Administrative History of the California Institute of the Arts Collection
Scope and Contents of the Records
California Institute of the Arts
Title: California Institute of the Arts Archival Collection
Date (bulk): (bulk 1960-1972)
66 cubic feet
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
Language of Material:
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research with permission from California Institute of the Arts Archive staff.
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
California Institute of the Arts Archival Collection. California Institute of the Arts Archive, Valencia, California.
Records in this collection were deposited by California Institute of the Arts as part of the California Institute of the Arts
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
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
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,
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.
||Los Angeles Conservatory of Music founded
||Chouinard Art Institute founded
||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
||Women’s Board (later Women for California Institute of the Arts) established.
||Accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges
||Need and Concept – a major planning study – approved
||Death of Walt Disney.
||Valencia, California, selected as permanent site for the Institute
||Harrison Price elected chairman of Board of Trustees
||Robert W. Corrigan appointed President
||Herbert Blau appointed Provost and dean of the School of Theatre and Dance
||The President and Provost assumed office.
||Expansion of Board of Trustees initiated
||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.
||First student accepted
|May 3, 1969
||The "Great Ground Breaking" at Valencia
||Deans and their staff in residence
||First Institute catalog published
||Student selection process begun
|December 5, 1969
||Walt Disney Associates established
||Villa Cabrini, Burbank, selected as interim campus. Faculty (approximately 80) in residence
||Faculty – 126 in residence
|October 5, 1970
|October 12, 1970
||First 12 month academic year begins with 659 students at provisional campus
||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 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
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
Los Angeles Conservatory of Music
Valentine, Emily J.
Von Hagen, Lulu
Walt Disney Productions
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Genres and Forms of Materials
Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)