design Department Chairman Daniel Donnelly on the second floor inside the brand new 77,000-square-foot Arts Building, looking down at the dirt lot where the temporary buildings that housed the school’s various arts programs used to be, his point is demonstrated.

For Hall, Donnelly and the soon-to-be-blown-away students who will be enjoying the new facility starting next week, the disparity in work environments could not be greater. The arts, theater, music and digital arts and design departments go from the network of crumbling and cramped 40-year-old “temporary” brown portable buildings to an airy two-story, state-of-the-art training ground.

The new Arts Building backs up to the main parking lot as you enter the college’s main campus, and in contrast with the worn-in look of the gymnasium across from it, distinguishes itself as the new initial focal point of Butte College with its clean modern lines. At the main entrance, giant silver letters label the façade, with “Theatre” across the top edge of a rust-colored side and “Arts” atop an opposing cream-colored cube, with two stories’ worth of windows thrusting up between the two sections toward a striking vaulted silver roof.

But it’s what’s inside that’s most impressive. The $29 million facility—financed partly by the state ($12.6 million) with the difference made up by bond monies—contains: a 300-400 seat black-box theater (with its own loading dock, plus separate makeup, costume and green rooms); several music ensemble rooms; a keyboard lab; a full digital recording studio; a print studio; and dedicated painting, drawing, sculpture and ceramics labs—and that’s just the first floor. Upstairs are the film and photography labs; graphic design lab (computers and digital drawing tablets on every desk); multimedia lab (computers on every desk); and fashion-arts classrooms filled with sewing machines. In all, there are 41 different instructional environments.

“Just walking into this building is invigorating,” says Donnelly, as he stands in the fully outfitted printing room. And it is hard to imagine students not being pumped up in this room that features, in addition to traditional screen-printing equipment, a huge large-format printer (for making signs, car covers, etc.), a textile printer (for fabrics), a T-shirt printer, a laser cutter (for etching designs in cardboard and wood) and, most impressive, a 3-D printer that can output digitally designed models as hard, resin 3-D objects.

It comes across as entierely plausible when Donnelly says, “[I’m] trying to get students to where they can start their own cottage industry.”

Considering the rising costs of attending Chico State, it is hard to ignore the unbelievable value of taking art classes at Butte for a mere $26 per unit.

Additionally, every room in the facility is a “smart class,” featuring full multimedia capabilities controlled by a podium touchscreen. And, in acknowledgement of Butte College’s efforts to meet and exceed the standards of the state’s Title 24 energy code, the school received the Best Practice Award in New Construction for California community colleges at the 2009 Sustainability Conference. For the new Arts Building, Butte exceeded the state’s sustainability standards by 35 percent through features such as evaporative cooling, 100 percent outside HVAC, waterless urinals, low-flow water systems and electric-vehicle recharging stations.

The Arts Building is the latest in a series of upgrades for Butte. Since bond Measure A passed in 2002, the new buildings have come fast. The Arts Building was preceded by an Allied Health/Public Services facility, a Learning Resources Center, an upgraded library and the huge Chico Center. And, coming this December, the school plans to open its new Student Services building.