Five ways CCA helps you make art that matters

If you want to use your art to make a difference in the world, California College of the Arts is the art college where you can do it.

We believe that creative people have an impactful role to play in solving some of the world’s toughest challenges. Artists can give a voice to the voiceless and elucidate social issues from unique and compelling vantage points. Designers and architects can make the world more livable for everyone, overcoming thorny challenges with elegant solutions.

CCA’s call to action, “make art that matters,” is an overarching philosophy, a mission statement that permeates every course we offer, every faculty member’s work, and every student experience.

Here are five examples of how students in the innovation hub of the Bay Area make art that matters at CCA:

1. The Annual IMPACT Awards

Since 2011, California College of the Arts has been awarding $10,000 grants to teams of students whose projects “best emphasize interdisciplinary engagement, social entrepreneurship, and collaborative relationships with a community locally or abroad.” Students are encouraged to participate and collaborate through online networking, in-class information sessions, and grant proposal workshops.

Juries of professional practitioners choose the winning proposals after a rigorous selection process. Over the past five years, 23 worthy projects have received funding. The most recent award winners include:

  • Facility improvements and support for an understaffed school in rural China.
  • Notebooks and a tutoring program for schoolchildren in Bogota, Columbia.
  • The renovation and reopening of a Navajo boarding school in Utah as “a place for creation and community engagement.”


The ENGAGE at CCA program is all about making connections. Coordinated through the Center for Impact at CCA, the program brings interested students and faculty together with community organizations for mutually beneficial projects. CCA faculty integrate ENGAGE projects into their curricula, giving their students practical opportunities to refine their craft while making an impact in the real world.

For one recent ENGAGE project, ceramics students collaborated with a local nonprofit group to design nesting modules for the threatened rhinoceros auklet birds living on Año Nuevo Island, off the Pacific coast just south of San Francisco.

3. Design sprints

The operating principle behind CCA’s design sprints is that a lot can be accomplished in two or three days — when the right people are working together. These partnerships with local industry leaders and organizations challenge participants to focus their creativity and their energy into solving a community problem with design thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Sprints have included:

  • Working with Google on ways to spur positive change in East Palo Alto, Calif.
  • Brainstorming with the Center for Investigative Reporting on ways to “rethink human interaction around the news.”
  • Coming up with new ideas to encourage safe interactions between cyclists and drivers in Silicon Valley.

4. Micro-grants

The Center for Impact at CCA awards $500 grants to student initiatives for community engagement. These micro-grants have funded projects like a short documentary about a therapeutic arts program in a residence for the formerly homeless and a short, illustrated memoir about Vietnamese heritage and Vietnamese-American identity.

5. CCA Connects

For art college students with career aspirations, gaining real-world experience, industry connections, and portfolio material is essential. The CCA Connects program allows them to do just that — while making a difference helping a community organization.

Students accepted into the CCA Connects program are given a one-year, paid externship with a carefully chosen community organization, such as:

  • The Children’s Creativity Museum
  • Oakland Technical High School
  • SOMArts

Will you make art that matters?

How do you plan to use your art to make an impact in your community and in the world? How can an art college help?