Deep into his fabled career, Walt Disney conceived of a new school for nurturing future generations of creative talent: a multidisciplinary “community of the arts” built around the real-life experience of working artists instead of the conventions of the academy. Moreover, the school would remove the walls separating the creative disciplines and encourage artists from different branches to mix and collaborate as a way of sparking new ideas and methods.
Walt and his brother Roy started making this vision a reality in 1961 when they formed California Institute of the Arts through the merger of Chouinard Art Institute, founded by Nelbert Chouinard, and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, guided by its trustee, Lulu May Von Hagen. Von Hagen worked closely with Walt to establish CalArts, and she became the Institute's first Board Chair.
A decade later, in 1970, the new college, CalArts, opened its doors to offer programs in art, design, film, music, theater and dance. It turned out to be a fiercely countercultural version of Walt’s utopian concept, and yet the Institute immediately became a hotbed of artistic originality.