BARSTOW • Currently performing in a venue that seats about 70, students Elizabeth McCauley, Ravyn Grenfell, Michael Dwight and Francisca Silva may face audiences of up to 755 in 15 months.

McCauley, Grenfell, Dwight and Silva — members of the Barstow Community College Ensemble — cheered as their instructor Amy Ross and other faculty helped kick off construction of the college's new performing arts center.

"(There'll be) different shows we can do," McCauley said. "It's about time."

The performing arts center will be a two-story 39,898 square-foot building. The building's construction will include 227,514 square-feet of parking and other campus upgrades.

The project to build the roughly $24.5 million facility was approved by the California Community Colleges chancellor's office in 2006. Its main theater will seat 755 people. The building will also have a black box theater that will seat 153 people. The building will include music rooms and a dance studio.

"This is a historic event not only for the college, but for the greater Barstow community," said college president Thom Armstrong. "This is a significant development for the community."

Currently using the interim performing arts center as a theater, Theater Arts Professor Amy Ross is excited that the new building will include dressing rooms and enough space to construct scenes and store costumes Ross said she was glad to have space to perform, but it wasn't ideal.

"It will have two different performing spaces and classrooms," she said. "I'm excited about the fact that we're going to have a scene shop to build sets, a costume room and dressing rooms. We'll have a box office, we'll have control rooms — just everything that the theater's supposed to have."

For Tim Garvin, director of Barstow Community College's jazz  and concert bands, the new performing arts center means a place at the college to rehearse and perform. The bands have been rehearsing at Barstow High School's band room.

The performing arts center isn't a good thing just for the college. Garvin said when began teaching for Barstow High School in 1982 he was surprised that the community didn't have a performing arts venue. Since then, he has been on several committees in the past dedicated to building a performance venue.

"Speaking for the musicians in the Jazz Ambassadors and the college, it's going to be so nice to have all of our concerts there," Garvin said. "It's (also) going to be great to have a place for professional organizations to stop in Barstow and perform."

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com