John Paul the Great Catholic University, also known as “JPCatholic,” announced earlier this month that it will double its academic space through a new creative arts academic complex.

The Catholic liberal arts college, located in Escondido, California, in the northern suburbs of San Diego, features hands-on creative programs in film, animation, design, music, and acting, as well as business entrepreneurship, combined with an education in theology, philosophy, and the humanities.

The two new arts buildings will feature a new soundstage, an illustration studio, an acting rehearsal studio, additional classrooms, computer labs, and more.

“This complex will more than double our academic space and equip our growing student body with the resources needed to produce impactful projects across the creative arts,” the university said in a press release.

“Right now, the facilities can handle 300 students pretty well, but there’s a lot of space that has double and triple usage,” founding president Derry Connolly, Ph.D., told CNA. “So once we bring the new building online, we’ll have much more dedicated facilities for each of the programs.”

The 30,620-square-foot building, previously the home of Johnson Furniture and Sears Roebuck, will be repurposed into a cinematic and visual arts building and a performing arts building. The property will feature outdoor space as well, with a courtyard for community events, outdoor performances, and student life.

“With the new building, we’re going to have much larger, dedicated spaces for all of the artistic, creative work that the students do,” Connolly said. “So that’s the biggest impact.”

Professor of music Robert Giracello, who pioneered the digital music program at JPCatholic, said the new project will “give us twice as many opportunities for creative arts projects for the students.”

“It’s a great place for all of our creative disciplines, between visual art and acting and film and music, to collaborate and work together in a centered area,” he noted.

Giracello said a soundstage can be used as “a multifaceted blackbox area.”

“You could film a scene there, or you can green screen, or we could even use it as a live room and do live recording of music,” he said. “Or we could even put on a performance.”

The renovation is expected to be completed in early 2025.

What is JPCatholic?
Connolly launched the school in 2006 and it has continued to grow ever since, with a small, but lively, “dynamically Catholic” community of about 300 students. It is now affectionately known as “JPCatholic.”

Connolly was inspired to found the school after a visit to Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, late on a Friday night while in adoration.

“God hit me over the head and said, ‘I want something like this in San Diego,’” he recalled, adding: “God never put something on my heart [like that] before or afterwards.”

Far from being a creative, Connolly was an engineer and businessman, originally from Ireland. But he saw what he called a “great need” for a “Catholic academic institution that trains people to use the arts for evangelization.”

“And that was in the early 2000s, when the Internet and Internet video was starting to boom,” he recalled. “I felt that the Church desperately needed something in the creative arts so combining what God had put on my heart and looking at the reality of the times led to the genesis of JPCatholic.”

“There’s a huge need in the particular space we’re in,” he said. “The creative arts were something that the Church totally dominated in the Middle Ages [and] the Renaissance… But in the 2020s, it’s not very clear that the Church has any great influence on the arts.”

But Connolly noted that young Catholic creatives are “looking for a place where they can create with people who share their values, and that’s difficult to find.”

From Catholic News Agency