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Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 by Chris Bliss

Simone LeBlanc

Simone LeBlanc, who was a CCA Fashion Design student from 1995 to 1998, is a featured designer this season on Bravo's Project Runway. The popular television reality show begins its fourth season on Wednesday, November 14.

Simone was raised in the Bay Area and transferred to CCA from the College of Marin. She was among the first class of students in CCA's Fashion Design program, which launched in fall 1995. In summer 1998 she participated in an exchange program in Paris and stayed there to finish her fashion education at Parsons Paris School of Art and Design.

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Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2007 by Brenda Tucker

Earlier this year we sat down with three of CCA's former presidents, Neil Hoffman (1985–93), Lorne Buchman (1994–99), and Michael Roth (2000–2007), to talk—and reminisce—about their respective tenures at the college.

Neil Hoffman is now president of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. After leaving CCA he served as president of Otis College of Art and Design from 1993 until 2000. He went on to become associate director of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and he also spent five years as a consultant in college and nonprofit development. He is writing a book on the management of nonprofit institutions.

What program, event, or decision do you think was the most pivotal or far-reaching for the school during your presidency?

There were two. Soon after I arrived at the college, Oakland's mayor, Lionel Wilson, asked me to lead the city's cultural planning process. The comprehensive plan we devised—which actually got implemented—was totally inclusive. It encouraged people to give their best thoughts and look to the future. I realized that if 300 or 400 people who don't even know each other can work together for a common outcome and be pleased and excited by it, we certainly ought to be able to do that at CCAC. The process involved everything from curriculum development to fundraising to enrollment management. It also tied into the need to find a permanent home—that we would own—for the architecture and design schools in San Francisco. We were looking to buy the Greyhound building when I was there. I'm disappointed that I wasn't the guy to be able to do that.

What was the other pivotal development?

The Board of Trustees at that time was a fairly small group of people, very dedicated and loyal. They knew they needed to expand and bring in a broader constituency, take a leadership role in fundraising, and get their committees directly involved in the oversight of the institution. The result: The board today compares favorably with any of the best boards in the country.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as president?

When I arrived the college had an accumulated operating deficit, it had no endowment, enrollments were low, morale was low, and faculty salaries were low. So we needed to manage the enrollment. We needed better graphics and better communications, and of course our own Graphic Design faculty was a major part of that change. In seven years it became a more selective institution, able to attract very good new faculty. And it became very viable financially, attracting annual funds and creating the base for the kind of fundraising it now enjoys.

Is there a particular achievement of which you're most proud?

That turnaround, and also the realization of the best dreams. Everyone made some very distinct decisions about what the priorities were. The standards and aspirations were always there. The ability to realize those aspirations took time to develop, but they did it. That's on every front: faculty, staff, board members, and the community. In the first year, I think nine of ten foundations bellied up in support of what we were doing. Another part of it was commitment to diversity. Not just attracting and retaining the best students and faculty of color, but also diversity of thought.

Is there a particularly funny moment or incident that you want to share?

It wasn't as much funny as it was rewarding. When the NAAB accrediting team came to review the Architecture school, they insisted on meeting in private with the students. So they went in a private room, closed the door, and the team actually said, "Now is your opportunity to bitch." And the students took them to task for it. After a long conversation the team asked the students, "What would you like us to say to Neil about how this school can be improved?" And the student leader answered: "If we want to talk to Neil, we'll just talk to him. We don't need you." I'm very proud of that.

At the end of the process, the head of NAAB said, "Let me put it this way: Unless there's an earthquake that takes this entire school out, you're going to be NAAB accredited. This is an amazing place."

What advice would you give students who are interested in art and architecture school?

Find your voice. Find your passion. That's it.

Lorne Buchman is now president of Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center in San Francisco. After leaving CCA he served as president of Kaplancollege.com School of Education and as interim CEO of the San Francisco Art Institute. He is also currently the principal and founder of a consulting firm that provides organizational development and strategic leadership to a wide range of nonprofit and public entities.

What was the most important event or program during your presidency?

The strategic plan of 1994 was bold, ambitious, grand, and, in retrospect, completely audacious. Given no history of a major campaign, a somewhat anemic annual fund, relatively low enrollment, and an uneven academic infrastructure, we were certainly reaching to think we could realize the objectives of that plan. But Neil Hoffman and John Stein had done such good work before I arrived and prepared the institution so well that the stage was set, courageously, for something very exciting to happen.

One key to our success was that the strategic plan had its inspiration in solid educational values and principles. The faculty had a clear picture of the exceptional education CCAC could envision for its future, and the plan was invented and driven by the teachers themselves. Every dollar we raised, every building we explored as a possible new campus, every conversation about new programs, growing enrollment, new faculty, stronger library resources, technology, equipment for studios—all of it was in service of educational values and mission.

Our plan worked for many reasons but, at its core, it was always serving education and learning. So, for example, we never looked at enrollment growth just for the sake of growth. We imagined programs that would add to the vitality and dynamism of the education we offered. Similarly the new campus in San Francisco was, at the end of the day, not about some abstract glory or prestige. We simply needed the space to grow and to provide a better learning environment—to teach the critical mass of students that would be part of the great school we envisioned.

What is the achievement of which you are most proud?

I suppose the most significant achievement was the recognition that, in the end, true success did not simply rest with the tenacity and force of Thom Weisel (who generously chaired our capital campaign with the enthusiastic Emily Carroll); or the devotion of Tecoah Bruce (the platonic ideal of the Great Board Chair); or the luminous creativity of Steve Oliver; or the penetrating insights of Ron Wornick, George Saxe, Simon Blattner, Jeanne Wente, Barc Simpson, Shep Pollack, Mary Jo Shartsis, and David Kirshman. True success for me can be summed up in two words: Helen Frierson.

CCAC was the experience of my life, even though I was only about 12 years old when I was appointed president. The learning and personal growth for me were extraordinary, and I'm grateful to the entire community for the opportunity to be part of something so exciting, dynamic, and meaningful.

Tell us about something that you wanted to do but couldn't implement and why.

I wish I could have moved further along in faculty development. The Architecture and Design programs were built on the heroic contributions of a dedicated, part-time, professionally practicing faculty. We desperately needed their involvement and participation, but I don't think we ever fully recognized or compensated them for their efforts. The "ranked," or tenured, faculty were not exactly sitting pretty themselves. And yet the part-time faculty often were not subject to the same performance reviews and scrutiny. Reconciling all of this, setting up proper governance and classification, recognizing contributions adequately, and bridging the gap between the culture of architecture and design on the one hand (the "San Francisco programs") and fine arts and humanities and sciences on the other (the "Oakland programs") was exceedingly difficult.

What are some adjectives you would use to describe CCA during your time as president?

Bold. Dedicated. Ready. Daring. Generous. Creative. Naive. Goofy (charmingly so). Lucky that Montgomery Securities was bought out. And not ready to drop "crafts."

Talk about some of the people you hired who made a difference at the college.

John Stein. I didn't hire him but what a stroke of incredible fortune to work with him. Steve Beal. His experience, wisdom, calm, focus on enrollment, understanding of art and art education, friendship, support, humor, and love of students made a huge difference. Margie Shurgot. Without her boldness and ambition, our fundraising efforts would never have succeeded; she worked tirelessly behind the scenes, set the stage, made the calls, and threw the best parties this side of the moon. Joan Majerus, in her quiet way, was a fabulous CFO. Focused, hardworking, completely skilled and responsible. Larry Rinder. Without him I would have never been able to launch the Institute for Public Programs (now the Wattis Institute), which was so important to my vision for the college. We hired a lot of inspiring faculty members as well—too many to list here.

What was the funniest moment of your presidency?

There were several:

Getting lost in a parking lot (looking for my car) for an hour with Tecoah Bruce. These were the people running the school?

The power outage in the tent at the big campaign launch party at Thom Weisel's house. In the middle of my passionate plea for support, the power went out, the mic went off, and nobody heard or saw a thing. The gardener, apparently, had shorted something. It was later determined that, in an effort to save some of their own philanthropic funds, certain board members (who shall remain nameless) had colluded with said gardener.

Getting locked in the Greyhound building during a donor tour (wasn't funny at the time).

Watching Julie Milburn pour hot chocolate for a crowd of students on the morning of the first day of classes at the new San Francisco campus. Truth be told, we were waiting for our occupancy permit to come through from the city. It was political (and it also wasn't too funny at the time). The permit finally came through about 20 minutes after classes were scheduled to start.

Gaining a pound for every million dollars we raised. I was a chubby president by the end.

What advice would you give to students interested in art school?

Know that great art and design schools feed the mind even as they teach the creative work in the studio. The two (creativity and intellectual study) are mutually nourishing and together form the fundamental paradigm for the best art and design education.

Michael Roth left CCA in June 2007 to become president of Wesleyan University, his undergraduate alma mater. He earned his doctorate in history at Princeton University in 1984 and began his teaching career at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate University. In 1987 he became founding director of the Scripps College Humanities Institute, a center for intellectual exchange across disciplines, and in 1997 he became associate director of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

What event or decision do you think was the most important for the school during your presidency?

There were two: reorganizing the college to promote cross-college and interdisciplinary work. With no more schools of Fine Arts, Architecture, and Design, we could facilitate work on a collegewide curriculum. The second was the name change to California College of the Arts, which allowed us to clarify our mission and identity to a broader public, particularly beyond the Bay Area.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as president?

The economic and educational necessity of enrollment growth. We decided to become a more robust, two-campus school, and that meant we needed to increase the size of the student body and the number of programs.

What adjectives would you use to describe CCA during your time as president?

Nimble. Innovative. Inclusive. Humane. Ambitious.

What is the achievement of which you are most proud?

The expansion of the applicant pool and the internationally recognized work of our faculty, our alumni, the Center for Art and Public Life, and the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. The development of residential life on the Oakland campus and the collaborative work of our First Year Program were great additions to the college. In San Francisco, progressing from a building to a campus will ensure a great future to those who create and learn there.

Tell us about something that you wanted to do but couldn't implement and why.

Swim team and equestrian club. No pool. No horses.

Convocation. We just couldn't bring enough students and faculty together in a community event at the beginning of each term.

Talk about some of the people you hired who made a difference at the college.

Susan Avila has built a first-rate Advancement department that has reinvigorated fundraising and alumni relations. Ralph Rugoff made an international reputation for the Wattis Institute during his tenure as director. Larry Rinder is a first-rate academic leader, and it was a great boost to bring him back to CCA. Sonia BasSheva Mañjon has put the Center for Art and Public Life on the map as one of the great community arts organizations in the entire nation. And Yves Béhar is an extraordinary designer, teacher, and departmental leader for Industrial Design.

What advice would you give to students interested in art school?

Learn through the arts to follow your passion, to discover what you really love to do. When you make this discovery, you can acquire the skills to continue to pursue this work in a way you can build on for the rest of your life.

What will you remember as the highlights of your tenure?

Building a board of generous, thoughtful trustees who love CCA and work hard to advance its mission. Developing a national reputation for the school that will benefit alumni and faculty as they continue to make work that will shape the culture of the future. Creating partnerships with local arts and community organizations on both sides of the bay, and connecting with nationally and internationally with schools and companies that foster creativity.

The great highlight, of course, was teaching the inspirational CCA students each semester.

Any final thoughts on your time at CCA?

I am very proud of what we—trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors—accomplished during my time at CCA. The college's position in arts education has never been stronger, and interest in its academic programs, public programs, and exhibitions only continues to grow. I would like to thank the entire CCA community for the support, creative spirit, and collegiality they showed me throughout my seven years at the college.

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Posted on Friday, September 14, 2007 by Kim Lessard

Ryan Pierce, Lofoten (detail), 2007

Ryan Pierce, a 2007 graduate of CCA's Graduate Program in Fine Arts, was one of just 15 students nationwide to receive a $15,000 MFA grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation in 2007.

This grant program was created in 1997 to help MFA painters and sculptors transition from academic to professional studio work upon graduation. The candidates are nominated by members of the academic art community across the United States. Images of their artworks are evaluated by an anonymous jury, which this year convened in April at the New York Foundation for the Arts.

The Joan Mitchell Foundation was established in 1993 as a nonprofit corporation following the death of the artist Joan Mitchell in 1992. The foundation seeks to demonstrate that painting and sculpture are significant cultural necessities. It aids contemporary American painters and sculptors by providing grants, stipends, and scholarships as well as organizing colloquiums, workshops, and other educational activities.

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Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 by Kim Lessard

This past spring, two CCA alumni participated in cinema's most prestigious event, the Cannes International Film Festival in France, May 16–27.

Ignorance is Bliss, an animated short film by Miriam Wilson (Illustration 2005) and her production company, Animated State, was shown in the short film corner.

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Posted on Thursday, August 9, 2007 by Hannah Eldredge

Hank Willis Thomas, 21st Century Soul Power, 2005/2006

CCA alumnus Hank Willis Thomas (MFA 2003, MA Visual and Critical Studies 2004) and CCA Photography professor Chris Johnson have won the 2007 Media Arts fellowship from Renew Media, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Thomas and Johnson received the $35,000 award for Question Bridge: Black Male, a documentary film that explores critically divisive issues within the African American male community. The project was initially conceived and produced by Johnson in San Diego in 1996. Recently, Thomas and Johnson teamed up to enhance it, using videotaped question-and-answer sessions.

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Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 by Hannah Eldredge

Detail from Kali Lewis's design for the office of See Advertising

The Angelo Donghia Foundation of New York has announced that Kali Lewis, a senior Interior Design student at CCA, is one of only 11 students nationwide selected to receive the prestigious Donghia Foundation Interior Design Scholarship.

The scholarship will cover senior-year tuition, board, and maintenance as well as books and other materials.

Lewis was nominated by CCA faculty and was required to submit both a residential and a nonresidential project that she had already completed. About her designs and her style Lewis observes, "Mobility and manipulation of space and objects are always things I end up playing with. A person's activities and mood shift daily, and design should be able to complement and adapt to those needs."

The Donghia Foundation, established by the internationally recognized interior designer Angelo Donghia, provides support for the advancement of education in the interior design field. Its senior scholarship program awards prizes to exceptional seniors in accredited, undergraduate interior design programs. A jury of professionals in the field, educators, and magazine editors selects the winner of each merit-based scholarship.

For more information about CCA's Interior Design programs, see Interior Design.

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Posted on Monday, July 16, 2007 by Brenda Tucker

Susan Cummins is director of the Rotasa Foundation, which supports exhibitions and publications of the work of contemporary jewelry artists. She owned the Susan Cummins Gallery in Marin County for 18 years, and in 1997 she helped found Art Jewelry Forum, a national nonprofit organization. She was on the board of the Headlands Center for the Arts from 1996 until 2000 and served as chair in 1998 and 1999. She is still deeply involved in arts advocacy and arts education, serving on the board of the Grabhorn Institute and the American Craft Council; at the latter she helped organize a recent conference entitled "Shaping the Future of Craft."

Raoul D. Kennedy is a partner in the San Francisco office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, LLP. A renowned civil litigator with more than 37 years of experience at both the trial and appellate levels, he is also an author, teacher, and active lecturer. A debate champion in college and a graduate of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall, Kennedy is a past president of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers and a member of all four by-invitation-only trial lawyer organizations, including the American College of Trial Lawyers. In 2005 he was named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the State Bar of California. He is an art collector and an ardent Giants fan, and he serves on the board at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Kay Kimpton Walker earned her degree from Vassar College and owned K Kimpton Contemporary Art gallery (formerly Ivory/Kimpton) in San Francisco from 1980 to 2006. An active member of the San Francisco Art Dealers Association, Walker served as president of that organization in 1990 and 1991. Since closing her gallery in 2006 she has focused her efforts on CCA's exhibition and writing programs as well as issues of mental health. She currently serves on the board of Friends of Langley Porter and on the National Council of McLean Hospital.

Carlie Wilmans is executive director of the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, which for decades has provided generous support to Bay Area arts organizations, including the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. Wilmans studied art history at Sonoma State University and the University of Texas at Austin. She is very active in local philanthropic and cultural organizations, including the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary, and she is a trustee at both the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the American Conservatory Theater.

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Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2007 by Kim Lessard

In June of last year, while Bay Area grade-school students were just settling into the bliss of summer vacation, more than one hundred of their teachers were in classrooms at California College of the Arts. For three days—unusually balmy ones for San Francisco—they listened carefully to instructions; shared paste, colored pencils, and construction paper; and worked thoughtfully together to complete assignments.

In one of their many workshops, the teachers were asked to consider circles—the numerous ways they exist in nature, for instance, and how humans have used them for centuries to solve problems. From seats on the floor, they offered up examples round-robin style. Once they had exhausted simple ones such as the wheel, doughnut, and compact disc, they had to delve deeper and think harder about the world around them. The red blood cell, ball bearing, and Hubble telescope lens kept the last few players in the game. Afterward, the group created artworks based on circles.

In another workshop, the teachers looked at slides of propaganda art. They compared Nazi recruitment posters with United States army posters from World War II to understand how composition, color, and other visual components made their respective messages effective. Then they took on the challenge of communicating messages to one another—at first using only words, then only images.

These activities were all part of the VALUES Project Summer Teaching Institute, organized by CCA's Center for Art and Public Life. Its purpose was to help teachers better understand how to teach art as a subject and how to successfully integrate it into general subject courses.

In fall 2007, due to a growing need for this kind of specialized instruction, CCA will begin offering an expanded version of the program, the Art in Education Teaching Institute. A comprehensive, year-round development program, the AIE Teaching Institute will be open to K–12 generalist teachers as well as teaching artists. It will feature classes that accommodate a variety of schedules as well as an Arts Learning Specialist Certification option for Alameda County teachers and teaching artists.

Those outside the art and education communities might not perceive the difference between teaching artist and art teacher. But there is a difference. Art teachers, like their colleagues in more traditional subjects, receive training through a teacher credentialing program. Teaching artists, however, are professionally trained artists who receive full or partial funding from third-party organizations to teach art in K–12 schools. They often present a solution for schools in which budget constraints, as well as administrative pressure to prioritize resources for traditional subjects, have resulted in a lack of adequate art programming.

According to Ann Wettrich, associate director of arts education for the Center for Art and Public Life, teaching artists are playing an even more crucial role today. Although there are schools who have managed to keep full-time art teacher positions in their budgets, there is currently a shortage of credentialed art teachers nationwide, so teaching artists are able to fill this gap as well. And now, with the recent decision by the California governor and state legislature to allocate $105 million in new annual funding to restore arts education to California's public schools, there is going to be even more demand for qualified individuals.

"The Art in Education Teaching Institute will give teaching artists the insight, understanding, and skills they need to collaborate successfully with schools, providing engaging art and art-integrated lessons that promote learning across all areas of the curriculum," says Wettrich.

For teachers of traditional subjects, the program will help them develop a deeper understanding of the kind of learning that takes place in the context of art education. Integrating these processes into math or science coursework, for instance, can help students (especially in schools without other kinds of art programming) develop skill sets that they might not otherwise. It can also affect how students learn traditional subjects. Consider, for instance, the exercise on circles as part of an introduction to high-school geometry. For some students, learning to connect math to the world at large in such a conceptual and tactile way is exactly what is needed to awaken their interest in the subject.

Jennifer Stuart, program manager for arts education at the Center for Art and Public Life, says, "The Art in Education Teaching Institute will give teaching artists and K–12 educators the tools they need to deliver an outstanding curriculum, but the overall goal is to foster an understanding of how ideas originating in contemporary art and progressive education can be used to create dynamic and effective learning experiences for all students."

The Art in Education Teaching Institute was developed by the Center for Art and Public Life in collaboration with the Alameda County Office of Education. For more information about the courses or to register for classes, see AIE Teaching Institute.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2007 by Kim Lessard

Two students of the MFA Program in Writing—Adam Nemett, who just finished his first year, and alumna Kate Colby (2003)—have received prestigious recognition by the literary community.

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Posted on Friday, May 4, 2007 by Brenda Tucker

Work by student Eva Garcia

The suggested dress was "up" and 720 guests came duly clad for an evening of food, fashion, and feeling good. The CCA Centennial Gala and Threads Fashion Show held on April 25 exceeded all expectations by bringing in nearly $600,000 in support of the college's scholarship program.

At 6 p.m., patrons began filling the vast Festival Pavilion—beautifully transformed by designer Stanlee Gatti—to enjoy cocktails and conversation, followed by a delectable dinner prepared by Taste. As patrons finished the last of their dessert, the curtains dramatically parted to reveal bleacher seats filled to the rafters with families, friends, and fashion enthusiasts there to enjoy the fashion show portion of the evening. President Michael Roth welcomed the crowd, which now numbered over 1,300.

But before the show could begin, there was a little business to take care of. Renowned San Francisco retailer Wilkes Bashford was honored for his contributions to the fashion community with the CCA Fashion Industry Award. President Roth then announced the winner of the Surface Emerging Talent Award. CCA fashion student Christopher Weiss will receive a trip to New York and his designs will appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

Then CCA trustee Judy Timken took the stage to announce the college's $25 million Centennial Campaign. She commented, "CCA's centennial is a momentous occasion to celebrate our past, to reflect on the hard work and values that brought us to this point, and to consider CCA's tremendous potential for the future." She informed the crowd that $22 million had already been raised, and she graciously thanked all the donors for their generosity.

The evening culminated with the runway fashion show, which featured original designs from the collections of 21 up-and-coming designers of the graduating class of 2007. With music thundering and lights flashing, professional models sauntered their way down the 130-foot runway, eliciting spontaneous bursts of applause. The production quality was high, and the show came off without a hitch, thanks to the efforts of CCA's Fashion Design faculty and students.

Gala cochairs Kay Kimpton and Allison Speer accepted the challenge of creating the college's 100th birthday celebration and turned it into CCA's most successful event to date. The college is grateful to them for their vision, leadership, and hard work. Special thanks also are in order to honorary chair Emily Carroll and the honorary committee.

The college is pleased to thank lead sponsors Osterweis Capital Management, Levi Strauss Signature, and Saturn, along with the evening's other sponsors. See Sponsors for a complete list.

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