“CalArts is the principal thing I hope to leave when I move on to greener pastures. If I can help provide a place to develop the talent of the future, I think I will have accomplished something.”—Walt Disney


“One of the truly successful experiments in American arts education.”—The Museum of Modern Art

Deep into his fabled career, Walt Disney conceived of a new school for nurturing future generations of creative talent: a multidisciplinary “community of the arts” built around the real-life experience of working artists instead of the conventions of the academy. Moreover, the school would remove the walls separating the creative disciplines and encourage artists from different branches to mix and collaborate as a way of sparking new ideas and methods.

Walt and his brother Roy started making this vision a reality in 1961 when they formed California Institute of the Arts through the merger of two existing L.A. schools for art and music.

A decade later, in 1970, the new college, CalArts, opened its doors to offer programs in art, design, film, music, theater and dance. It turned out to be a fiercely countercultural version of Walt’s utopian concept, and yet the Institute immediately became a hotbed of artistic originality.


In the half-century since then, successive generations of innovators from CalArts have set the leading edge of contemporary artistic practice—from conceptualism, feminist art and design, video and computer music in the School’s early years, to the Disney Renaissance, Pixar Revolution and SpongeBob; from interdisciplinary performance and digital design to the latest directions in creative music, interactive media, hybrid arts and immersive experience.

Along the way, the Institute and its alumni have helped fuel the rise of a multifaceted L.A. creative scene that is among the most dynamic in the world, and inspired similarly enterprising artistic communities across East Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Today’s CalArts community—high-achieving, eclectic, globally connected—encompasses a greater breadth and diversity of artmaking than at any point in the Institute’s history. What new forms and expressions will this generation contribute to our culture?