Above is a short film titled The CalArts Story, made in 1964 by Walt Disney Productions about the founding vision of California Institute of the Arts. Walt Disney first presented this film at the Hollywood premiere of Mary Poppins. Uploaded with permission.
Today, California Institute of the Arts houses six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—and offers internationally acclaimed degree programs across the range of visual, performing, media, and literary arts. CalArts also operates the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex located in downtown Los Angeles, and leads the county-wide Community Arts Partnership (CAP) youth arts education program. Following is an account of CalArts’ history over more than five decades:
Walt Disney develops plans for a new school for the performing and visual arts where different disciplines commingle under one roof.
Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney guide the merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, founded in 1883, and the Chouinard Art Institute, founded in 1921, to form California Institute of the Arts. The Disney brothers are joined by Lulu May Von Hagen, chair of the Conservatory.
After receiving accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, CalArts is introduced to the public by Walt Disney in a fundraiser at the Hollywood premiere of Mary Poppins. The original concept presented by Disney envisioned a campus in the hills above the Hollywood Bowl. (When this proposed location later became unavailable, the new campus was eventually re-sited to Valencia, 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.)
Walt Disney dies. His plans for CalArts proceed nonetheless with the support of the Disney family and other benefactors.
Robert W. Corrigan, dean of New York University’s School of the Arts, becomes the first president of CalArts. Herbert Blau, co-director of the Lincoln Center Repertory Company, is appointed provost. Blau takes the lead in designing a radical educational model that favors independent artistic work over rigid curricula, collegial relationships among a diverse community of artists over hierarchies of teacher and student, and continuous interaction and cross-pollination among the different branches of the arts over the self-containment of each discipline.
Corrigan and Blau assemble a high-powered faculty by recruiting some of the most innovative and unorthodox voices in the arts. This new faculty includes now-iconic figures such as artists John Baldessari, Allan Kaprow, Alison Knowles, Nam June Paik and Miriam Schapiro; designers Peter and Sheila DeBretteville; choreographer Bella Lewitzky; film director Alexander MacKendrick; animation pioneer Jules Engel; composers Mel Powell, James Tenney and Morton Subotnick; ethnomusicologist Nicholas England; sitar maven Ravi Shankar; and poet Emmett Williams, among others. Many are associated with the interdisciplinary Fluxus movement of the 1960s.
California Institute of the Arts accepts its first students.
“The Great Ground Breaking” starts construction of the permanent CalArts campus in Valencia, at the time a “new community” exurb north of the city.
CalArts begins its first academic year at an interim campus at Villa Cabrini in Burbank. It offers degree programs through six schools: Art, Critical Studies, Design, Film, Music, and Theater & Dance.
New campus opens in Valencia, with more than 650 students enrolled for the fall semester.
Faculty members Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro establish the Feminist Art Program—the first such course of study in American higher education. Its counterpart is the Women’s Design Program, headed by Sheila DeBretteville.
Following the earlier departure of Robert Corrigan, Robert J. Fitzpatrick, professor of medieval French literature and dean of students at Johns Hopkins University, is appointed new president of CalArts.
CalArts receives a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Challenge Grant—one of the first such grants ever awarded to an arts training institution.
President Robert Fitzpatrick serves as director of the hugely successful Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival. The largest U.S. arts showcase held to date, the festival features more than 400 performances by an eclectic array of artists from the globe, with an emphasis on experimental and avant-garde practices.
Robert Fitzpatrick resigns as president to head Euro Disney in Paris. Nicholas England, former dean of the School of Music, is appointed acting president.
Steven D. Lavine, associate director for arts and humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, becomes president of CalArts.
CalArts launches the Community Arts Partnership (CAP), a youth arts education program that links the Institute with community arts organizations and, later, public schools. The program’s first community partners include Plaza de la Raza and the Watts Towers Arts Center. By 2011, CAP offers more than 40 free arts education programs to youth between the ages of 10 and 18.
CalArts and Capitol Records–EMI begin an annual tradition that continues to date: the production of a CD featuring original works by students in the Jazz Program, recorded at the famed Capitol Studios in Hollywood.
First-ever capital campaign aims to raise $60 million over five years.
The Institute sustains damages totaling more than $15 million during the Northridge earthquake. Classes continue in trailers and off-campus sites during the spring semester. Restoration of the campus is completed ahead of the fall semester.
The School of Critical Studies offers a new Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree program in writing.
The Herb Alpert Foundation joins with CalArts to establish the Alpert Award in the Arts—five $50,000 fellowships given each year to “early mid-career” artists in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theater and visual arts. The awards are administered by CalArts on behalf of The Herb Alpert Foundation.
CalArts exceeds capital campaign goal, raising a total of $71 million.
The Center for Integrated Media offers a new supplemental concentration for students in most MFA programs who work with digital and interactive media across disciplines.
As plans take shape for the construction of Walt Disney Concert Hall—being designed by Frank O. Gehry—longtime benefactors Roy E. and Patty Disney provide initial funding for a separate CalArts performance space and gallery: the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), named after Roy E. Disney’s parents.
The Cotsen Center for Puppetry and the Arts is established at the School of Theater.
The Institute inaugurates the Center for New Theater as the professional producing arm of the School of Theater. Its debut production is Bad Behavior, by Richard Foreman and Sophie Haviland.
The School of Theater launches the MFA Writing for Performance Program, with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks serving as director.
The New York-based Board of Overseers is established as an advisory panel.
Economic impact study shows that CalArts contributes more than $47 million each year to the economy of Southern California.
Mark Murphy is named executive director of REDCAT. Eungie Joo is appointed curator and director of the Gallery at REDCAT. The programming at CalArts’ new downtown center for innovative visual, performing and media arts is divided into three parts: work by high-profile international artists, work by emerging Southern California-based artists, and work developed at CalArts. Many of the artists featured at REDCAT are to visit the Valencia campus to give lectures, lead workshops and conduct master classes.
The School of Art and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London join forces to publish the international art journal Afterall. This partnership continues until 2010.
REDCAT opens in downtown Los Angeles in November. The state-of-the-art venue is dedicated during a 24-hour gala celebration.
The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance is dedicated in memory of the longstanding CalArts benefactor.
The MFA Writing Program publishes the first issue of Black Clock, a literary journal edited by faculty member Steve Erickson.
A team of School of Theater students and faculty travel to Scotland to present work at the world-famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe. CalArts has been represented at the festival every summer since.
REDCAT announces the summertime New Original Works (NOW) Festival, a showcase for emerging Southern California-based artists with fresh, often interdisciplinary approaches to live performance.
The School of Theater hosts the first annual Arts in the One World Conference, an international forum co-presented with Interdisciplinary Genocide Study Center in Kigali, Rwanda. The conference focuses on art as a means for peace-building.
CalArts becomes the first American film school to be honored with a full retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, entitled Tomorrowland: CalArts in Moving Pictures, and covering more than 35 years of student work.
Austin M. Beutner succeeds Lawrence J. Ramer as Board of Trustees chairman.
The Center for New Theater is expanded into the CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), a production entity encompassing music, dance and interdisciplinary performance in addition to theater. Linking the artistic resources of CalArts with the wider professional community, the CNP serves as a platform for the development and realization of daring original work. The CNP’s premiere production is What to Wear, an experimental opera by Richard Foreman and Michael Gordon, presented at REDCAT.
The $125 million Campaign for CalArts enters its public phase with a star-studded gala at REDCAT. Of this amount, more than $105 million has already been raised during the quiet phase of the campaign.
CalArts breaks ground for The Wild Beast, a variable-use, indoor-outdoor music pavilion. Designed by architects Hodgetts + Fung, the facility is named after composer Morton Feldman’s metaphor for the ineffable generative force in art. The extensively outfitted performance and rehearsal space will allow the School of Music to better serve a growing student population and support an expanded curriculum.
The Alpert Award in the Arts is raised from $50,000 to $75,000, making the annual fellowships one of the largest unrestricted grants given to individual artmakers.
CalArts inaugurates The Herb Alpert School of Music following an historic $15 million endowment gift from Herb and Lani Hall Alpert. In conjunction with the naming of the school, CalArts announces its first-ever doctoral program: The Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) Performer-Composer Program, scheduled to launch in 2009.
The Campaign for CalArts reaches its $125 million fundraising goal nine months ahead of schedule. To take advantage of this momentum, the Institute raises the campaign’s fundraising target to $150 million and extends its duration by six months through the end of FY 2009.
The School of Critical Studies enrolls the first students in the new one-year Master of Arts (MA) Aesthetics and Politics Program.
CalArts President Steven D. Lavine is the only college president to serve on Barack Obama’s National Arts Policy Committee. As Obama later wins the 2008 presidential election, his administration becomes the first in history to enter office with a national arts policy. This policy emphasizes public-private youth arts education programs of the type pioneered by CalArts’ Community Arts Partnership (CAP).
The third annual REDCAT Gala marks the 20-year anniversary of Steven D. Lavine’s tenure as Institute president.
REDCAT and The Wooster Group, the internationally famed performance ensemble, announce a four-year partnership during which the Group will present work at the downtown venue as a resident ensemble.
The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance launches The Next Dance Company, a resident ensemble that each year comprises the entire BFA graduating class. The company’s aim is mirror the types of professional experiences students are likely to encounter after graduation.
The Campaign for CalArts concludes on June 30, reaching a fundraising total of $152 million and surpassing its upwardly revised goal of $150 million. More than 3,300 individuals and organizations contributed to the campaign.
The Community Arts Partnership (CAP) receives gifts totaling more than $2.5 million from The Herb Alpert Foundation, The Eisner Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation.
Roy. E. Disney, one of the Institute’s staunchest supporters over the years, dies.
Already in use for months as a rehearsal space and classroom, the Wild Beast music pavilion is officially dedicated in the spring of 2010.
CAP marks its 20-year anniversary with a celebration at Creative Artists Agency and a series of “20 for 20” master classes conducted by 20 distinguished “artist ambassadors” with the aim of inspiring young artists.
Travis Preston, a faculty member for the previous 10 years and the long-serving artistic director of the CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), is named dean of the School of Theater.
Reflecting its worldwide reach, CalArts announces the formation of the new Office of International Relations to direct and manage the Institute’s ever-growing number of global initiatives and partnerships.
In October, an alumni reunion, entitled “Tomorrow Started Here,” celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Institute. More than 700 alumni, faculty and current students attend.
The School of Art launches East of Borneo, a collaborative art journal and multimedia archive, with Dean Thomas Lawson serving as editor in chief.
The Herb Alpert School of Music opens the Machine Lab, a research facility dedicated to the development of robotic musical instruments and new performer-computer interfaces.
REDCAT is one of the key venues hosting RADAR L.A.: An International Festival of Contemporary Theater.