Officials at Saddleback College are preparing to launch fund-raising efforts for construction of a 10,000-square-foot art gallery/museum on the Mission Viejo campus. “We’re hopeful that we can put together a fund-raising program and have working architectural renderings within the next three to six months,” said Gregory Bishopp, dean of the school’s division of fine arts and communications. “I’m hopeful that we will have the museum at least in construction, perhaps not operational, within three years.”
The new gallery is part of the college’s master plan, approved in fall of 1985, calling for expansion and construction of a number of school facilities. Also included in the plan is a 10,000-square-foot expansion of the school’s photography and fine arts studio space.
Funding for the new projects has not been secured, however, and Bishopp said a new gallery probably will have lower priority for state funds than will instructional facilities.
While the school will explore state funding channels for building the museum, Bishopp said the focus will be on winning community and corporate support for the project.
“We’ll be petitioning the state to fund the expansion of the studio program, specifically photography, printmaking and sculpture. However, we realize that a new museum space may not hold the same kind of priority that an instructional laboratory might,” Bishopp said.
“But, who knows with state politics what may happen. The state may expand its building program in community colleges, in which case we may get both projects (the gallery and the studio) started and finished in relatively short time. My expectation is, given the history of funding schools and so on, that won’t be the case.
“Rather than waiting for the college or the state to give us money, we as a division are pushing ahead on our own.”
Fund-raising efforts will be coordinated through the Saddleback Community College District Foundation, an independent organization that supports a variety of school projects and activities. Bishopp said no fund-raisers have yet been planned, and he declined to identify potential donors, none of whom have yet been approached. He did say corporate support on the national level will be sought in addition to local corporate sponsors.
Although most community colleges in the state have private foundations to fill in funding gaps left in the wake of Proposition 13’s passage in 1978, Bishopp said that attempting to privately fund a large-scale capital project, such as the planned gallery, is unusual.
Saddleback President Constance Carroll agreed. “For a community college it is fairly unusual and entrepreneurial,” she said. “More colleges are going to be moving in this direction.”
Carroll was quick to point out that a new gallery is one of 11 capital projects planned at Saddleback. “I wouldn’t want to give the impression that this project has priority,” she said. “It is part of our overall plan and it will be pursued at the appropriate time.” However, she added, “Certainly if a donor came forward we would proceed happily.”
The planned facility would replace the current gallery, a 1,600-square-foot space that opened in 1977 as part of the school’s fine arts complex. While plans are not final, Bishopp estimated that the new gallery would have about 7,500 square feet of available exhibition space, with the rest of the area used for offices and storage.
That would make it significantly larger than other community college galleries in the area, such as Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, whose gallery has 750 square feet of exhibition space, and Golden West College in Huntington Beach, with 1,728 square feet of gallery space.
In 1984, during a heated battle to oust then-Chancellor Larry Stevens, officials of the Saddleback College Faculty Assn. criticized “non-instructional” expansion of the college. But current association President ThomEvans said this week that the complaints were directed at expansion of district offices and that the union will not oppose a new gallery on campus.
“It’s an instructional thing. It’s a community thing,” Evans said of the gallery project. “Certainly the faculty association would support such a facility if it was on the master plan.”
Bishopp said the planned museum would be geared to community as well as student use. “We have an exhibition philosophy, which basically is to appeal to as wide and diverse a range of people in the community as we can,” Bishopp said.
“And of course, our first and foremost responsibility is to the students, who use the exhibition space as a teaching/learning laboratory. So we really have two roles here. One is to bring into the space things that the students can look at and work with, and then also to provide for general community use.”
Through April 27, Saddleback is co-sponsoring an exhibition of Southern California mountain landscapes with the Laguna Art Museum. The exhibition is split between Saddleback’s gallery and the Laguna Museum’s South Coast Plaza satellite facility. (See related story on Page 1.)
Bishopp said Saddleback plans to continue its relationship with the museum in 1988 with an exhibition of works by San Francisco sculptor Stephen DeStaebler.
The growing population of south Orange County has resulted in a rise in Saddleback’s student population, from 14,000 in 1977 to today’s 22,000, and Bishopp estimated the growth of the school’s fine arts department to be even greater.
He said expansion of the school’s fine arts complex is overdue. “It opened the year Proposition 13 passed, so we weren’t able to build out the building the architect originally designed, and it had to be scaled back. As a result, our programs were already bursting at the seams when we moved in, almost nine years ago.”
Bishopp said he anticipates a successful drive to build the gallery. “There’s certainly the energy and the commitment to it, so I’m very hopeful. It’s also the kind of project that should enjoy a lot of community support. We’re on the edge of doing something very exciting.”