The CalArts Degree Program

CalArts School of Art - Painting Winter Session
CalArts School of Art - Painting Winter Session
One of the defining elements of the CalArts experience is our ethos of experimentation, and nowhere is this more clear than in our radical pedagogy. A CalArts education is unlike any other, and this fall will be no different.

Across campus, the entire community has been working to prepare plans for how to maintain the excitement and rigor of our degree programs while also acknowledging the realities of COVID-19. This includes thinking though how you'll take your courses, engage with faculty and collaborate with your fellow artists. 

Below we’ve included some of the details of our fall plan, and we’ve also prepared responses to some of the more frequently asked questions.

Read the FAQs

The Fall Academic Experience

Class Formats

Each class this fall will follow one of three models: entirely remote learning, a hybrid model that blends remote and in-person learning, and fully in-person learning. Lecture-oriented classes are likely to follow the entirely remote model, while classes with some small-group work and lab or studio-based work will follow the hybrid approach. Entirely in-person classes typically include movement-  and performance-rich offerings and those that depend heavily on equipment housed on campus. Students will have access to studios, labs, and shops, with physical distancing and other safety protocols in place, in order to complete independent work.

Open Doors – No Matter Where You Are

For students who can’t be in Los Angeles County this fall, CalArts will make sure the academic experience remains as fully and robustly available as possible. No matter where you are, opportunities will be in place for remote learning, collaboration across schools and metiers, and distanced  community engagement. This stands for international and any other students, including first-year students, who may be unable to travel to Southern California. We will work with all admitted students who can’t get to campus to develop a curricular path that will help you enroll even if on a part-time basis.

A True Community

As we explore what it means to be creative in these historic days, we’re adapting not just the class experience but many dimensions of CalArts life. You may have already joined in as Thursday nights have migrated online. Expect to see more innovation in that vein – new thinking that brings us together in the spirit and traditions of our vibrant community. Our physical distance should be an opportunity in addition to a challenge. How we continue to bind together will be a test of our creativity.

Faculty Mentoring

The Role of the Mentor

Each student at CalArts is assigned a faculty mentor. The role of the mentor is to guide the student in the development of their creative work through one on one meetings, direction in selecting courses in the metier each semester and yearly written mentor reports. These relationships often extend beyond the classroom, and it is not uncommon for mentors and mentees to pursue creative collaborations post-graduation.

Faculty mentors are all artists working and teaching in the same field as their mentees. Some students find that they form strong bonds with their assigned mentors, while other students may gravitate toward the work and guidance of other faculty.  The diversity of our faculty allows for a richness of shared creative experiences through both formal and informal relationships, and students will work closely with a variety of faculty members throughout their degree program.

Mentor Assignment

Mentors are typically assigned late in the summer. Students can view their mentor assignment in the Hub by following the “Academic Profile” link under the WebAdvisor menu. Students will have time to talk with their mentors during New Student Orientation in September. Mentors and mentees also typically meet during Course Advising Day to discuss each student’s proposed plan of study for the semester.

BFA Critical Studies Curriculum

An integral part of the BFA experience is the Critical Studies curriculum. In addition to its two graduate programs, the School of Critical Studies is also responsible for the development and delivery of a general education curriculum that prepares and encourages students to consider aesthetic questions within larger socio-cultural, ethical and political contexts.

The foundation of the Critical Studies curriculum is the Level-100 sequence, which includes our cornerstone critical writing course in the fall semester, and Intro to Critical Studies, followed by a writing intensive special topics course in the spring. This two-course sequence is required of all BFA students who transfer in fewer than 15 units of Critical Studies applicable coursework.

As part of each student’s overall degree completion, they are expected to complete a total of 46 units of Critical Studies coursework, 8 units of which must be completed on campus through coursework offered by the School of Critical Studies, as well as other Critical Studies Residency approved courses focused on areas from among the humanities, cultural studies, science, math, social sciences, computer science, or creative writing. All other units may be completed through coursework approved by the School of Critical Studies, through academic-oriented courses offered by each of the Schools or through transfer credit.
In order to make timely progress toward degree completion, BFA students are expected to take 5-6 units of Critical Studies coursework each semester (this semester by semester benchmark may be slightly different for students transferring in credit from a previous institution). With the exception of the Level-100 sequence, all Critical Studies courses enroll online with certain restrictions based on year level:

  • 200-level courses are open only to BFA1s and BFA2s
  • 300-level courses are open only to BFA2s and above who have met the Level-100 prerequisite
  • 400-level courses are open to BFA3s and above who have met the Level-100 prerequisite 

In addition to the overall units requirements, students should also be aware of  the specific area requirements that must be completed. These include Humanities, Social Sciences, Cultural Studies, and Science and Math. All other course requirements may be selected from a range of disciplines, ranging from computer programming to creative writing. Students may also choose to pursue a Critical Studies minor if there is a particular area of interest that they wish to focus on more intently.

More information about specific requirements can be found in the course catalog.

Visit the Catalog

Information About the Schools

Visit the School sections to learn more about the School of your Interest