Community and creativity were recurring themes at the ribbon-cutting celebration for the Warkentine Culture and Arts Center (CAC) May 25, 2022, on the main Fresno Pacific University campus.
“The very essence of this building is gathering,” Joshua Wilson, chair of the FPU Board of Trustees, told more than 300 people filling the grand foyer and art gallery of the 26,000 square-foot building. “This is a place to bring the campus and community a little closer.”
From the mainstage and black box theaters to the foyer, art gallery and other areas, the CAC will serve as a place of learning for students and an outreach to people and organizations in Southeast Fresno and beyond.
“I treat this facility as an extension of our love for our students and this community,” said Joseph Jones, FPU president. “It’s evidence of our intention to engage the cultures and serve the cities.”
While many hands helped bring the $15 million project to fruition, more than mortal assistance was required, according to Donald Griffith, vice president of advancement and executive director of the FPU Foundation. Pointing out that some major fundraising and all construction took place during the pandemic, he quoted Matthew 19:26: “For mortals, it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The CAC is named for longtime Fresno Pacific friends and supporters Al and Dotty Warkentine. In their remarks, both thanked individuals such as Griffith; Robert Lippert, vice president for finance and business affairs; and Joe Bogart, project manager for Quiring. Dotty concluded by leading a shout that tested the new roof feeling the first real heat of summer after two decades in the building.
“I think the time has come make a joyful noise!” she said.
Fresno Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy brought the crowd gently back to earth.
“Culture and unity are what this building signifies. FPU is, frankly, the center of this community,” he said.
Once the ribbon was cut, current and former university leaders, board members, faculty, staff, students, supporters, area political officials and community leaders explored the building, including the mainstage theater, which seats up to 400; the black box theater, which seats about 100; and the art gallery, home to a sculpture by John Wiebe for the CAC; as well as support spaces such as a green room, make up room, scene shop and concession area.
Among those in attendance were U.S. Congressman Jim Costa, Fresno City Council District 5 Representative Luis Chavez and Fresno County District 3 Supervisor Sal Quintero, who spoke at a luncheon. FPU Presidents D. Merrill Ewert, Allen Carden, Rich Kriegbaum and Edmund Janzen were also present, along with representatives from Costa, California State Senator Melissa Hurtado and California Assembly member Joaquin Arambula.
Construction on the CAC began in earnest following a ground-breaking ceremony November 15, 2020. In all, more than 400 tradesmen and 44 subcontractors spent over 32,000 labor hours on the project, dealing with everything from subfloors to stage lights. Materials included 103 tons (206,000 pounds) of steel—more than an orca but less than a blue whale—2,365 tons (4,787,000 pounds) of concrete were poured—about two Sierra redwoods plus a baby elephant—and 23.45 miles (123,800 feet) of low-voltage cabling—roughly a trip from the main campus to River Park and back.