Hancock College officials joined representatives of construction companies Thursday morning for a traditional ceremony to mark a milestone in constructing the new Fine Arts Complex on the south side of the Santa Maria campus.

Wearing hard hats and face masks, individuals from the college and five companies gathered at 10 a.m. for the traditional “topping-out” ceremony at the site of the new facility, where they signed the final steel beam before it was set into place.

“The steel we’re finishing today is … eight weeks from the start when the first piece of steel went up,” said Kevin Walthers, president of Hancock College, who was joined at the event by college Board of Trustees members Greg Pensa, Suzanne Levy and Larry Lahr, student trustee Ana Rosas Pacheco and fine arts instructor Nancy Jo Ward.

Also on hand to sign the beam were representatives from project contractor AMG Associates, crane operator Bragg Crane and Rigging, project architect DLR Group, beam and girder supplier Golden State Steel and Roebbelen Construction Management Services.

“So we all get to sign the beam and, hopefully, nobody sees it, I think; it’ll just be up there forever,” Walthers said. “But we’ll all know it’s there, and we can point to it for our kids and grandkids in the future.”

Then to a soundtrack of hammering and buzzing power saws, those assembled took turns signing a section of the beam that had been painted white.

“This is a real milestone in the project, especially when we are only five and a half months into the project,” said Craig Shallenberger of AMG Associates. “To actually be at this stage is a real achievement, in our eyes, and we’re very proud of where we’re at so far.”

Hancock officially broke ground on the $48 million project Sept. 30, 2020.

Once completed, the 88,000-square-foot, two-story facility will house the college’s dance, drama, film, music, photography, graphics, multimedia arts, communications and graphics programs.

It will also include a 400-seat concert and recital venue.

“We'll be open in August of 2022,” Walthers said, telling Ward she'll be starting a new semester at that time. “Hopefully, the computers will all be here.”

Then he added, “I'm just kidding — everything's on schedule.”

Funding for the Fine Arts Complex was provided by the voter-approved Bond Measure I, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the estate of former Hancock faculty member Patricia Boyd.

The ceremony was livestreamed on Hancock’s YouTube channel, where it’s posted for viewing.