California College of the Arts: An Easy Choice

Graphic DesignIf finding the best college fit is all about options and decisions, then California College of the Arts (CCA) is sitting pretty. Why? Simply put, the location, history, and course offerings of this small arts college combine to create a wide-ranging combination of options without the need for much compromise.

Let’s start with location. CCA resides where the open-minded and creative culture that defines northern California slams head-on into our hi-tech future. Twitter, Pinterest, Adobe, Pixar, and Intel are just a few neighbors that the college draws from for educational inspiration and contributes to, in the form of future employees.

Two seemingly opposite campuses in Oakland and San Francisco actually complement each other by fusing their two aesthetics. The historic Oakland site is where CCA began more than 100 years ago. The Arts & Crafts movement is readily apparent in this lush, residential-style and almost camp-like setting, which is also home base for the school’s First Year Program and freshmen housing.

Oakland campus

Oakland campus

Fittingly, it’s also home to the more traditional and craft-focused programs of ceramics, printmaking, photography, textiles, glass, jewelry, and sculpture. The San Francisco campus is the urban pair of this duo. The culture and tempo here fit its industrial and mixed-use setting, footsteps from the University of California’s biomedical research campus and the Dogpatch neighborhood that is bursting with artisan studios.

Major offerings here include painting and drawing, and the design-focused programs of architecture and interior design, graphic design, industrial design, and furniture design. Students decide their major by the beginning of sophomore year, giving upperclassmen the chance to live on either side of the bay. The college shuttle provides an easy connection between the two.

The depth and breadth of course offerings are front and center in the San Francisco campus main building. The “nave” of this light-filled former Greyhound bus terminal acts as display and critique center for class projects, constantly changing throughout the year. More importantly, it’s a hub of activity and cross-pollination for the college’s 22 undergraduate and 13 graduate majors, providing fodder for the stimulating interdisciplinary and exploratory vibe here.

Critique in the Nave

Critique in the Nave

David Asari, Assistant Chair for Graphic Design, explained that CCA’ers learn how to figure things out. The institution’s must be present to win attitude inspires “students to take responsibility and ownership, and give back to others,” he said. Student critiques are just one way “they develop the thinking and confidence skills to run the show in a few years.”

Due to its long-standing reputation, CCA has developed some top-ranked programs, each attracting faculty that are leaders in their respective fields. A few to check out include the internationally known ceramics program and the fashion design program, which was recently ranked as one of the best in the world. One of the campus’ newest programs is Interaction Design. It doesn’t focus on the form and material of Industrial Design, but rather on how people interact with objects. Think smartphones, apps, TV, etc.

Delve into CCA’s excellent website to learn more. Better yet, go visit. Make a day of it to ensure you see both campuses. It’ll be worth your time. They are making a difference and changing lives here. It’s all in their tag line: Make Art That Matters.

Interested in researching a specific college or program? Let me be of help. In the meantime make sure to catch all the latest Art.College.Life. news on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Creating Working Artists

otis dot eduOTIS College of Art and Design is one of those small gems tucked into a corner of the thriving metropolis that is Los Angeles.  I visited the Elaine & Bram Goldsmith Campus last month, and basked in its creativity and warmth.  It’s a small campus – packed with vitality and vision.

An independent school of art and design, OTIS offers BFA degrees in eleven majors – with most classes taking place in the seven-story “cube,” the striking Kathleen Ahmanson Hall.  Initially built as the headquarters for IBM Aerospace in the early 1960’s the space has been completely renovated into working studios as classroom space.  The result: spacious, collaborative and noisy (in the good way) working environments.  Each floor is dedicated to a different department.  Artwork from the different disciplines lines the walls of each floor.  If you can’t remember which floor you’re on, just look at the wall art.  Seriously!  Upperclassmen have their own desks.

freshmen drawing class - large 2About 1200 attend the school – including grad students – which provides lots of opportunity for one-on-one time with professors.  Brooke Randolph, Assistant Dean of Admissions explained that students don’t need to declare a major until sophomore year.  In fact she said, “the first year here is dedicated to foundation classes, giving students the time and chance to explore.”  A Foundation Forward course is even available to help identify the right major.

The school’s nurturing emphasis is pervasive.  The First Year Experience (FYE) program kicks into full gear even before you step on campus.  With the goal of ensuring a fun and successful transition to college life, there are upper class peer mentors to guide you, “O” orientation week, and FYE experiences that extend into your classes.

Each major has its own distinct curriculum which could lead to an insular single-minded frame of reference.  Not possible; OTIS’s goal is to create working artists, and to give you a real-world education.  So, all students are required to take part in the Creative Action program, an integrated team-building experience where you’ll rely on the varied strengths of your peers in multiple majors to resolve problems for real institutions and businesses.  Experiences have included building a sensory garden for the Junior Blind with a xylophone wall of different sounds for each room, and a trip to China to help the world’s largest wooden toy company move to more sustainable materials.

Clearly, this is not a typical college in a number of ways.  Physically it occupies a large block in the hubbub of the city, near to beaches, the airport, and affluent west side communities.  Housing is provided for all first year students (freshmen or transfers) in a luxury apartment building a short 10-minute walk from campus. (Nice!)  A website offers resources for upper classmen to locate nearby apartments.  Parking is free and available for all students.

I have to say, my only frustration with OTIS was in trying to find information on their website.  But according to Brooke a new site is coming soon.

Want to learn more about the creative environment of Los Angeles and how it pertains to OTIS graduates?  Read OTIS’ 2012 Report on the Creative Economy.

Postscript: I won’t be blogging next week, but watch for a post I’m researching about the business aspects of being an artist.  Also, if there are any other specific topics you’d like to read about please let me know.