Earth was turned with many prayers and a socially distanced celebration for Fresno Pacific University’s Culture and Arts Center November 15, 2020. Donors, administrators, faculty, staff and friends gathered to break ground for the Warkentine Culture and Arts Center.

Shovels in hand, Al and Dotty Warkentine (pictured), longtime supporters for whom the building is named, talked about how the seed for the project was planted when Dotty would give music lessons in a collection of classrooms not meant for music instruction. The CAC will empower students and faculty to teach and learn about music, theater and the visuals arts while it reaches out to the rich cultures of the Southeast Fresno neighborhood around the main campus, as well as the city and the Valley.

At the microphone were Joseph and Yvette Jones, president and first lady; Don Griffith, vice president of advancement and executive director of the FPU Foundation; Valerie Rempel, Ph.D., vice president and dean of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, whose main building is adjacent to where the CAC will stand; Chuck Buller, director of development and strategic partnerships; Mark Deffenbacher, associate executive director of the FPU Foundation; Ron Herms, Ph.D., dean of the School of Humanities, Religion & Social Sciences, which houses the music, theater and visual arts programs; and Rebecca Bradley, director of public relations and community engagement. Prayer subjects ranged from dedicating the ground to the health of the construction workers, the completion of the project and use of the space.

The sunny Sunday afternoon saw 130 guests spaced out in small groups throughout the construction site along Butler Avenue east of its intersection with Chestnut Avenue. Many brought shovels of their own and turned earth along with the Warkentines.

The 26,000 square-foot CAC includes:

  • A mainstage theater seating 400 for a concert or play but with moveable seating for multiple uses
  • A black box theater seating about 100
  • A grand foyer and art gallery
  • Support spaces such as a green room, make up room, scene shop, concession area and practice room

Set to open in late fall 2021 or early 2022 on the north side of FPU’s main campus, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., Fresno, the building is presently slated to cost about $14.6M, all of which is in-hand. As funding allows, the university may make some enhancements during construction. Those enhancements plus providing furnishings may result in a total cost of about $15.1M.

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Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations