CCA Strengthens Ties with Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts
Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by Chris Bliss
Film faculty member Lynn Marie Kirby with students at CAFA
What began in 2008 as a visit by CCA President Stephen Beal to the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing is now blossoming into a productive relationship between the two schools. This fall CCA enrolled six more undergraduate students from CAFA’s International Foundation Course; they join the first four students who began their studies at CCA in fall 2010.
In the first foray into faculty exchanges, David Hisaya Asari (Graphic Design) and Lynn Marie Kirby (Film) spent spring break 2011 at CAFA. An IFC instructor visited CCA in August. And Furniture faculty member Christopher Loomis is in Beijing now teaching for the semester.
What inspired this relationship between the two schools and what are the plans for the future?
Laying the Groundwork
In October 2008 President Beal was invited to participate in a forum on international art education, as part of CAFA's 90th anniversary celebration. He was impressed with the 4,000-student institution and its leaders, many of whom have ties with U.S. institutions. President Pang Gongkai was a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley. Vice President Xu Bing, well-known artist and recipient of the prestigious MacArthur “genius” award, lived and worked in New York for more than 10 years. Dean of Design Min Wang completed his graduate work in design at Yale and worked for more than 20 years in the United States, including a stint at Adobe before forming his own firm in San Francisco.
Beal was also impressed with the students he encountered, commenting, “Competition for admission to China’s art academies is very fierce and, not surprisingly, the skill level of the CAFA students is consistently high. I was encouraged by the students’ enthusiastic response to my visit; many of them are very keen to study in the US.“ CAFA also recognized this desire, and established the International Foundation Course (IFC), where students are taught by English-speaking faculty in preparation for transition to BFA and BArch programs in Europe and the United States. Could CCA become one of the IFC partner schools?
Making it Formal
Building on the relationships that sprouted with that first visit by Beal (and reinforced with subsequent visits), representatives from CAFA came to CCA in December 2009. Discussions included exchange programs and CCA's participation in the International Foundation Course. The visit culminated with Yang Li, director of CAFA's Executive Committee, and Beal signing a faculty and student exchange agreement. Staffers then began the process of identifying and recruiting the first IFC transfer students, who arrived the summer of 2010.
Kangning Zhao was one of the first CAFA/IFC students to transfer to CCA. Enrolled in the Interior Design Program, Kangning has positive things to say about her experience at CCA. "San Francisco is a very diverse city and CCA is a highly creative art school. I get a lot of inspiration and ideas that I wouldn't have had otherwise. The Interior Design Program at CCA is highly ranked and the instructors are supportive and professional."
International Students at CCA
The 10 IFC transfer students are part of a lively community of international students who now make up nearly 15 percent of the student population at CCA -- up from 12 percent last fall. In recent years, CCA has made significant investments in support and services for this growing population, including increased housing, summer English programs, advising, and tutoring. This year a position was added in the International Student Affairs and Programs (ISAP) Office: coordinator for community support, who assists international students with issues both inside and outside the classroom.
President Beal voiced the college’s commitment to enhancing diversity. “By increasing our population of international students we enrich our community and our curriculum while preparing all of our students for an increasingly complex global society. Given our Pacific Rim location, it makes particular sense to reach out to students in Asia."
With the growing connection to CAFA it was time to explore faculty participation. Would CCA faculty be interested in conducting workshops at CAFA or perhaps teaching in the International Foundation Course? Lynn Marie Kirby and David Hisayai Asari visited CAFA for a week in March 2011, giving presentations, leading workshops, observing classes in the International Foundation Course, and participating in critiques, as well as meeting with students one-on-one and in groups.
Kirby was impressed with the level of work and commitment of the students. “They were all studying in English and working very hard at both their artmaking and English language acquisition. I was charmed by how open and engaged they were. Both students and faculty were very open to feedback and observations about their work and their curriculum. Everyone was very curious about CCA.” Asari concurred with Kirby's assessment, saying he'd return to CAFA "in a heartbeat." He went on to say,"there is so much potential to create a greater, long-term and sustainable working partnership between CCA and the International Foundation Course at CAFA."
Following that successful faculty visit, the wheels were set in motion to send a CCA faculty member to Beijing for the fall 2011 semester. Christopher Loomis, Furniture faculty, was selected and is currently teaching design in the International Foundation program. “Beijing has been an amazing adventure. The students have been fun and challenging. They are an amazing spectrum of talents and backgrounds. We have had a successful last couple of weeks of drawing and mark-making.” Loomis started a blog documenting his experiences.
Instructors in the IFC program are also interested in participating in an exchange with CCA. As a first step, IFC faculty member Nicole Condon visited the campuses this summer to meet with staff and faculty and to observe CCA’s summer English courses.
In addition to continuing and expanding the student and faculty programs with CAFA, Beal sees other opportunities for the future. “Many Chinese academies and universities are interested in establishing specific, project-based collaborations with American art schools. We should explore these opportunities not only with CAFA but also with other educational institutions in China.” That time is imminent as the presidents of two prominent Chinese art schools, China Academy of Art and Luxun Academy of Fine Art, are scheduled to visit CCA in late September / early October.
About the Central Academy of Fine Arts
The Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), the only art institution of higher learning directly under the Chinese Ministry of Education, was founded in April 1950 by incorporating the National Beijing Art College (founded in 1918) and the Fine Arts Department of Huabei University. Under the umbrella of CAFA, there are six schools and colleges: School of Fine Art, School of Chinese Painting, School of Design, School of Architecture, School of Humanities, and College of City Design. CAFA currently enrolls more than 4,000 full-time students.
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