The California College of the Arts Oakland campus is tucked away in the upscale neighborhood of Rockridge, a residential and commercial area within the Oakland city limits. At first glance, the campus appears to be an old, neglected building. However, the tiny campus does have a certain charm.
The San Francisco campus, which I did not visit, is the antithesis of the Oakland campus in that it is light, bright, and much newer. Once a maintenance facility for Greyhound Bus, its open floor plan lends itself to the interdisciplinary learning that takes place there. The San Francisco campus houses all the graduate programs as well as architecture, fashion design, film, furniture, illustration, graphic design, industrial design, interaction design, interior design, and painting/drawing. A shuttle transports students between campuses. There are just under 2,000 students at both campuses combined.
Founded in 1907, the Oakland campus is home to all first-year students, 80% of whom live in the residence halls. Although there is no dining hall on campus, students are happy using the neighborhood’s plentiful dining options as their dining pavilion – the campus is about 2 miles from UC Berkeley. All core classes take place on this campus, and it is home to 21 majors, including animation, ceramics, community arts, glass, printmaking, textiles and visual studies.
CCA students like to say they “don’t think outside the box, they recreate it altogether.” Students are encouraged to think globally and to engage in community. “Make Art that Matters” was the premise upon which the school was founded, and it still holds true today. The goal is to use art to impact culture and society by cultivating innovation, community engagement, and social and environmental responsibility. As an example, CCA was the first fashion program to institutionalize sustainability in fashion design.
Students at CCA take full advantage of their location and convenient access to the Silicon Valley. Internship opportunities with companies such as Adobe, Apple, Facebook, eBay, Dropbox, Hewlett Packard, Intel, LinkedIn, Pandora, Pixar, Sega, Yahoo, Yelp, twitter, Wired Magazine, Anthropologie, Gap, and Levi Strauss help to launch students into productive and rewarding careers. Within one year, 78% of graduates are working in fields related to art, architecture, design, and writing. Further, 25% of alumni own their own businesses. Based on mid-career salaries, California College of the Arts is ranked as one of the top schools of Art and Design. Career paths include gallery owners, entrepreneurs, animators, authors, jewelry designers, art directors, curators, product designers, and video game designers.
CCA offers three MBA Degrees: Design Strategy, Civic Innovation, and Strategic Foresight. They also offer a MFA in Film.
About a third of CCA student hail from states other then California; 22% of students are international. The average class size is 13, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1. Almost ninety percent of students receive financial aid. Merit aid for undergraduates ranges from $7,000 to $18,000 and is based upon GPA and strength of application portfolio. Support services are available for students with learning differences, though I did not get the impression that it is a well-developed department. Students have a first-year advisor that helps set up their program, after which they switch to faculty and academic advisors. There are no foreign languages offered at CCA, although students may take classes at Mills College or Holy Names University if they desire.
Students apply to CCA via the Common Application, and must submit a portfolio of 10- 15 pieces of recent work. Work does not have to be in any particular medium, nor does it have to be concentrated in the genre to which the student is applying.
As is true with art, things are not always what they appear to be. Although at first glance I was not impressed with CCA, once learning about the programs, chatting with the students, and exploring the campus, my feelings changed. For the raw artist who is passionate about his craft, his community, and his individuality, this is a school worth exploring.
Note: California College of the Arts is not related to the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.