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Entrance to CalArts on McBean Parkway
The California Institute of the Arts, commonly referred to as CalArts, is located in Valencia, California, in Los Angeles County, California. CalArts is authorized by the state of California to grant Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts in the visual, performing, and literary arts. The Herb Alpert School of Music was accredited in 2009 to grant a Doctor of Musical Arts.

A school created by Walt Disney in the early 1960s and staffed by an alternative array of professionals, CalArts provides a collaborative environment for all sorts of artists. Students are free to develop their own work (over which they retain control and copyright) in a workshop atmosphere, as respected members of a community of artists in which authority is constantly tested and where teaching works through persuasion rather than coercion. Intercultural exchange among artists helps in practicing and understanding of the art making process in the broadest context possible.


CalArts was initially formed through the merger of the Chouinard Art Institute (founded 1921) and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music (founded 1883). Both of the formerly existing institutions were going through financial difficulties around the same time, and the founder of the Art Institute, Nelbert Chouinard was also becoming fatally ill. It was through the impetus of Walt Disney, who found and trained many of his studio artists at Chouinard (including Mary Blair, Maurice Noble, and some of the Nine Old Men, among others), that was responsible for coordinating the merger of the two institutions, along with his brother Roy and Lulu Von Hagen.

The institute was started as Disney's dream of an interdisciplinary "Caltech of the arts," it was incorporated in 1961 as the first degree-granting institution of higher learning in the United States created specifically for students of both the visual and the performing arts. The founding board of trustees originally planned on creating CalArts as a school as an entertainment complex, a destination like Disneyland, and a feeder school for the industry. In an ironic turn of fate, they appointed Dr. Robert W. Corrigan as the first president of the Institute. Corrigan, former dean of the School of Arts at New York University, was attempting to create a similar mix of artistic disciplines as those that were going to be attempted at Cal Arts. He was later joined the following year by his friend Herbert Blau, hired as the Institute's provost and dean of the School of Theater and Dance. Subsequently, Blau was instrumental in hiring a number of professionals like Mel Powell (dean of the School of Music) , Paul Brach (dean of the School of Art), Alexander Mackendrick (dean of the School of Film/Video), sociologist Michael Stein (dean of Critical Studies), and Victor Papanek (dean of the School of Design; now incoporated in the Art school) as well other influential program heads and teachers such as Allan Kaprow, Bella Lewitzky, Michael Asher, Jules Engel, John Baldessari, Judy Chicago, Miriam Shapiro, and Douglas Huebler most of whom largely came from a counterculture and avant garde side of the art world.

The ground-breaking for CalArts' current campus took place on May 3, 1969. However, construction of the new campus was stifled by torrential rains and labor troubles of every variety. So, instead the “new” school began its first year in the buildings of Villa Cabrini Academy, a former Catholic girls’ school on the edge of downtown Burbank. CalArts moved to its present campus, in the Valencia section of the city of Santa Clarita, Californiamarker, in November 1971. The institute has remained funded through the ongoing contributions of Walt Disney and his family, who provided funding for the ongoing operation of this school in his will. The campus is located on McBean Parkway, which has a direct connection to Interstate 5.

Recent developments

Beginning in the summer of 1987, CalArts became the place where the state-funded California State Summer School for the Arts was held. It began as a program to nurture talented high school students in the fields of animation, creative writing, dance, film and video, music, theatre arts, and visual arts. CalArts expanded on the concept by creating the Community Arts Partnership in 1990. While CSSSA is open to qualifying California students, CAP, as it's commonly known, is a service provided to students living within the Los Angeles County school system. Many CalArts faculty and students mentor students in both programs.

Over the years, the school has also develop on-campus, interdisciplinary laboratories, such as the Center for Experiments in Art, Information, and Technology, Center for Integrated Media, Center for New Performance at CalArts, and the Cotsen Center for Puppetry and the Arts.

In the year 1994, Herb Alpert, a professional musician and admirer of the institute, collaborated with CalArts with his non-profit foundation to establish the Alpert Awards in the Arts. While the foundation provides the award for winning recipients , the school's faculty in the fields film/new media, visual arts, theatre, dance, and music select artists in their field to nominate an individual artist who is recognized for their innovation in their given medium. Recipients of this award are required to stay for a week as visiting artists at CalArts and mentor students studying their metier. In 2008, CalArts renamed the School of Music in his name, courtesy of a $15 million dollar donation.

In 2003, CalArts established a performance arts theatre in downtown Los Angeles called REDCAT, the Roy and Edna Disney Cal Arts Theater at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The Center for New Performance, the professional producing arm of the CalArts Theater School, brings works to the space from both student and professional artists and musicians.

In Fall 2009, the Institute will open a on-campus music pavilion, known as the Wild Beast. The 3,200-square-foot, free-standing structure will serve as a space for classrooms and combined indoor-outdoor performance space. CalArts President Steven Lavine has stated “The core demand is that our Herb Alpert School of Music has doubled in size in the last decade; when we have guest artists, there is no place for them to perform-And the second reason was to allow enough space for the general public to attend [...]”


CalArts offers degree programs in music, art, dance, film and video, animation, theater, puppetry, and writing. Students receive intensive professional training in the area of his/her career purpose without being cast into a rigid pattern. Its focus is in interdisciplinary, contemporary art, and the Institute's stated mission is to develop professional artists of tomorrow- artists who will change their field. With these goals in place, the Institute encourages students to recognize the complexity of political, social and aesthetic questions and to respond to them with informed, independent judgment.


Admissions to CalArts is based solely on the applicant's creative talent and future potential. Every school within the Institute does require that applicants send in a Artist's statement, along with a portfolio or audition (depending on the program) in order to be considered for admission. The school does not review an applicants SAT scores without consent, and does not consider an applicant's GPA as part of the admission process.

Disney's vision

The initial concept behind CalArts' interdisciplinary approach came from Richard Wagner's idea of Gesamtkunstwerk ("total artwork"), which Disney himself was fond of and explored in a variety of forms, beginning with his own studio, then later in the incorporation of CalArts. He began with the classic Disney film Fantasia (1940), where animators, dancers, composers, and artists alike collaborated together. In 1962, Walt Disney Imagineeringmarker was founded, where Disney integrated artists from his animation studio and elsewhere, as well as formally-trained engineers and achieved creative critical mass in the development of Disneylandmarker. He believed that the same concept that developed WDI, could also be applied to a university setting, where art students of different mediums would be exposed to and explore a wide-range of creative directions. Disney himself has stated of his memorial school:


Schools and degree programs available at CalArts include:

  • School of Art: Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Photography and Media

  • School of Critical Studies: MFA Writing, MA in Aesthetics and Politics, MFA Interschool Degree, Integrated Media (MFA)

  • The Sharon Lund School of Dance: Various Dance Programs

  • School of Film/Video: Film and Video, Experimental Animation, Character Animation (BFA), Film Directing (MFA)

  • The Herb Alpert School of Music: DMA Composer-Performer, Composition, Composition for New Media/Experimental Sound Practices (ESP) (MFA), Performer/Composer, Performer/Composer: African American, Improvisational Music (MFA), Music Technology (BFA), Performance, Musical Arts (BFA), World Music (BFA and MFA)

  • School of Theater: Acting, Directing (MFA), Writing for Performance (MFA), Puppetry (MFA), Design and Production: Costume Design, Lighting Design, Producing (MFA), Stage Management, Production Management (MFA), Scene Design, Sound Design, Video for Performance (MFA), Technical Direction, Scenic Painting, (MFA).

Center for Experiments in Art, Information and Technology

CEAIT, the Center for Experiments in Art, Information and Technology, exists as a coalition between interested faculty and students at CalArtsmarker to help with the creation and presentation of new work and research involving technology and the arts. Recent and past works are presented on the programs's website, and through a number of sponsored concerts and installations at CalArtsmarker, REDCAT and other venues. It also sponsors, when possible, guest lectures and visiting artist residencies.

CEAIT has for its resources, the electronic music studios of the School of Music including B303 (electronics/hardware lab), B304 (digital sound and technology studio), B305 (multimedia classroom and computer/video studio), and B307/B308 (the Dizzie Gillespie Recording Studio).

Important contributors to the center include David Rosenboom, Morton Subotnick, and Mark Coniglio.

Notable alumni, faculty, and visiting artists

School councils

Student Council

Student Council is a student organization with leadership by democratically elected representatives, including 5 officers (President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Trustee) and 12 senators (including 2 reps from each school). Their primary purpose is to function as a liaison between the Board of Trustees, the administration, faculty, staff and students. The Student Council uses an annual budget, gathered from the student activity fee, of approximately $80,000 to fund receptions, independent student projects, the campus radio station and television channel (KCIA), student magazines, and some student parties such as Halloween and the Spring Fashion Show. The council also has representatives on various committees and councils at CalArts. The council holds informal weekly meetings during the school semester that are open to the entire campus.

Deans Council

Deans Council is the weekly meeting of the deans of each school or division within the Institute, together with the President and Provost, a representative from Academic Council and a representative from Student Council.

Academic Council

The Academic Council consists of faculty representatives from the schools and library who meet weekly to discuss academic and curricular matters throughout the Institute. The Student Council Vice-President attends Academic Council meetings and represents students' opinions.

See also


Further reading and listening

External links

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