The California Institute of the Arts (or CalArts) is recognized throughout the world as one of the leading colleges to teach visual arts and the performing arts together with the critical study of these arts. Several Pixarians have studied there.
To nurture innovation and experimentation, the students from CalArts’ six schools (study of the arts, art critique, dance, film/video, music, theater) all live in the same place, in Valencia, CA, only 30 minutes north of Los Angeles (California, USA).
CalArts is a 60-acre campus. This campus obviously includes the various buildings of each art major, but also the students’ residence halls.
To relax, tennis courts, swimming pools, sports grounds and many green spaces are made available to students.
It was the first institute to offer BFA and MFA degrees in visual arts and performing arts, and nowadays the institute remains dedicated to training new professional artists. Admission to CalArts is based on the talent the artist demonstrates, his creativity and his commitment. The other major aspects regarding admission are the artist’s educational records, together with potential recommendations he may have. Scholarships are also awarded to students.
CalArts is made of up of six specific schools:
School of Art (21.2% of the student body): Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Photography and Media.
School of Critical Studies (3.3% of the student body): MFA Writing, MA in Aesthetics and Politics.
The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance (6% of the student body): BFA and MFA.
School of Film/Video (26.5% of the student body): Film and Video, Experimental Animation, Character Animation (BFA), Film Directing (MFA).
The Herb Alpert School of Music (20% of the student body): 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 and MFA), Performance, Musical Arts (BFA), World Music (BFA and MFA).
School of Theater (23% of the student body): 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).
In 1961, Walter Elias Disney and his brother Roy O. Disney merged the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, founded in 1883, and the Chouinard Art Institute founded in 1921, to form the California Institute of the Arts. Three years later, the college was presented to the public by Walt Disney on the opening night of Mary Poppins in Hollywood. At first the campus was supposed to be located on Hollywood Boulevard, but as the land was no longer available they relocated it to Valencia, approximately 30 miles north of Los Angeles.
Walt Disney avait une vision précise de ce qu'il voulait :
"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 used 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."
Robert W. Corrigan became the first president of CalArts in 1968. The first academic year began in 1970 at the interim campus of Villa Cabrini in Burbank. CalArts offered first and foremost the following courses: art, critical studies, design, film, music, theater and dance.
In 1971, a new campus opened in Valencia, with over 650 students having enrolled for the fall semester.
Robert J. Fitzpatrick, Professor of French literature, became the new president in 1975 (until he resigned in 1984 to become Chairman of Euro Disney in Paris).
In 1990, CalArts – which had been headed by Steven D. Lavine since 1987 – initiated the Community Arts Partnership (CAP), an arts education program for young people that linked the Institute with community arts organizations and subsequently with public schools. In 2011, the CAP offered over 40 arts education programs free of charge for young people aged between 10 and 18 years old.
In 1997, long-term benefactors Roy E. and Patty Disney provided initial funding for a performance area for CalArts: the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre (called REDCAT), named after Roy E. Disney’s parents. It opened its doors in 2003 in the centre of Los Angeles with Mark Murphy as its director.
In 1999, the Institute inaugurated the Center for New Theater as the School of Theater’s professional producing division. Its debut production was Bad Behavior, by Richard Foreman and Sophie Haviland.
In 2006, the School of Theater hosted the first annual Arts in the One World Conference, an international forum which was co-presented with the Interdisciplinary Genocide Study Center in Kigali (Rwanda). The conference focused on art as a means to consolidate peace.
CalArts became the first American college to be honored with a comprehensive retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Entitled Tomorrowland: CalArts in Moving Pictures, it went back over thirty-five years of work done by students.
The Center for New Theater was expanded into the CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), a production entity that includes music, dance and interdisciplinary performance in addition to theater. By linking CalArts’ artistic resources with the professional community, the CNP acts as a platform for original and audacious works to be developed and made. The CNP’s opening production was What to Wear, an experimental opera by Richard Foreman and Michael Gordon which was presented at REDCAT.
In 2008, CalArts inaugurated the Herb Alpert School of Music following an historic $15 million endowment, a gift from Herb and Lani Hall Alpert. In conjunction with the naming of the school, CalArts announced its first doctoral program: the Doctor of Musical Arts degree (DMA), a Performer-Composer program, scheduled to be launched in 2009.
CalArts President Steven D. Lavine is the only college president to be serving on Barack’s Obama’s National Arts Policy Committee. Since Obama subsequently won the 2008 presidential election, his administration became the first in history to enter office with a national arts policy.
In 2010, Travis Preston – who had been a member of the Faculty for the past ten years and long-standing Artistic Director of the Center for New Performance at CalArts (CNP) – was appointed Dean of the School of Theater. That year, CalArts had a teaching profession that included 314 members, while the campus included 1454 students.
John Lasseter spent four years at CalArts. This was where he made Lady and the Lamp (1979) and Nitemare (1980), his first two shorts which both won a Student Academy Award.
CalArts’ most famous classroom is classroom A113. Directors have remained attached to this code to the extent that they slip it into every Pixar film. It should be noted that it can also be found in Disney film productions such as The Princess and the Frog, or television productions with for instance The Simpsons, thanks to the various animators who spent time in that classroom and keep paying tribute to it.
This renowned college enables students to become great artists. In addition to Pixar’s animators and directors, the college also saw Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride) pass through its classrooms, Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline), Sofia Coppola (Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette) and many more.
John Lasseter is at the top left-hand corner with a pencil in his mouth, Brad Bird is sitting on the table to the right, and Tim Burton is sitting on the floor to the right.
For further information about CalArts, do not hesitate to visit their website.