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Fall 2020 Letter from the President

Posted October 7, 2020, 10:46 AM

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I am writing to you with an update on California College of the Arts as we begin our 114th school year. While the COVID–19 pandemic reshapes every aspect of life, at CCA we are finding purpose in caring for our community and in the power of creative work.

Caring for our students amid COVID–19

The health and well-being of CCA students, faculty, and staff is our top priority, and the safety of our community has driven every decision as we’ve navigated the disruptions of the pandemic. We had planned to offer a hybrid learning experience this fall—part in-person and part online. Spikes in California COVID–19 cases, however, altered public health recommendations, and CCA pivoted to a plan for all online instruction. Thanks to extraordinary faculty and staff efforts, we’ve reimagined our curriculum so our culture of making, collaboration, and critique can be meaningfully delivered online. Faculty and staff from each program are working to meet the challenge of ensuring students stay safe while remaining on track to earn their degrees.

Caring for students extends beyond the classroom. Throughout the spring and summer CCA continued to house students who could not return home due to travel restrictions or had no other home to go to. We also launched a Student Emergency Fund campaign that raised $32,000, which has been awarded in full to over 40 students with immediate needs. This is in addition to our goal to raise $1.5 million for scholarships this year. If you would like to help, please visit

Taking action to promote anti-racism, equity, and social justice

The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked a national reckoning and ongoing movement that is reframing the meaning of responsible citizenship. As an institution whose mission is to shape culture and society through the practice and critical study of art, architecture, design, and writing, CCA has a responsibility to address its own structural inequities; find ways to support and center our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color students, faculty, and staff; and meaningfully promote social justice and civic engagement throughout our community.

We know that a culturally diverse and inclusive campus is integral to academic excellence. We recognize that our college is not immune to the systemic racism and structural inequities that devalue and disempower many members of our community. Pledging energy and resources, CCA is defining and implementing reparative steps that are definitive, measurable, and transparent. We will publicly track some of these commitments and our progress toward realizing them at We invite you to hold us accountable, and we encourage every member of our community to join in this critical work.

Unifying CCA’s campuses

In late August we opened Founders Hall, the college’s first on-campus housing in San Francisco. While currently operating at reduced capacity for the health and safety of students and staff, Founders Hall will provide below-market housing for more than 500 students when fully occupied—roughly 25% of CCA’s student body.

With the opening of this new residence hall, CCA took another important step toward unification, an achievement that will significantly improve the educational experience for our students. We remain committed to expanding the San Francisco campus and reimagining it as a sustainably advanced living-learning center for talented art and design students. The CCA Board of Trustees is taking care to ensure this process continues while safeguarding the mission, values, and fiscal health of the school. Though the April 14, 2020, groundbreaking ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic, the board is evaluating the appropriate timing to commence construction. From start to finish, construction will be a two-year process.

In the meantime, we will continue operations on our Oakland campus, welcoming students, staff, and faculty back to campus when it is safe to do so. The opening of Founders Hall enabled CCA to close Clifton Hall, the Oakland campus student residence, and CCA is in the process of selling the property to the City of Oakland, which will repurpose it as much-needed deeply affordable housing for families and seniors.

Alumni accolades

The vitality, passion, and talent of CCA alumni continue to be an inspiration to our community. I’m pleased to share a small sample of the remarkable work they are engaged in:

  • Toyin Ojih Odutola’s (MFA Painting/Drawing 2012) acclaimed exhibition A Countervailing Theory at the Barbican in London was the subject of an article by Zadie Smith in the August 17, 2020, issue of the New Yorker.
  • Lee Mingwei (BFA Textiles 1993) and renowned choreographer Bill T. Jones collaborated to produce Our Labyrinth, a performance work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s MetsLiveArts program.
  • Miriam Hillawi Abraham (MFA Interaction Design 2019) received a prestigious Graham Foundation grant for her innovative virtual reality project that explores power dynamics in Ethopian society.
  • Sumie Yamashita (BFA Fashion Design 2006), senior designer at Michael Kors, was featured as an “unsung hero” of fashion in the September 2020 issue of Vogue.

And don’t miss CCA’s Class of 2020 Showcase, an online presentation of exceptional work by our most recent graduates from all four divisions of the college: Architecture, Design, Fine Arts, and Humanities + Sciences. Visit it at

As we navigate the challenges of this moment, we remain focused on our values and our vision, preparing creative young people to imagine, develop, and design a better future. Thank you for all you do to support CCA students to make a difference in the world.


Stephen Beal