Funds awarded for Visual Arts and Design Academy

by Annelise Hanshaw. Reprinted from The Santa Barbara News-Press [original article]

$2.2 million awarded for new SBHS building

santa barbara high school


The Visual Arts and Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School is one of 178 programs to be awarded a grant from the California Department of Education’s Facilities Program.


The California Department of Education’s Facilities Program awarded $2.2 million to the Visual Arts and Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School to benefit the construction of a specialized building.

The program is currently operating in a 50-year-old space, but a modern, permanent structure would benefit students as soon as 2023. As part of the project, the existing buildings will be updated and a new building will be constructed.

VADA anticipates breaking ground in the second half of 2021.

“This is a huge milestone for the school because these new funds allow us to break ground on a new building, which will begin our phased facility modernization project,” Daniel Barnett, program director and art instructor of VADA, said in a statement.

The project has raised $4.7 million of its $6.5 million goal. Nearly $1.2 million was funded through Measure I 2016, a bond measure that uses Career Tech Ed grant funds to further the public’s investment.

VADA raised over $1.3 million through donations from an anonymous donor and Lillian and Jon Lovelace.

A public support campaign will begin in the spring.

“Our goal is to make an environment that will inspire students to learn and create. This new building is designed to mirror the standards of colleges, design firms, and creative businesses, helping to prepare our students for their professional lives,” Mr. Barnett said. “I’m so proud that, by being awarded this highly competitive state grant, we’re bringing millions of, otherwise inaccessible, dollars back to our local school site.” 

The VADA program teaches art and design alongside challenging coursework, including honors programming, AP and dual enrollment. It strives for career readiness and emphasizes desirable job skills.

“VADA is a truly special program, not only in its focus and approach to academic education, but in the demographics of the students that are part of the academy,” Dr. Elise Simmons, principal of Santa Barbara High School, said in a statement.

“Each year, between 40-50% of the incoming class meet the state’s at-risk criteria outlined by California Partnership Academy guidelines and the program’s ethnic and socio-economic diversity mirrors the population of Santa Barbara High School. VADA provides equitable access to education and training that is unlike anything else in the community,” she added.

Around 225 students are enrolled in VADA each year.

“I’m so impressed with the variety of program choices that SBUnified offers to students. Our students deserve the best programs, experiences and learning opportunities,” Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said in a statement. “21st Century learners require 21st Century facilities and spaces.”