Going to school for Art… People might judge you for it, but you can’t let that get to you. If art is what you want to do for a living, then go to school for art. If you wasted your time trying to please everyone else, you’d end up miserable (and maybe in school studying economics).
If you put the time in, there is a professional place for you in the art world. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with a company, and you don’t need to get Picasso-level famous.
Freelancing has grown a lot over the past few years. Services like Upwork have popped up. They help freelancers, especially beginners, link up with clients. They offer an ever-changing job board, and payment protection when you land a client.
Some people give it a bad wrap, but there are worthy clients on there, you just have to find them (and then hook them!).
The point is, smaller companies are turning to these freelance markets for any work they need done that they can’t do in-house–this often includes art.
There is a place for you. There are ways for you to make money doing what you love (and just think of how happy you’ll be!). Having a strong art foundation and a collegiate network of opportunities can help.
Today’s list brings us to the great California Republic. Just about 900 miles of pacific coast action, the state of California stretches from Mexico all the way up to Oregon.
California is home to a diverse collection of landscapes (great for inspiration!): the forest of behemoth redwoods, cliffs overlooking miles of beaches, mountains, a desert–what more could you want?
California has a lot of fun cities–Los Angeles and San Francisco being the two most popular. LA is home to glamorous Hollywood, stardom, and traffic (lol–it’s true, traffic is really bad around LA).
San Fran has wild seals, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the historic, real-life prison that you always get confused with Azkaban. California has a lot to offer, and a great art education is no exception.
If you’re interested in the top art colleges in California, look no further. The top schools can be found below.
Our methodology includes a few different ranking factors: Faculty caliber, alumni satisfaction, employment after graduation, and strength of the program.There are good art programs and there are bad art programs. Just because a school offers an art program doesn’t mean it’ll be the best fit for your needs.
Ask the alumni questions. Email a professor at the school. Talk to admissions. We can provide the general information, but finding the best fit is up to you.The numbers on this list do not denote ranking, they are there for article clarity.
1. Academy of Art University
- School of Animation & Visual Effects
- School of Fine Art
- School of Illustration
- School of Game Design
- School of Graphic Design
- BFA/ MFA in Animation & Visual Effects
- BFA in Fine Art
- BFA/ MFA in Game Development
- BFA/ MFA in Graphic Design
- BFA in Jewelry/ Metal Arts
- BFA in Visual Development
- BFA in Photography
- BFA in Illustration
The Academy of Art University is based in San Francisco. It’s a school that makes an effort to feel more like a community than a university. This kind of sentiment can lead to an easier time networking, and greater opportunities down the road.
Networking is an important skill to develop. If you aren’t networking while you’re in school, you’re missing out on a big part of the value a post-secondary education provides.
The Animation and Visual Effects program lets you focus on visual effects, storyboarding, 2D animation and stop motion, 3D modeling, and 3D animation.
The Fine Arts program “teaches students the creative and technical skills needed to thrive as career artists. Advanced instruction is offered in non-figurative and figurative fine art, including painting, sculpting, and printmaking.”
The Sculpture department at the Academy of Art University has “one of the largest and most advanced facilities of its kind in North America,” and the printmaking facilities are on the cutting edge.
Alumni of the illustration program have found work at Random House, Marvel, National Geographic, The New York Times, and more. Comics, graphic novels, advertising, interactive illustration–the BFA in Illustration teaches you the skills you need for these projects and more.
The Graphic Design program has produced a number of successful alumni. Past graduates have scored jobs at companies like Google, Apple Inc., Nike, Square, and more. In this program, you will “learn to influence marketing strategies, raise awareness of critical issues, and facilitate cultural change.”
2. California Institute of the Arts
Department: The School of Art
- BFA/ MFA in Art
- BFA/ MFA in Graphic Design
- BFA/ MFA in Photography and Media
- MFA in Art and Technology
The California Institute of the Arts is “renowned internationally as a game-changer in the education of professional artists…We bring out visionary creative talent, unlike any other university, school or conservatory.”
CalArts describes its Art program as “a forum for the sustained exploration of possibilities in cultural production, the BFA and MFA tracks in Art push students to question conventional ideas about contemporary art.”
In the art program, you’ll have access to instruction across a selection of media–drawing, digital imaging, video, painting, printmaking, and more.
The Graphic Design program “emphasizes both practical and conceptual skills, and enables each designer to integrate a command of visual language with imagination, theory and technology.”
CalArts makes an effort to provide mentoring and instruction on an individual level–this kind of personal attention can keep you focused on improving and push you to deliver your best work.
3. California College of Arts
Department: Department of Art
- BFA in Animation
- BFA in Ceramics
- BFA in Community Arts
- BFA in Fashion Design
- BFA in Glass
- BFA in Graphic Design
- BFA in Illustration
- BFA in Industrial Design
- BFA in Interaction design
- BFA in Jewelry/Metal Arts
- BFA in Painting/Drawing
- BFA in Photography
- BFA in Printmaking
- BFA in Sculpture
The California College of Arts has a large selection of BFA programs to choose from. There are programs featuring 2D and 3D digital work, such as animation and graphic design.
There are also a number of programs featuring 2D and 3D physical work–glass, metal arts, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and the list goes on.
The benefit of having so many programs in one school is the great potential for interdisciplinary work. Collaborating across disciplines is something you’ll have to do for your entire professional career, so getting a handle on it early is definitely the way to go.
The Animation program features instruction by animators from Pixar, Tippett, and Dreamworks–a real powerhouse lineup. The illustration program will have you working on paper and on screen with software. CCA boasts instructors who have won awards for their illustrations.
4. Otis College of Art and Design
- The Communication Arts Department
- The Digital Media Department
- The Fine Arts Department
- The Fashion Design Department
–BFA in Communication Arts:
- Concentration in Graphic Design
- Concentration in Illustration
- MFA in Graphic Design
–Degree in Digital Media:
- Concentration in Animation
- Concentration in Game and Entertainment Design
- Concentration in Motion Design
–Degree in Fashion Design:
- Concentration in Costume Design
–Degree in Fine Arts:
- Concentration in Painting
- Concentration in Photography
- Concentration in Sculpture/New Genres
–Degree in Toy Design
The Communication Arts Department offers only three programs, one of which is Graphic Design. You’ll experiment with many forms of visual communication, everything from posters to websites.
The Otis College of Art and Design has a Communication Arts Department that now features two programs: Graphic Design and Illustration.
At OCAD, you’ll focus on your discipline, you’ll be taught your discipline, but you’ll be working together with students in other disciplines as well. Professionally, you will be working with other departments and people with other skill sets–OCAD prepares you for that by introducing collaboration early and often.
These disciplines will have you making everything from tattoos and posters, to apps and ezines. Otis College of Art and Design has strong professional development at its core–as a student, you will be engaged in the field, in some capacity, by the time you leave the college.
This usually means an internship, and many students have those internships turn into employment opportunities.
OCAD focuses on portfolio development and entrepreneurship, so an internship or employment at a company aren’t the only outcomes you can pursue. Located close to LA, you have an excellent opportunity to engage with the city and the many businesses located within.
The Digital Media Department features concentrations in animation, game and entertainment design, and motion design. You’ll learn how to tell stories in a 3D space, using the latest software and techniques to craft the most compelling versions of the stories you want to tell.
Alumni who have gone through this program have landed jobs at studios like Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney, Blizzard, Sony Online Entertainment, and more.
The Fine Arts Department features faculty who still practice their art professionally. If you’re interested in more traditional artistic disciplines, this could be the program for you.
All students spend their first year exploring the disciplines within their major program. You’ll decide on your concentration during your sophomore year, so you have plenty of time to explore the options before locking one in.