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Guide to the California Institute of the Arts Collection
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Collection Details
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  • Administrative Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Administrative History of the California Institute of the Arts Collection
  • Bibliography
  • Chronology
  • Scope and Contents of the Records
  • Index Terms

  • Administrative Summary

    Creator: California Institute of the Arts
    Title: California Institute of the Arts Archival Collection
    Dates: 1925-1988
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1960-1972)
    Quantity: 66 cubic feet
    Repository: California Institute of the Arts. Library.
    Valencia, California 91355-2397
    Abstract: California Institute of the Arts was established in 1961 with the merger of Chouinard Art Institute (founded 1921) and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music (founded 1883). This merger became the nucleus of Walt Disney’s dream of a community of the arts, the only professional training ground in the United States for all the visual and performing arts. The collection covers the years 1925 to 1988, with the bulk of the material ranging from 1960 to 1972.
    Physical Location: California Institute of the Arts Archive
    Identification: CalArts-001
    Language of Material: English

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    This collection is open for research with permission from California Institute of the Arts Archive staff.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with California Instittue of the Arts. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact California Institute of the Arts Archive staff.

    Related Material Located in the California Institute of the Arts Archive Archives

    Unprocessed collections with related material are located in the Cal Arts Library Archives

    Preferred Citation

    California Institute of the Arts Archival Collection. California Institute of the Arts Archive, Valencia, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Records in this collection were deposited by California Institute of the Arts as part of the California Institute of the Arts Archives.

    Processing Information

    Preliminary arrangement by library staff. Processed by History Associates Incorporated, 2005-2006.


    Future additions are anticipated.

    Administrative History of the California Institute of the Arts Collection

    The California Institute of the Arts, commonly known as Cal Arts, was born in 1961 as Walt Disney’s dream of an ideal environment for artists of different media. Cal Arts is located in Valencia, California, and grants degrees in visual and performing arts. Incorporated on September 1, 1961, it was the first degree-granting institution of higher learning in the United States created specifically for students of both the visual and the performing arts. It was the dream and vision of Walt Disney to create such an institute, who provided funding for it in his will. Initially formed through the merger of the Chouinard Art Institute (founded 1921) and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music (founded 1883), it opened at its present campus in Valencia, California, in November 1971.
    The Los Angeles Conservatory was founded by Emily J. Valentine in 1883. Originally located at 408 South Main Street, the Conservatory eventually occupied buildings on South Figueroa Street and Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood as well as the Pilgrimage Theatre, which was part of the Hollywood Bowl facilities. In September 1962, the Conservatory joined Chouinard in the California Institute of the Arts and moved to 607 South Park View Street, Los Angeles.
    Chouinard Art Institute was a professional art school founded in 1921 in Los Angeles, California by Mrs. Nelbert Chouinard (1879-1969), and was incorporated in 1935 as a non-profit educational institution. Between 1955 and 1957 Chouinard received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. In less than a decade the Chouinard Art School was listed among the top five art schools in the nation, a position it occupied for the rest of its fifty-one-year history. But, in 1955 Chouinard was in financial trouble. The financially fragile school asked for and received money from the Walt Disney Studio. It was at this time that Walt Disney began his efforts to straighten out the managerial and financial affairs of the school. During the next five years Walt injected the planning, the funds, and the management talent required to resuscitate the school, and set it toward the goal that he envisioned for the school. Until his death, Walt Disney made up Chouinard’s deficit each year.
    Coincidentally, while Walt was investigating the possibility of Cal Arts, the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music was undergoing financial difficulties of its own. After three-quarters of a century of existence, the Conservatory, too had suffered reverses and needed help. This help was supplied by Mrs. Lulu von Hagen and Thornton Ladd of its Board of Trustees. In this period, Mrs. Von Hagen and Mr. Ladd were brought together with Walt Disney, and out of a union of Chouinard and the Conservatory, Cal Arts emerged.
    California Institute of the Arts was incorporated on September 1, 1961, and the first Board of Trustees meeting was held the following March. Chouinard and the Conservatory began operating under the name of the Institute while the Trustees began working on the establishment of a permanent campus and a development program. Preparation continued in 1964, when the “ Cal Arts Story” was dramatized on film by the Disney studios and shown at the world premiere of “ Mary Poppins” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. Prior to the “ Mary Poppins” premiere, whose proceeds were donated to Cal Arts, Walt Disney and Mrs. Von Hagen introduced the Institute to an audience of 1500 guests in the fifteen-minute special film. Following the showing of the short film and “ Mary Poppins,” the guests attended a champagne reception hosted by Technicolor Corporation. Among those who attended the Premiere were Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and numerous other Hollywood luminaries.
    Walt’s dream would cost a great deal of money. Administrators devoted much of their time to investigating government loans and finding affluent patrons around Southern California. In October 1965 James Jackson was elected Director of the Institute by the school’s Board of Trustees. Jackson had joined Cal Arts in 1964 as a consultant in planning and development, after which he served as Acting Director. As Director, Jackson drew up the applications necessary to secure federal assistance in the construction of the campus. The eventual result of these applications was a $2.2 million federal grant and a $2.8 million federal loan, which, together with the guarantees provided by the Disney Foundation, assured the building of the new campus.
    Land for a campus was acquired in 1967 and planning for the physical facilities was immediately undertaken. Disney interests had discovered a simple solution to their land acquisition problem – give Cal Arts part of the Golden Oaks Ranch in Newhall. The 728-acre ranch had belonged to Walt Disney Productions for years. In 1967 the gift property was sold back to the Disney interests so they could find a more spacious and suitable site. Price proposed a 60-acre site down the road from the Placerita ranch, on the edge of the rural town Valencia, located 32 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. At the time, the area was remote from Los Angeles, bordered by Placerita Canyon State Park and a national forest, yet readily accessible to downtown Los Angeles. Other locations had also been considered, such as the Hollywood Bowl area.
    Ground was broken for the new campus on May 3, 1969. The proposed grand opening in October 1970, however, would come and go by the time classes were to begin. Construction was frustrated by torrential rains and labor troubles of every variety. So, instead the “new” school began its first year in the buildings of Villa Cabrini Academy, a former Catholic girls’ school on the edge of downtown Burbank. Woefully behind schedule and over budget, the Valencia campus finally opened in November 1971.
    Harrison Price, vice-chairman of Cal Arts board of trustees, led the search for a president competent to run the vast program planned for Cal Arts. The search ended with the appointment of Dr. Robert W. Corrigan as the first president of the Institute. Corrigan, former dean of the School of Arts at New York University, was attempting to create a similar mix of artistic disciplines as those that were going to be attempted at Cal Arts.
    Corrigan was installed in December 1967. In February 1968, Corrigan was joined by his friend, Herbert Blau, then co-director of the Repertory Theatre of New York’s Lincoln Center. Blau was named provost of the Institute and Dean of the School of Theatre and Dance. Corrigan and Blau worked together to choose the new deans and key faculty people for Cal Arts, who would then select faculty for their own departments. Following Corrigan’s installation, the Development Office at Retlaw Enterprises, Inc. was closed, and development activities were transferred to Cal Arts. The Board of Trustees primary charge to Corrigan was to create totally new programs, “A Community of the Arts” through inter-related schools of Music, Theatre, Film, Art, and Design. By November 1971 all five schools moved to the new, permanent site of Cal Arts in Valencia.
    Corrigan held his position until 1972, when he was replaced by William S. Lund, a Disney son-in-law, a Stanford B.A., active in business, real estate, and economic counseling. Lund assumed the position of Chairman of the Board of Trustees as well as Chief Administrative Officer for the Institute. In February 1975 Robert John Fitzpatrick accepted the presidency of Cal Arts. Prior to his installation as president, Fitzpatrick had been dean of Students at John Hopkins Hospital University in Baltimore, Maryland since 1972, and a member of the Baltimore City Council since 1971. Fitzpatrick was getting ready to run for Congress when Cal Arts called to offer him the presidency of the institution. Fitzpatrick took strident measures to open up the campus, develop new bases of financial support, and strengthen the board of trustees.
    Admission to Cal Arts was based solely on artistic ability and potential. Students received intensive professional training in the area of his/her career purpose without being cast into a rigid pattern. Instructional emphasis was placed on the development of the professional artist – the artist of tomorrow. “There is an urgent need,” said Disney, “for a professional school which will not only give its students thorough training in a specific field, but will also allow the widest possible range of artistic growth and expression.”


    Economic Research Associates. “ A Historical Summary of Cal Arts,” July 13, 1967.
    Real, James. “ When You Wish Upon A School,” in West, 1972.


    1883 Los Angeles Conservatory of Music founded
    1921 Chouinard Art Institute founded
    1961 Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Chouinard Art Institute merged under the leadership of Walt Disney into the California Institute of the Arts, 1961
    September 1, 1961 Cal Arts Incorporated; Mrs. Richard R. Von Hagen, first chairman of the Board of Trustees
    July 1963 Women’s Board (later Women for California Institute of the Arts) established.
    January 1964 Accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges
    November 1966 Need and Concept – a major planning study – approved
    December 1966 Death of Walt Disney.
    April 1967 Valencia, California, selected as permanent site for the Institute
    September 1967 Harrison Price elected chairman of Board of Trustees
    December 1967 Robert W. Corrigan appointed President
    February 1968 Herbert Blau appointed Provost and dean of the School of Theatre and Dance
    July 1968 The President and Provost assumed office.
    January 1969 Expansion of Board of Trustees initiated
    March 1969 Announcement of $54 million fund raising goal, spurred by $5 million Disney Foundation grant
    March 21, 1969 President Nixon presented Walt Disney Medal to Mrs. Walt Disney. Members of the Walt Disney Associates (Founded February 1969) a support group of the Institute’s Development Program received bronze replicas of the original gold medal.
    April 1969 First student accepted
    May 3, 1969 The "Great Ground Breaking" at Valencia
    July 1969 Deans and their staff in residence
    September 1969 First Institute catalog published
    November 1969 Student selection process begun
    December 5, 1969 Walt Disney Associates established
    August 1970 Villa Cabrini, Burbank, selected as interim campus. Faculty (approximately 80) in residence
    September 1970 Faculty – 126 in residence
    October 5, 1970 Sessions begin
    October 12, 1970 First 12 month academic year begins with 659 students at provisional campus
    September 1971 Second academic year began in Valencia at permanent campus

    Scope and Contents of the Records

    This collection is comprised of architectural drawings, photographs, correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, and other records pertaining to California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. A majority of the records in this collection relate to the foundation, planning, and development of Cal Arts as an institution. The collection covers the years 1925 to 1988, with the bulk of the material ranging from 1960 to 1972. This collection also contains records pertaining to the City of the Arts, Seven Arts City, Walt Disney, and Walt Disney Productions.
    With the exception of the Walt Disney Commemorative Medal in series 6, the Spring Fair button in series 6, and a few photographic prints scattered throughout other series, this collection consists largely of textual records. Textual record types primarily include correspondence, newspaper clippings, reports, notes, and financial material. The largest series in the collection is the Chouinard Art Institute series. Other large series include the Cal Arts planning and foundation series, the Board of Trustees series, the administrative records series, and the development and fundraising series.
    Series 15 contains subject files, which includes miscellaneous records, and records related to Cal Arts, but not created by Cal Arts. Of significance, are records pertaining to the City of the Arts, Seven Arts City, Walt Disney, and Walt Disney Productions. The Walt Disney records include engagements attended by Walt, and records collected by Walt’s secretary, Tommie Wilck. The Walt Disney Productions records include correspondence, WED correspondence, publicity records, and a newspaper clipping file pertaining to Walt Disney Theme Parks.
    The collection is organized into fifteen series:
    • Series 1: Los Angeles Conservatory, 1914-1969
    • Series 2: Chouinard Art Institute, 1925-1974
    • Series 3: Administrative Records, 1963-1985
    • Series 4: Board of Trustees, 1961-1981
    • Series 5: Departmental/Office Records, 1962-1989
    • Series 6: Development and Fundraising, 1957-1987
    • Series 7: Events, 1964-1986
    • Series 8: Faculty and Staff, 1962-1986
    • Series 9: Financial Records, 1964-1969
    • Series 10: Cal Arts Planning and Foundation, 1960-1980
    • Series 11: Presidents/Directors Records, 1964-1975
    • Series 12: Publications, 1963-1987
    • Series 13: Publicity, 1967-1983
    • Series 14: Students and Alumni, 1963-1987
    • Series 15: Subject Files, 1941-1979

    Index Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, Calif.)
    Chouinard Art Institute
    Chouinard, Mrs. Nelbert
    Corrigan, Robert
    Disney, Walt
    Fitzpatrick, Robert
    Jackson, James
    Los Angeles Conservatory of Music
    Valentine, Emily J.
    Von Hagen, Lulu
    Walt Disney Productions

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Genres and Forms of Materials

    Architectural Drawings
    Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)