We visited California College of the Arts (CCA) in late August when the school wasn’t in session.
We started off on the Oakland campus and took an hour and a half tour. Then we went to the San Francisco campus for another hour and a half tour. We learned that the Oakland campus is slated to close over the next two to three years as CCA transitions to an expanded San Francisco campus.
That’s a shame because while it will be more efficient for students who have to travel back and forth, the Oakland campus has a rustic “sleepaway art camp” vibe that is very appealing. It was my first time to Oakland, and my husband who grew up in Monterey, was wary of the location. His impression was that it was unsafe. It turns out that Oakland has been in the process of gentrifying over the last five years. Single home prices have shot up from $85k to $400k, pricing out our Uber driver for example. The benefit is that the area has changed and feels quite safe. Once you are on the CCA Oakland campus though, it does feel like you are not in a city at all. You feel like you are in a safe and woodsy cocoon. The students we met were both ethnically diverse and friendly.
The way CCA is set up now is that freshman are housed in Oakland in apartments or dorms. They take most of their classes in Oakland. The dorms do not have a cafeteria, so students either shop at the local supermarket which is very close to the school, or use a Zip car to make a weekly run to Costco. They tend to form small groups who shop and cook together; often prepping and making food for the week at one time. The Oakland campus currently is where Animation, Ceramics, Glass, Jewelry and other fine arts are located. The San Francisco campus has Industrial Design. Industrial Design and Animation are the school’s two largest majors.
The San Francisco campus is polar opposite to the Oakland one. Housed in a warehouse-type of building, it’s a sleek but cozy space that is much larger than it appears. Tucked away inside on different floors are studio spaces, administrative offices, and other areas of design including architecture.
There are dormitories near the San Francisco campus that are new and sleek. The expansion is to occur on the back of the building where the parking lot currently resides. CCA on one location or two won’t seem to diminish the school in any way, though many alum will mourn the old Oakland campus which will be turned into an art school for younger kids so will retain it’s artistic roots.
Here are two videos that I shot of both campuses. Overall, I was surprised by how much I liked CCA and I was impressed with the quality of students, student work, and the program itself. It’s easy to have a great experience here.
p.s. More about Art Colleges from our college tours:
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