Reintroducing the new (sort of) Simonsen Performing Arts Center

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Simonsen Performing Arts Center ribbon-cutting

College and city leaders cut the ribbon on the renovated Edward Simonsen Performing Arts Center Apr. 22, 2015.

I’m so thrilled that Bakersfield College is now finally ready to unveil its fully-renovated, massively-improved Edward Simonsen Peforming Arts Center (SPArC) to our community.

It was with tremendous pride and a shared sense of accomplishment that we helped Mayor Hall cut the ribbon Tuesday on this revitalized building, which now solidifies its standing as one of the premier arts venues in the region.

sonya and Mayor HallAs our honored guests marveled at all the improvements we’ve poured into this building over our multi-year overhaul, I couldn’t help but think back to all it took to bring us to this joyous new beginning for the center.

Thankfully, the project’s lead architect, the talented Brad Henderson of IBI Group, was on hand as well and delivered this speech to the assembled dignitaries that I think offers a great overview of the new Simonsen Performing Arts Center and what it took to make it happen.

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“Our journey began as a typical modernization to improve the usefulness of this nearly 60 year old facility.

Soon after our initial tour of the building and survey of its existing qualities, it appeared evident that we might do much more than just a facelift.

Project Lead Architect Brad Henderson

Project Lead Architect Brad Henderson

With the influence of the district’s desire to make this a “showplace” for Bakersfield, we embarked on a new mission to transform this academic function into the grand venue we see today – for both campus and community use.

It was evident that we needed to understand the importance of the college and its significance to the community and the students.

So, our approach was three-fold:

• Dealing with the orientation of the facilities to the campus and the lower student quad for day-to-day activity and from the public way – for the more formal after-hours amusement.

• Next, was the incorporation of physical improvements of the ‘house’ and learning centers within — accommodating more than the traditional instruction and an assembly auditorium, and . . .

• Then, the enhancement of the outdoor stage/amphitheater to accommodate more useful daytime activities.

IMG_1758aWe accomplished these goals by expanding the limits of our vision of ‘what might be’ – to envisioning ‘what people might experience’ as they transition from the outdoor space to indoor functions.

• The Promenade/s and this upper quad gathering area are a result of morphing the immediate boundaries around the buildings to incorporate an extension of the arts to the outdoors – to allow activities before and after performances (having display of outdoor art, banners or possibly integrating the Renegade Room for coffee and desserts).

• The Theater and Black Box are designed to accommodate multiple types of performances – music, dance and the dramatic arts. Some formal, some less formal. We changed the seating in the house to provide more opportunity of patrons to ‘see’ the stage and its performers, and expanded the practice room to accommodate small performances [what we call a Black Box].

• The Amphitheater was molded for optimum use, using 3-D computer modeling to test sun angles and the placement of shade structures for visual comfort to the ‘choice’ seating arrangements.

Among the improvements of the traditional air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical services, we brought in the state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. These are important accommodations as the college seeks to offer these facilities to guest performers.

What you see here today, is what we call ‘timeless’ architecture. It’s borrowing from existing architecture around campus, and creating a ‘new’ form to an old vernacular – but not allowing it to compete for attention. Here, we basically emulated the inviting approach similar to the Administration and Student Union entries to develop this ‘grand entrance’ and approach into the building – expanding the lobby and spilling out into this quad.

All in all, funding for this type of education facility doesn’t come around often – every 30 to 50 years.

Our opportunity to participate in this venture is most rewarding, as we too were educated here some 40 years ago before we moved on to university instruction – it’s our legacy to the college and this community.”

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If you’d like to take in this magnificent marvel firsthand, tickets are still available for Saturday night’s “A Noteworthy Event” concert.  Guests will enjoy the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, the Bakersfield College Choir with guest conductor Ron Kean, DMA — and, of course, this gorgeous new jewel on the BC campus.

Show starts precisely at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.  Everyone needs to be seated no later than 6:25 p.m.  I’ll be there.  You should be too.  You will enjoy Dr. John Gerhold’s new composition Joyful Noises commemorating BC’s centennial year.

Full Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony (16:18)

Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall (2:26)

Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce CEO Nick Ortiz (3:49)

Romeo Agbalog, Sen. Jean Fuller’s Office (0:54)

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2 thoughts on “Reintroducing the new (sort of) Simonsen Performing Arts Center

  1. drajcpepper April 27, 2015 at 8:29 am Reply

    Legacy!!!

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