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Supporting the Next Generation of Pioneering Artists

California Institute of the Arts has launched an important effort called Students First to support the next generation of exceptionally gifted, hard-working artists. Our goal is to raise $25 million over the next three years, to help prepare our students for life after CalArts.

A Legacy of Ambitious Achievement California Institute of the Arts was launched in 1970 to educate artists in new, profound, and lasting ways. Building on Walt Disney’s original concept of different arts influencing each other under one roof, CalArts implemented a progressive educational philosophy that continues to thrive. The Institute strongly supports: • • • • • •

the distinctive personal voice experimentation independent critical inquiry collaboration one-on-one faculty mentoring of student artists admissions based on artistic merit

As a result, CalArts has been widely recognized internationally as a hub of creative innovation, and has pioneered numerous artistic breakthroughs: • • • • • •

computer-generated music video art post-conceptual art experimental animation postmodern graphic design new integrations of technology with live performance

A Changing Landscape Since its founding, CalArts has stayed ahead of changes in creative practice, investing in technology and facilities, and hiring top faculty to enable our students to produce cutting-edge work and pursue dynamic careers. But in the wake of the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression, we are now at a crossroads, as our graduating students are facing unprecedented levels of financial and competitive pressure. The rapidly changing professional landscape leaves our graduating students—no matter how creatively well-trained—economically vulnerable at the most important stage of their young careers. To prepare them to launch and sustain their artistic professions during those critical early years after college, we must take decisive action.

Through Students First, We Can Effect Change The $25 million raised by Students First will confront the problem from two directions.

$5 million will establish a new Center for Life and Work. The Center’s important programs will enable our students to more effectively launch careers as creative professionals.

$20 million will grow CalArts’ strategic fund for scholarships — both need-based and merit. The resulting tuition assistance will significantly ease the often-overwhelming burden of school loan debt faced by so many young people today.

Through Students First, We Can Empower a New Generation of Artists.

“CalArts polished me in terms of being able to articulate my ideas in my work. The creative freedom that students enjoy there and the dedication of the faculty are enormous. CalArts has been, and continues to be, one of the most important voices in the contemporary art world.” Catherine Opie Award-winning artist, Wasserman Scholar, mfa Program in Photography and Media, graduated in 1988.

ABOVE, FROM LEFT: Chicken, from the “Being and Having” series, 1991, C-print, 17" × 22” edition of eight. © Catherine Opie; Catherine Opie in her studio; Shivia, 2003, C-print, 31 ¼" × 24 ¾" framed, edition of five. © Catherine Opie.

The Center for Life and Work: The Bridge from Student to Professional Today’s independent creative professional often must perform several jobs at once: artist, administrator, entrepreneur, marketer, financial manager, and publicist. Artists may also have to cultivate multiple income streams—even parallel careers— to finance everyday living while, at the same time, investing time and resources in artmaking. With an unsettled economic landscape facing our graduates, we have a greater obligation than ever before to prepare them for post-graduation. We must establish a dedicated resource to equip all students, as well as recent alumni, to meet the realities and challenges of a life in the creative world. This resource is the Center for Life and Work. Under the Office of the Provost, the Center for Life and Work will help students acquire a wide range of practical proficiencies, including financial literacy, grant writing skills, and marketing strategies, augmenting the creative tools that CalArts already provides.

“Internships are a test for putting all that you’ve learned in class and school productions into practice in a career setting. At 651 Arts, I’m helping to produce events, but the position also involves day-to-day management, board of directors cultivation, and strategic planning. Being hands-on has allowed me to sharpen my skills in performing arts administration— and this experience will be vital throughout my career.” Aaron L. McKinney mfa Producing/Management Program, graduated in 2013, interned at 651 Arts in New York in his last semester and was recently hired by the arts organization as an assistant producer.

The Center will offer students: A sequential, multi-year program that begins with the early identification of individual goals. A series of workshops to help students and recent alumni build a comprehensive professional toolkit for work in the arts and related fields. Counseling and mentoring so our students can develop career and life management skills, envision realistic career paths, and devise flexible survival strategies. Access to CalArts alumni for both real-world career advice and to help students connect with a network of established artists and potential employers. A robust program for placing students and graduates in meaningful internships with creative industry leaders, so that those artists can begin on a professional track and gain practical experience.

Led by an experienced Executive Director with a national overview of the best practices in the field, the Center for Life and Work will additionally hire a dedicated Manager to coordinate internships, workshops, and alumni mentorship programs. A third full-time staff member— a professional Career Coach—will meet with students on an individual basis to help weigh the myriad choices they face regarding courses, internships, summer jobs, and finances, and how these choices could affect their future prospects after college.

Average graduating student indebtedness

$60,619 (2011-12 academic year)

CalArts Student Debt Annual Average Borrowing

A Critical Point in Higher Education


• Outstanding U.S. student loan debt now totals $1 trillion. • Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever. • CalArts students and families are caught between rising college costs, reduced federal/state aid, and sluggish income.





A Snapshot on Student Debt •












• •

CalArts is proud to have long cultivated our student population’s demographic diversity—among the highest for comparable four-year institutions. Such diversity is also consistent with high levels of student loan indebtedness. At CalArts, more than 80 percent of students qualify for and receive federal student aid. Government grants are not keeping up with the need.

Jessica Castillo Wasserman Scholar, bfa Program in Photography and Media, graduated in 2012.

Photo: Ana Garcia, Image courtesy of the photographer

“Coming from a divorced, lower-middle class, secondgeneration immigrant household, money is very hard to come by. I wouldn’t have been able to finish—or for that matter, begin—my CalArts education if scholarship assistance had not been available.”

Reducing the Burden of Debt During the ongoing financial crisis, CalArts has pursued every possible efficiency to contain costs. We recognize that students and their families make a significant financial commitment to a CalArts education, and we continue to ensure that every tuition dollar is used to deliver the highest-quality learning experience possible. We have maintained our individualized, mentorship-focused educational model, and have further developed our curricula to meet the needs and aspirations of students—and to remain at the forefront of U.S. arts colleges. At the same time, we have increased levels of financial aid as much as has been possible. Admission to the Institute—among the most selective in the nation—is based on artistic talent and promise of achievement, not financial means. Despite our distinguished history and outstanding reputation, when other schools can offer both generous need-based and merit scholarships, that affects our ability to compete for the most talented students. For many of our alumni, the burden of school loan debt is overwhelming, forcing them to seek steadier employment outside the métiers in which they excel, juggle multiple jobs, or leave the arts altogether. In a globally competitive world, we cannot afford to squander the enormous creative potential of those young, well-trained artists who would be the innovators of tomorrow.

An investment of $20 million in our strategic fund for scholarships will provide desperately needed tuition assistance for hundreds of students each year.

New scholarships will: Ensure that more highly gifted and qualified students can come to CalArts. Help students remain in school for their full residencies. Allow students to graduate with either no student loan debt or manageable amounts of debt. Empower students to pursue their artistic careers without the crushing financial burdens faced by so many college graduates today.

Preparing CalArtians for a Promising Future Our highest priority is to nurture the talents of our exceptionally hard-working students so that they can become pro-active, self-sufficient arts professionals and leaders. Just as CalArts pioneered new methods of teaching and learning to spark the creativity of young artists, we must: • Relieve the burden of debt so students can pursue their creative goals. • Expand each student’s portfolio of creative and professional life skills. • Ensure that graduating students are able to capitalize on their unique arts training. Students First will directly and effectively address these pressing needs.

Students First, Always The remarkable achievements of our alumni are the result of their artistic talent and personal dedication. But they also reflect how much care CalArts puts into the education of every student. During this time of economic uncertainty, the Students First initiative will help CalArts foster a successful future for our graduates. The Students First initiative seeks to relieve our graduates of a daunting financial burden, and it aims to optimize the way our students begin their professional lives as artists. The ultimate goal of Students First is to make sure that our students’ tremendous talent can flourish. We are asking our friends and supporters to help make this effort a reality. The future depends on the creativity and imagination of our young people; and CalArts students are among the most creative and imaginative in the world. They depend on your support.

For more information on Students First, contact: BIANCA ROBERTS Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer, CalArts 661.253.7707 or

Students First  
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