The Roots of CalArts
In response to “A Tradition of Tradition-Be-Damned” by David Wharton, April 15:
Once again the CalArts story is told without reference to its real roots: the Chouinard Art Institute and the L.A. Music School, the building blocks for Walt Disney’s “university of the arts.”
It began in 1929 when Disney had no money and Madame Chouinard agreed to train his first animators on a pay-later basis. He never forgot and over the years watched the Chouinard Art Institute grow into the finest art school on the West Coast.
When he became involved in saving the school from financial embezzlement in 1957, it became his model for a dream school, its faculty well prepared for the broadly based, avant-garde visual arts department he envisioned.
Unfortunately, he died in the midst of these preparations, and his family and the hastily formed CalArts board reluctantly gave NYU’s Robert Corrigan a mandate to start his own kind of school. Corrigan and his provost, Herbert Blau, then ignored Chouinard as if it were some kind of difficult stepchild. They fired 98% of its faculty and made off with its accreditation and equipment. This pillage was painfully known around town as “the rape of Chouinard.”