The California Institute of the Arts, commonly referred to as CalArts, is located in Valencia, in Los Angeles County, California. 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. It is authorized by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) to grant Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts in the visual, performing, and as of 1994, literary arts. The Herb Alpert School of Music was accredited in 2009 to grant a Doctor of Musical Arts.
The school was founded/created by Walt Disney in the early 1960s and staffed by an alternative array of professionals, the institute was started as Disney's dream of an interdisciplinary "Caltech of the arts." 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 originally formed as a 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 fatally ill. It was through the will of Walt Disney, who discovered 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 O. Disney and Lulu Von Hagen with Thornton Ladd (Ladd & Kelsey, Architects), of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music.
In 1965, the Alumni Association was founded as a non-profit organization and was governed by a twelve member Board of Directors to serve the best interests of the Institute and its programs. Members included leading professional artists and musicians, who contributed their knowledge, experience, and skill to strengthen the institute. The twelve founding Board of Directors members included Mary Costa, Edith Head, Gale Storm, Marc Davis, Tony Duquette, Harold Grieve, John Hench, Chuck Jones, Henry Mancini, Marty Paich, Nelson Riddle, and Millard Sheets.
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, including the earthquake in 1971. 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, California, in November 1971.
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 Maurice Stein (dean of Critical Studies), and Richard Farson (dean of the School of Design; now incorporated 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, James Hurtak, Ravi Shankar, Max Kozloff, Miriam Shapiro, and Douglas Huebler most of whom largely came from a counterculture and avant garde side of the art world.
Corrigan held his position until 1972, when he was replaced by William S. Lund, a Disney son-in-law, a Stanford B.A., active in business, real estate, and economic counseling. Later in 1975, Robert J. Fitzpatrick is appointed new president of CalArts. Holding this position for twelve years, in 1987 Fitzpatrick resigns as president to head Euro Disney in Paris. Nicholas England, former dean of the School of Music, is appointed acting president. One year later, Steven D. Lavine, associate director for arts and humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, is named new president, a position still holds.
Beginning in the summer of 1987, CalArts became the host of the state-funded California State Summer School for the Arts program. It began by the State of California 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 underprivileged communities in the Los Angeles County school system. Many CalArts faculty and students mentor the high schoolstudents in both programs.
Over the years, the school has also developed 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, CalArts became affected by the Northridge Earthquake. Michael Eisner, on the Board of Trustees at the time, directed the real estate team at Disney to find a temporary site for the school. All the art programs were re-located to the Lockheed Rye Canyon Research facility for six months until the school was repaired.
That same year, 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 opened an on-campus music pavilion, known as the "Wild Beast". The , 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 [...]”
Today, 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.
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.
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 1952, Walt Disney Imagineering 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 Disneyland. 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:
|“||What young artists need is a school where they can learn a variety of skills, a place where there is cross-pollination. The remarkable thing that’s taking place in almost every field of endeavor is an accelerating rate of dynamic growth and change. The arts, which have historically symbolized the advance of human progress, must match this growth if they are going to maintain their value in and influence on society. The talents of musicians, the self expression of the actor, and the techniques and applications of fine and commercial artist are being use more and more in today's business-not by themselves but rather, in close association with each other. What we must have, then, is a completely new approach to training in the arts-an entirely new educational concept which will properly prepare artists and give them the vital tools so necessary for working in, and drawing from, every field of creativity and performance. There is an urgent need for a professional school which will not only give its students thorough training in a specific field, but will also allow the widest possible range of artistic growth and expression. To meet this need is exactly why California Institute of the Arts has been created, and why we all believe so strongly in its importance. Students will be able to take anything - art, drama, music, dance, writing. They'll graduate with a degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts, and if they want a Bachelor of Arts they can go to other colleges and acquire a few more credits. The student body of CalArts shouldn't be over two thousand, and as many as possible should reside on campus. There should be some allowance for those who are talented, yet are not students; they should be able to express themselves without worrying about grades. There will be a lot of scholarships at CalArts. Those who can pay will pay; those who can't will get scholarships. We don't want any dilettantes at CalArts. We want people with talent. That will be the one factor in getting into CalArts: talent. It's the principal thing I hope to leave when I move on to greener pastures. If I can help provide a place to develop the talent of the future, I think I will have accomplished something.||”|
Schools and degree programs available at CalArts include: