California College of the Arts

A private college of art, design, architecture, and writing school located in California (USA)


California College of the Arts, also known as CCA, is a private college of art, design, architecture, and writing school located in California (USA). The CCA is headquartered in Oakland, where its main campus can be found. Another campus is located in San Francisco. 

Founded in 1907, the CCA offers 22 undergraduate and 12 graduate programs in the areas of fine arts, architecture, design, and writing. The college offers bachelor of architecture, bachelor of arts, bachelor of fine arts, master of architecture, master of arts, master of business administration, and master of fine arts degrees. More than 2,000 full-time students are currently enrolled, of which approximately 1,500 are undergraduates and 500 graduate students.

CCA is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA)



The California College of the Arts was founded in 1907 by Frederick Meyer to provide an education for artists and designers that would integrate both theory and practice in the arts. Meyer, a cabinetmaker in his native Germany, was involved with the Arts and Crafts movement and immigrated to San francisco in 1902. Here, he established a cabinet shop and taught at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. Shortly after the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed both his shop and the institute, Meyer publicly articulated his dream of a school that would fuse the practical and ideal goals of the artist.

Meyer founded the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley with $45 in cash, 43 students, three classrooms, and three teachers. In 1922, he bought the four-acre James Treadwell estate at Broadway and College Avenue in Oakland. The Oakland campus witnessed much new construction after World War II, and the college established a presence in San Francisco starting in the 1980s, using leased space for its architecture and design programs; the tremendous growth of those departments inspired the establishment in 1996 of a permanent campus in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, which continues to grow.

Since its opening in 1999, CCA’s San Francisco campus has been a paradigm of sustainability, and in 2001 it received a COTE Top Ten Green Building designation. Our intention is for CCA’s new, reconfigured campus to function at an even higher level of sustainability by serving as a learning center with its sustainability performance visible and understandable to the students, faculty, staff, and others who will use it. Studio Gang and the college are working with environmental experts from the Rocky Mountain Institute and Atelier Ten to help achieve these goals.

The College has changed its name up to four times:

  • 1907: School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts
  • 1908: California School of Arts and Crafts
  • 1936: California College of Arts and Crafts
  • 2003: California College of the Arts


CCA offers 22 undergraduate and 13 graduate majors. CCA confers the bachelor of fine arts (BFA), bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of architecture (BArch), master of fine arts (MFA), master of arts (MA), master of architecture (MArch), master of advanced architectural design (MAAD), masters of design (MDes) and master of business administration (MBA) degrees.

The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, located near the San Francisco campus in a new facility on Kansas St., is a forum for contemporary culture. In 2013 the Wattis Institute recruited a new director, Anthony Huberman, formerly of Artist’s Space in New York.

In 2018, U.S. News and World Report listed the California College of the Arts as having the 15th best Fine Arts program in the United States (tied with Stanford University and Temple University). PayScale lists CCA as the #1 art school in the United States for return on investment and #3 for average alumni salary (bachelor’s degree).

Notable Alumni and Faculty

CCA faculty and alumni have been on the forefront of seminal art movement over the last 50 years. They were pioneers of the ceramics revolution of the 1960s, which established that medium as a fine art; pushed forward the photorealist movement of the 1970s; led the Bay Area Figurative art movement; and made prominent work in Conceptual art, minimalist sculpture, painting, film, and contemporary graphic and product design.

Here are some of the most notable alumni and faculty:

  • Robert Arneson
  • Robert Bechtle
  • Squeak Carnwath
  • Rob Epstein
  • Viola Frey
  • Neil Grimmer
  • David Ireland
  • Wolfgang Lederer
  • John McCracken
  • Richard McLean
  • Manuel Neri
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola
  • Nathan Oliveira
  • Dennis Oppenheim
  • Lucille Tenazas
  • Hank Willis Thomas
  • Michael Vanderbyl
  • Martin Venezky
  • Peter Voulkos
  • Wayne Wang

College Mission and Vision

California College of the Arts educates students to shape culture and society through the practice and critical study of art, architecture, design, and writing. Benefitting from its San Francisco Bay Area location, the college prepares students for lifelong creative work by cultivating innovation, community engagement, and social and environmental responsibility.

As an educational and cultural institution, CCA believes in fostering the artistic and academic excellence of their students and faculty.

  • They aim to cultivate intellectual curiosity and risk-taking, collaboration and innovation, compassion and integrity
  • As a global citizen and good neighbor, CCA believes in its role as a proponent of social justice and community engagement
  • They promote diversity on our campuses by improving access and opportunities for underrepresented groups, and we see this endeavor as vitally enriching for everyone
  • They value sustainability and believe that as a school of the arts we have a unique ability and an ethical responsibility to shape a culture that is more environmentally responsible
  • They understand the importance of creative economies and the role of artists, designers, architects, and writers in solving social, cultural, environmental, and economic problems

Sustainability Goals

As a college of art and design, CCA has an ethical responsibility to shape a culture that’s environmentally responsible. students are the people who will be creating the objects, environments, and experiences of the future. As such, they actively work toward sustainability in design, construction, operations, and curriculum.

To catalyze the learning opportunities inherent in the new San Francisco campus, CCA will expand and enrich its sustainability curriculum to involve all academic programs, and the campus itself will serve as a laboratory for sustainable practice, where makers can experiment and innovate. Learning will happen everywhere and will be visible to all.

The college has outlined ambitious sustainability objectives, including strategies for the following:

  • Water and energy generation, usage, and conservation
  • Healthy air quality
  • Environmentally safe artmaking materials and practices