Santa Barbara High Breaks Ground on New Building for Visual Arts and Design Academy

Construction of State-of-the-Art Facility Is Expected to Be Completed by January 2024

Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony. | Credit: Courtesy

Students at Santa Barbara High School are gaining a brand-new space for artistic expression. Santa Barbara Unified School District leadership and staff broke ground on the school’s campus on Wednesday to celebrate the construction of a state-of-the-art building for their Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA), which is expected to be completed by January 2024. 

“It’s hard to imagine my high school experience without VADA,” said Amanda Weymouth, a former VADA student. “It was an inclusive community that gave other students and me a sense of direction in a high school environment, which I believe is a difficult thing to achieve.” 

The building’s 3,350 square feet will include a digital design lab, indoor and outdoor studio workspaces, shop areas for new technology and photography, and integrated exhibition spaces. Coupled with an improved curriculum for visual arts, design, and creative studies, the academy’s new study spaces will house the opportunity for students to create and display their artwork, no matter the medium. 

Credit: Courtesy

“Our School District and the community have made the powerful statement that we are going to support, invest in, and cultivate our students’ creativity — a life-giving and fundamentally human act that is also, arguably, the most important and marketable skill they need to thrive in the future,” said VADA Director Daniel Barnett.  

The project was approved by Santa Barbara Unified School Board in November, and funding was acquired through the school district and a matching grant from the California Department of Education, as well as through private donations secured by the nonprofit group Friends of VADA. The new facility was designed by KBZ Architects and is being built by McGillivray Construction.

“VADA has always been more than just a collection of buildings and resources,” said SBHS principal Dr. Elise Simmons. “It is a community of artists, designers, and thinkers who are passionate about their craft and committed to excellence.… This new facility will allow for our students to continue to grow their creativity and innovation.”


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