Where Great Art Does Matter

It starts with a dream … a dream of what can be … a free-form process that lets the imagination soar.

It’s the birth of an idea, the twist of a thought, the seeds of creative expression freed from critical restraints.

It’s the essence of the muse.

Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) birthed a long-held dream this week with the opening of their satellite campus at Big Bend in Laguna Canyon. The 9,500-square-foot facility was completely remodeled to exacting standards during the summer, and provides classroom and laboratory space for college’s Visual Communication Division, which includes graphic design, animation, and game art.

The facility rivals that of any art and design campus in the country. I toured the classrooms the day before the campus opened, and my jaw dropped, and a few tears welled in the corner of my eyes. To see what was once merely an idea, made manifest, was exquisite.

The spaces are any techno geek’s delight. Each room is fully furnished with new computers and state of the art displays. The animation classroom includes camera stands between each station. The lecture facilities have overhead projectors. There is an on-site a sound mixing lab, a utility kitchen, lounge, IT department, and a NOC room.

The expanded campus had been a long time in the dream bin, and the summer’s construction was not without it’s ups and downs. There were fears that the work wouldn’t be completed for the fall start of classes.

The facility’s special requirements of electrical, A/C, plumbing, security, and handicapped access had the landlord and his team holding a perpetual knock-list. The city put in extra time — great thanks to all involved and especially Assistant City Manager John Petig — for insuring that the campus was open for new students this past Tuesday.

“Great Art Matters,” is the tagline for Laguna College of Art & Design (LCAD), and with every turn, the school continues to prove that it is worthy of such a moniker. Great students, great faculty, great location. And now they can expand their GREAT FACILITIES claim.

That the college is my alma mater — Class of 1991 — does indeed influence my relationship to their activities and achievements. It was to this school I turned when I needed to retool my life for a career in design, and structure a freelance lifestyle that would allow me to raise my two sons.

It was a time of transition in the arts. Computer generated art was in its infancy (seems impossible to remember — doesn’t it?). Digital photography had yet to be invented — or marketed to the masses. Game art didn’t exist, and animation was still hand-drawn, cel by cel.

The college had three Mac computers in a tiny dark room and one printer. There was no network, no internet. My traditionally trained instructors did not embrace the use of this “new” technology and were suspicious of its future applications.

After graduation, I was lucky enough to head up an alumna association and ultimately, take a seat with the Board of Trustees. The late ’90s were a tumultuous period for the college. A rapid succession of presidents continued to churn the leadership role, and the school seemed mired between too small and not quite large enough to manage financial stability. The physical plant was constrained by expansion restrictions and adjacent spaces were unavailable or too costly.

During this time frame, I was asked by the board to head up a strategic planning session. I hesitated — I was not/am not a financial planner, the more traditional lead of such an endeavor. My skill set was in coaching for visions and goals, and once there was agreement as to format and structure, the team set about building a dream book for the college 5, 10 and 15 years in the future.

To engage in this type of activity, the analytical side of thinking has to be sequestered. Creative dreaming despises number crunchers and naysayers. This is not/was not a foolish romp, but rather, dreaming of a space and place in the future, and then finding the pathway.

Tuesday morning, the first group of excited students stepped into one of those dreams — a high-tech satellite campus – made manifest under the guidance of another of the dreams — college president, Dennis Powers. Computer hardware and software hummed. Students faces, along with their instructors, beamed at their luck to step into such a magnificent space.

This is another great milestone for the college, along with the MFA in painting, the newly added MFA in drawing, the post-baccalaureate program in drawing and painting, freshman housing, and a dedicated shuttle bus to link the satellite campuses.

LCAD is nationally recognized and fully accredited. What began as a tiny seed of an idea — Laguna College of Art — in 1961, has fully taken flight on its dream wings. It has proven its excellence as an educational facility and training ground for next generation of artists and designers.

Yes, great art matters.

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