Best Art Colleges California

The arts have long been an essential part of humankind. They encourage imagination, creativity, reflection, and expression, connecting people from different backgrounds, geographies, disciplines, and perspectives.

Of the many branches of arts, fine arts are among the broadest. It refers to paintings or murals, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, pottery, digital media, prints, and other arts created for visual appeal instead of practical use.

Creative individuals like you can improve their fine arts skills and knowledge to produce more aesthetically pleasing pieces by obtaining a degree. Doing so allows you to earn while doing something you’re passionate about. You can practice privately as a freelancer, sell your art pieces, or be employed.

Related Programs For You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Currently, there are three best art colleges in California where students can get their fine arts degrees. These schools meet the following criteria:

  • An annual average cost of no more than $35,000
  • An expected median starting salary of $30,000
  • Have accreditations and recognitions

We ranked them from the lowest to the highest annual average cost. To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the list, all data were obtained from the websites of the specific schools, the U.S. Department of Education, and accreditation bodies.

Best Art Colleges California With Fine Arts Programs

1. University of California-Los Angeles

4 Year; Los Angeles, CA

Annual Average Cost: $15,023

UCLA is among the oldest universities included in the 10-campus University of California System. It has consistently been included in reputable global and national rankings for schools, such as U.S. News and World Report, Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, and National Research Council.

The university’s acceptance rate is quite low at less than 20%, because of high ACT and SAT score requirements. That said, about 95% of those who succeeded and enrolled in the university come back for their sophomore year.

Meaning, that they’re satisfied with the quality of education received. After all, 82% of students graduate within four years, while 18% finish their degrees within six years

School of Arts and Architecture Departments

As a large public research educational institution, UCLA has 12 highly-ranking and recognized Colleges and Schools divided into several departments. Its School of Arts and Architecture is among the best art school in the country.

This isn’t surprising since UCLA is the University of California System’s flagship campus. It is also known for its diversity, equality, and inclusion principles.

The School of Arts and Architecture has four different academic departments. The fine arts-related programs are under the Department of Arts (DDA) and Department of Design/Media Arts (DDMA) umbrellas.

Art-Related Events, Activities, and Facilities

Future artists, and even the most experienced artists, can take great inspiration from galleries, museums, and other art facilities. That’s why most universities or colleges offering art courses, whether fine arts, visual arts, or performing arts, have their own facilities to conduct certain activities.

UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture has its own historically distinguished museums. These museums display a collection of anthropological, contemporary, and historical art pieces.

The Fowler Museum focuses on non-Western and indigenous American cultural wonders and arts. It has a collection of hundreds of thousands of past and present works from Asia, Africa, America, and the Pacific.

On the other hand, the Hammer Museum connects contemporary arts to classic arts through its diverse collections, exhibitions, and programs. It is considered a cultural center where artists and enthusiasts gather and engage through fine arts, music, and literature.

The Hammer Museum is also where dialogues and sharing of ideas about pressing issues and current events related to arts take place. Here, students, alumni, staff, and faculty members usually hold exhibits, concerts, workshops, dance productions, lectures, and symposia. These events are part of their outreach programs and for an enhanced and broader experience.

That said, the school has its Center for the Art of Performance that holds performances of World Arts and Cultures/Dance students and other performing artists. There’s also a cosmopolitan area for experimentation and study, reflecting student and faculty diversity.

Apart from these, fine arts students will benefit from spacious, state-of-the-art, well-equipped workrooms or studios for hands-on experience and skills development.

Programs for Fine Artists

Every program offered by the two departments meets the highest standards of innovation and excellence while encouraging creative production and interdisciplinary inquiry. These programs aim to combine creativity with research to address and not overlook general worldwide issues, such as climate change, health, and urbanism.

The school made it possible through constant collaboration with the other departments and the use of its research centers, namely:

  • Art/Sci Center
  • Art and Global Health Center
  • cityLAB
  • UCLA Game Lab
  • Counterforce Lab
  • Conditional Studio
  • Grunwald Center Collection for the Graphic Arts
  • xLAB

Moving on to the programs students can enroll in, the Department of Arts offers the Master of Fine Arts, Major in Arts, and Bachelor of Arts with concentrations in any of the following:

  • Ceramics
  • Interdisciplinary Studio
  • Painting and Drawing
  • Photography and Sculpture
  • New genres (i.e., Sound, Moving Image Installation, Performance Installation, and Hybrid)

On the other hand, the Department of Design/Media Arts offers Bachelor of Arts, Design, or Media Arts and Master of Fine Arts Major in Media Arts programs.

Each program is rigorous and innovative, combining critical studies, liberal arts scholarship, and studio-based practice. This advanced holistic approach will help empower and motivate students to become cultural leaders of the 21st century and beyond.

Also, highly accomplished and distinguished professionals will teach, guide, and train you. Most of them earned accolades such as National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, Guggenheim Fellowships, and MacArthur Fellowships.

2. California College of the Arts

4 Year; San Francisco, CA

Annual Average Cost: $33,122

CCA has a long history of producing some of the most popular artists, designers, architects, and more. It was established in 1907 and has two campuses (Oklahoma and San Francisco).

Like UCLA, it has received several recognitions, such as one of the Best Undergraduate Art Schools by Salary Potential and the 22nd Most Diverse Colleges in the USA for 2022. This small, non-profit private college currently has high acceptance and retention rates of around 78% and 82%, respectively.

Students enrolled in the San Francisco campus can take advantage of the thriving industries and creative communities around the Bay Area. They can deepen their practice, participate in collaborations, and learn from design and art leaders.

Department of Fine Arts

The fine arts department is committed to the college’s mission, vision, and goal. As such, it prepares future artists for a lifetime of creative work through community engagement, innovation, and socio-environment responsibility.

Its curricula are designed to educate students to shape society and culture through their creativity. Like UCLA, the CCA values diversity; in fact, it has a five-year strategic plan that includes:

  • Curriculum and pedagogy development
  • Enhanced socio-economic, racial, and global diversity among faculty, staff, students, and trustees
  • Building a campus community supporting and valuing diversity

CCA also has additional housing to accommodate more students and plans to expand its San Francisco campus by adding state-of-the-art teaching facilities.

Art-Related Events, Activities, and Facilities

Both CCA campuses host over 150 collaborative virtual and in-person exhibitions, lectures, and other events annually. These are open not just to students, faculty, and staff but also to the public.

For this reason, apart from well-equipped and modern studios and workrooms, CCA has multiple galleries and shops for their students and graduates.

The Hubbell Street Galleries hosts student-curator and/or faculty-led art shows that serve as a bridge between the college and the local San Francisco community. The CCA-graduate-run storefront gallery, PLAySPACE, is located a block away from the CCA SF campus. It hosts a year-round program of exhibitions of projects made by visiting artists, faculty members, and students.

The university’s San Francisco campus’ most popular facility is the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. It serves both as a research institute and an exhibition space.

In other words, it hosts art shows and commissions new creations from established artists. It also showcases works of first-time or emerging and under-recognized local, national, and international artists.

Sometimes, it dedicates an entire year to focusing and reflecting on a single artist’s work or creation. Activities include publications, public programs, and intimate reading group activities with local artists, students, art historians, CCA faculty members, and prominent artists and critics.

Programs for Fine Artists

CCA offers more than 10 fine-art-related programs, including Individualized Studies. This self-directed degree is designed for those whose jobs or professions intersect multiple fields.

All programs have curricula emphasizing visual literacy, critical thinking, cross-disciplinary applications, and hands-on studio craft. The quality of education provided ensures graduates become artists who will positively contribute to local, regional, and global communities.

The undergraduate Bachelor in Fine Arts concentrations you can choose from are as follows:

  • Animation for television and film
  • Ceramics
  • Film
  • Game Arts
  • Glass or Glassmaking
  • Jewelry and Metal Arts
  • Painting and Drawing
  • Photography
  • Printmedia
  • Sculpture
  • Textiles

Those who want to further their studies can enroll in any of the master’s degrees offered by CCA. This way, they can gain more skills and knowledge for personal growth and career advancement. Your choices include:

  • Fine Arts
  • Film
  • Dual Degree
    • MBA in Design Strategy and MFA in Design
    • MA in Visual and Critical Studies and MFA in Fine Arts
    • MA in Visual and Critical Studies and MFA in Writing
    • MA in Visual and Critical Studies and MA in Curatorial Practice

3. Academy of Art University

4 Year; San Francisco, CA

Annual Average Cost: $32,593

This family-owned, award-winning mid-sized private university helps designers and artists master their crafts. It’s around the neighborhood of big giants in the architecture, animation, advertising, communication, web design, and game development industries.

Like the other two best art colleges in California, AAU has an all-inclusive admissions policy. That said, they ensure they focus on the student’s potential instead of their past and background.

Because of this, it’s not surprising that the university has a 100% acceptance rate, but its graduation rate is only less than 30% within four years. Nonetheless, the graduation rate within six years is above 80%, and the retention rate is above 70%.

School of Fine Arts

Like the rest of the university’s schools, the School of Fine Arts has a curriculum designed to ensure students develop their talents and acquire new skills.

Not only that, but the practice-based approach will encourage each student to find and develop their style. At the same time, it helps blend technical skills, talent, professional knowledge, and creative aspirations.

They will also be exposed to the world of arts, have an opportunity to showcase their works and learn how to find representatives and apprenticeships. This way, they will have a readily-available portfolio upon graduation.

Art-Related Events, Activities, and Facilities

The school is committed to providing both online and onsite students with a hands-on learning environment. As such, it offers not only state-of-the-art, well-equipped studios, equipment laboratories, shops, and studios. It also has real-time event and lecture streaming through the school’s platform and social media accounts with fully-equipped studios.

These facilities support productivity, investigation, and curiosity while ensuring students are fully prepared for their chosen careers once they graduate.

The Academy of Art University has seven different galleries across San Francisco to further inspire and motivate students. These galleries showcase and promote the creations of the university’s faculty, alumni, and students.

The School of Fine Art also hosts workshops, guest-speaking activities, and other events to build partnerships or collaborations and connections with professional artists and other professionals in the industry.

In fact, the Waterhouse Gallery’s Diane Waterhouse has long been the Academy of Art University Spring Show’s guest. The Waterhouse Gallery has also featured and is continuously featuring the artworks of some of the university’s alumni.

Programs for Fine Artists

No matter what specific fine arts-related program you choose to enroll in, AAU’s School of Fine Arts ensures you have a good foundation of the basics before moving to fine arts’ commercial and artistic aspects. The programs available for future fine artists are as follows:

Both online and onsite students will be taught by qualified and experienced professionals. These experts provide enriching lectures, activities, and detailed, constructive criticism.

Students also provide constructive feedback on their peers’ works for a more collaborative learning environment. As such, the programs will help them work on their weaknesses and develop their artists’ eyes.

Related Programs For You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
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