Posted on Monday, November 20, 2006 by Brenda Tucker
From its humble beginnings in 1907 with three classrooms, 43 students, and three teachers, California College of the Arts (CCA) has developed into one of this country's most prestigious art colleges. Today CCA boasts state-of-the art campuses in San Francisco and Oakland, 19 undergraduate and six graduate programs, 1,650 full-time students, nearly 500 faculty members, and an estimated 14,000 alumni.
"From the vision and determination of the founders to the recent accomplishments of faculty, students, and alumni, CCA's story is remarkable, rich, and inspiring. Our students and alumni have distinguished themselves in a variety of creative fields—art, architecture, design, education, and writing. Faculty members past and present have been nationally prominent, acknowledged as excellent teachers and practitioners," commented CCA president Michael S. Roth. "Although the college has grown and changed in many ways in the past 100 years, our mission has remained constant: to prepare students for a lifetime of creative work and service to their communities. Most importantly, the college is poised for an impressive and influential future."
To celebrate its centennial in 2007, the college will launch a number of academic initiatives and present a yearlong schedule of special events.
CCA announces two new academic programs: the undergraduate program in animation and graduate program in film.
Beginning in fall 2007, animation students will gain skills in film-based and experimental animation, film production, interactive media, motion graphics, narrative storytelling, and video.
Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Rob Epstein has been tapped to chair the new graduate program in film, which will launch in fall 2008. The program will emphasize the art of storytelling in documentary and narrative forms.
Prospective students may apply for the animation program now; the college will begin accepting applications for the graduate film program in fall 2007.
The Chalsty Aesthetics and Philosophy Initiative will reinforce the college's longstanding commitment to academic excellence. Thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Chalsty Foundation, CCA will implement an extensive program to ensure that every graduate achieves literacy in aesthetics and related fields.
Plans call for an endowed professorship in aesthetics and philosophy, public programs such as lectures and symposia, library enhancements, faculty development and research support, and an annual award for scholarship to advance the field.
With a generous gift of $150,000 from a CCA trustee, the California Initiative will launch a series of new programs aimed at confronting the major challenges facing Californians over the next 20 years.
Through academic courses, investigative studios, and public programs, CCA students and faculty across all disciplines will examine, conduct research, and develop strategies for such issues as the environment, global warming, sustainability, economic policies, social problems, government, and education.
A Yearlong Series of Events
Alumna and trustee Tecoah Bruce, chair of the centennial celebration, has announced a year of celebratory events to be held at locations both on and off campus.
As a tribute to CCA's influence and reputation, more than 30 galleries and museums from New York to Los Angeles and the Bay Area have organized exhibitions to celebrate the centennial.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will present California College of the Arts at 100: Innovation by Design, March 23–July 3, 2007. This exhibition includes works by CCA-affiliated designers from the museum's architecture and design collections, including work by Yves Béhar, Thom Faulders, Donald Fortescue, Mark Fox, Jim Jennings, Jennifer Morla, Lucille Tenazas, and Michael Vanderbyl.
The de Young Museum has organized Celebrating a Centennial: Contemporary Printmakers at CCA, which will be on view in the Anderson Gallery of Graphic Art September 29, 2007–April 20, 2008. The exhibition will feature about 25 prints from the museum's collection by CCA alumni and faculty, including Robert Arneson, Robert Bechtle, Nathan Oliveira, and Peter Voulkos.
From October 13, 2007, through January 27, 2008, the Oakland Museum of California will present CCA: 100 Years in the Making, an extensive historical survey that chronicles the important achievements of artists associated with the school from its founding in 1907 to the present. Artists in this exhibition include the Society of Six; ceramist Edith Heath; figurative painters Richard Diebenkorn and Nathan Oliveira; sculptors Peter Voulkos, Robert Arneson, and Viola Frey; conceptual artists John McCracken and Dennis Oppenheim; photorealist painters Robert Bechtle, Robert Gils, Richard McLean, and Jack Mendenhall; performance artist Suzanne Lacy; painters Squeak Carnwath and Raymond Saunders; and photographer Catherine Wagner. The exhibition will include a section devoted to works from 1987 to 2007 and several large-scale outdoor sculptures.
Other event highlights include the Centennial Kickoff on January 30 with a lecture by Carrie Mae Weems, followed by a reception; the 100 Families Oakland exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California, January 20–April 22; the Centennial Gala and Threads Fashion Show on April 25; and the Alumni Reunion Weekend October 12–14.
For a complete list with descriptions of the centennial events, see Centennial Events.
History of CCA
CCA was founded in 1907 by Frederick Meyer. A cabinetmaker in his native Germany, Meyer was involved in the Arts and Crafts movement, which advocated an integrated approach to art, design, and craft.
He emigrated to San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century, established a workshop, and taught at UC Berkeley and the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed both his shop and the institute. The following year he founded the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley.
In 1922, to accommodate the growth in enrollment, Meyer purchased the four-acre Treadwell estate in Oakland, where the college maintains a campus today.
In 1936 the school was renamed California College of Arts and Crafts.
Noted Alumni and Faculty
CCA's faculty and graduates have influenced—and in many cases led—almost every mid- and late-20th-century art movement.
In the 1960s, alumni Robert Arneson, Peter Voulkos, and Viola Frey helped instigate the ceramics revolution.
The photorealist movement of the 1970s is represented by alumni Robert Bechtle and Richard McLean and current faculty member Jack Mendenhall.
Alumni Nathan Oliveira and Manuel Neri were leaders in the Bay Area figurative art movement.
CCA faculty and alumni have also been prominent in conceptual art (Dennis Oppenheim), minimalist sculpture (John McCracken), painting (Raymond Saunders and Squeak Carnwath), and film (Wayne Wang, Rick Schmidt, and Rob Epstein).
Former faculty members Walter Landor and Wolfgang Lederer were leaders of the California design movement, and current faculty members and alumni Michael Vanderbyl and Lucille Tenazas have had a major impact on contemporary American graphic arts.
In the past 10 years, enrollment at the college has increased by 58 percent. New programs have been added, including undergraduate programs in industrial design, fashion design, writing and literature, and visual studies; and graduate programs in architecture, curatorial practice, design, visual criticism, and writing.
In 1996 the college opened a new permanent San Francisco campus to house the architecture, design, and graduate programs. The 120,000-square-foot facility was completed in 1999.
The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, the college's international exhibition program, was founded in 1998; noted artist residency program Capp Street Project became part of the Wattis that same year.
In 2000 the college launched the Center for Art and Public Life. In 2003 the college opened the first phase of a new graduate facility in San Francisco, which will be completed in 2007.
In recognition of the breadth of its programs, the college changed its name to California College of the Arts in 2003.
For more information on the college's history, please visit History. Images are available by contacting Brenda Tucker at or at 415.703.9548.