A fresh canvas

Since 2016, TPHS art classes have been housed in portable classrooms, tucked away in the back of the campus next to the football stadium. Now, those classes are on full display.

In August 2023, TPHS unveiled its $12.3 million new visual arts building, located behind the Falcon Eatery. Housing four classrooms, the Prop AA-funded building includes new art supplies and facilities for drawing, painting, sculpture and ceramics courses.

“[The building] provides a space that allows for better concentration,” Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair Katie O’Brien said. “[There is] better lighting for drawing and better technology for the students to see the visual references I display.”

The building marks the newest development in years of construction to support the arts at TPHS. In 2018, TPHS added a dance studio to campus to house Dance PE and competitive team practices. In 2019, the Performing Arts Center debuted to showcase the theater department.

While the TPHS campus expanded to support the performing arts, the visual arts remained in temporary portables, which some reported were cramped and lacked proper ventilation.

“The portables have been okay for a temporary situation … but they have felt subpar when it comes to the best environment for students getting inspired,” O’Brien told the Falconer in 2021.

During the same time, ceramics teacher Scott Jay told the Falconer that the portable classrooms also had potential safety hazards.

“Ventilation can be an issue, as the space is small, and there isn’t a ceramic-grade ventilation system in place to keep the dust from building up in the air,” Jay said of the portable facilities in 2021.

Now, after nearly a year and a half of construction, students and teachers report the new building has better supported their artistic pursuits.

“Everything is just so much nicer,” Sofia Balistrieri (12), a student in Painting, said. “The old building had been used for so long; it gave a bad perception of how Torrey thinks of art, and it was just so…crowded.”

Balistrieri previously took drawing in the portables. Eden Boatcher (10), a student in ceramics, agreed with Balistrieri.

“My favorite part about the new buildings is that I don’t feel claustrophobic anymore,” Boacher said.

Beyond improvements to class environments, the building also provides the visual arts program with a venue for future art shows, O’Brien said. The next art show will likely be at the end of May, she noted.

The visual arts building, which has been under construction since April 25, 2022, is still awaiting additional facilities updates, according to John Addleman, the district executive director of Planning Services. The remaining construction is expected to be completed by late November, and the classrooms will not be fully furnished until winter break.

Even with more improvements to come, students have already seen a shift in their artistic potential at TPHS with the addition of new equipment, including more storage and new televisions to project demonstrations. This allows them to take their creativity to another level.

“It creates opportunities for students to create pieces they were unable to do in the old building and creates a space where art can finally be expressed the right way,” Boatcher said.

The visual arts building addition comes amid an era of new construction at TPHS, underwritten by Prop AA funds. Last year, TPHS unveiled the Innovation Building, which sits adjacent to the arts building and houses Career Technical Education classes like computer science and engineering. As students adjust to the new art classrooms, construction is underway on athletic facilities, including modernizations to locker rooms and practice fields.

Joining the ranks of these improvements, the new art building “showcases the arts as
just as important as any other subject,” according to O’Brien.

photos by Hope Dennis/Falconer

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