Of all the truths that arts education can lay bare, one is always clear: great artists come from everywhere. Gifts of generative brilliance simmer in equal measure across communities, cultures, demographics, and countries. When we emancipate those gifts—and fulfill our fundamental mission as a community of artists—we unleash potential from every quarter.
That’s why it was so crucial to involve the whole spectrum of our community—faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees, and artists outside CalArts—when we crafted a collective vision for our future.
Now, as we move into a fresh year, these ideas will begin to shape tangible changes. Among them, we’re starting a system of shared governance that gives a robust voice to minority opinions and stands apart in higher education.
The new CalArts Assembly is the beating heart of this shift: a body that will move forward issues from the faculty, staff, and students and ensures that questions can come from every member of our community.
Hearing directly from the forward-thinking community at CalArts has encouraged other changes:
• Last spring, students made clear their concern about how the rising cost of a CalArts education could prevent students from returning the following semester. Motivated by this, we redeployed financial aid for continuing students who demonstrated financial hardship. We were able to accommodate each and every student who showed an inability to return to school because of increased tuition. The result: the highest year-to-year student retention in recent memory.
• We started to rework the entire financial aid process. We’ll be doing more to offer guidance and transparency to students: Our goal is to announce the amount of assistance available for need, the amount available for merit, and to explain the procedures for allocating both.
• In response to student requests we have added physicians on campus for the first time—we have more nurses and more access to preventive health and counseling services. Through partnerships with a local hospital, we were able to achieve this without additional cost to students or the Institute. We also centralized, renovated, and expanded campus health facilities.
• In another first, we’re pooling information from all the databases at CalArts to enable a central reporting tool. The upshot: we will be able to put all our institutional data to work tracking our progress in making CalArts stronger and deepening a culture of radical transparency—we want information to be available to all.
This is just a start. This year we will finalize the mission, values, and framework portions of our Strategic Visioning Project and publish it transparently for all. In addition, based upon community feedback, our priorities this year include technology, facilities planning, communications, and advancement. Several new leaders in these areas joined CalArts as we began the academic year, including Abigail Severance, Interim Dean of Film/Video; Veronica Alvarez, Director of the CalArts Community Arts Partnership; Nikhil Pillai, Director of Legal Affairs; Bailey Cool, Director of The Patty Disney Center for Life & Work; Lisa Seals, Director of Financial Aid; and Eric Greeny and Meredith Robbins, Vice Presidents for Development and Advancement.
As CalArts welcomes them, we bid farewell to a giant in our midst: David Rosenboom, who has served as The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts dean since 1990 and oversaw CalArts as acting president in 2011. David will leave behind a rich and inspiring model of progress when he retires from his role as dean at the end of the academic year.
David is the very epitome of the CalArts spirit, having fostered a host of new specializations, CalArts’s first doctoral program, and academic exchange offerings. These additions have opened doors of opportunity for countless students who’ve gone on to illuminate the world through their artistic practices. Across three decades, David made their success the core of his life’s work. Please join me in wishing him a meaningful, well-earned creative leave before we welcome him back to the music faculty in the fall of 2020.