CalArts is committed to providing a course of study, which advances both the practice of the arts, and a broad program of general education designed to enable students to consider aesthetic questions within larger socio-cultural, ethical and political contexts. The emphasis on the close relationship between Critical Studies and studio practice at CalArts reflects the visionary commitment to inter and cross-disciplinary study on which the Institute was founded.
A CalArts education is based on both artistic and intellectual rigor. To ensure that each undergraduate has the broad knowledge and cultural sophistication needed for successful arts careers in today's world, all candidates for the BFA degree must complete the Critical Studies undergraduate requirements—offered through the School of Critical Studies—in addition to coursework in their individual programs.
Designed to broaden vision and encourage well-informed, innovative artmaking, the Critical Studies undergraduate requirements help students develop analytical, writing research skills, and to learn about a broad range of topics in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and cultural studies. Many courses directly related to the student's own métier are also included in the Critical Studies curriculum.
Developing an effective general education program in an art institute, as distinct from a college or university, presents a particular challenge. At CalArts, undergraduate students are selected by faculty in their métiers on the basis of the talent demonstrated in an audition or portfolio. Students admitted to CalArts can therefore vary widely in their academic experience and skills. The challenge for Critical Studies is to tailor a curriculum to students who define themselves primarily as artists which at the same time enables them to acquire conceptual, analytical and communication skills relevant to their artmaking and to their larger roles as artists in contemporary society. The Critical Studies curriculum is designed to develop the powers of analysis and communication which students need to produce innovative and challenging art and to articulate their vision in the larger social context.
Students awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree will have met the following learning goals:
Liberal arts/general education credits from other colleges can also count as Critical Studies units.
For information on transfer credit and limitations on units accepted towards Critical Studies, visit https://calarts.edu/admissions/applicants/transfer/credit .