Located in South Clarita’s Valencia neighbourhood in southern California (SoCal), the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is one of the country’s leading arts colleges. In fact, The Daily Beast/Newsweek ranked California Institute of the Arts as America’s No. 1 College when it comes to the arts.
It was also the country’s first institution to offer both performing and visual arts undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Roy and Walt Disney established the college in 1961 by merging the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute.
Setting a standard
Since 1970, CalArts has set a standard for providing education to professional artists. It provides a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes through six distinct schools: Theatre, Music, Film/Video, Dance, Critical Studies, and, of course, Art.
CalArts has stood behind and represented new expressions and forms, critical reflections, and creative excellence, and the contemporary arts scene has been partly shaped by multiple generations of alumni and faculty.
Collaboration and experimentation
The Institute that was first conceived by none other than Walt Disney embraces an electric, vibrant community with worldwide influence, encouraging independent inquiry, experimentation, and active exchange and collaboration between cultural traditions, artistic disciplines, and artists. Other key aspects include artist’s statements by applicants, recommendations, and educational records.
The institute relocated to its current location in 1971. The 60-acre residential campus is situated in Valencia, approximately 25 miles north of downtown LA. The centrepiece of the campus is a 500,000 square-foot building with classrooms, theatres, galleries, laboratories, studios, editing suites, shops, a cafeteria, and a library. There’s also a swimming pool, tennis courts, and multiple accommodation complexes that house 1,500 students.
The concept behind the college’s disciplinary approach was borne from Richard Wagner and his Gesamtkunstwerk (“total artwork”) idea, which Disney admired and implemented in a number of different ways, starting with his very own studio. He also applied it to the 1940 animated film Fantasia, which saw the collaboration of artists, composers, dancers, and animators.
In 1952, Walt Disney Imagineering was founded, with Disney integrating a number of artists, including some from his animation studio, along with trained engineers. From there he went on to develop both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, a concept which he believed could work within a university, where students of art in different mediums could explore a range of various creative directions.
The link between CalArts and Disney has resulted in numerous graduates becoming top actors, directors, and animators, with work that has gone on to become famous around the world. Many industry leaders in the arts have graduated from the college throughout the years, enhancing it’s reputation even further.
Director Tim Burton, known for movies such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, and Edward Scissorhands, and director of the Toy Story movies, John Lasseter, as well as a number of other Pixar classic flicks, both studied at CalArts.
Other well-known alumni include Brad Bird, Brenda Chapman, David Hasselhoff, Don Cheadle, and Henry Selick. CalArts extends its ongoing dedication to the field of the arts through Community Arts Partnership (CAP) youth arts program.