California College of the Arts: From Ceramics Monthly’s MFA Factor

Rooted in a critically engaged artistic practice, the graduate program in fine arts at the California College of the Arts helps students to achieve a deeper understanding of their own ideas and practice while gaining greater awareness of the global context of contemporary art.
The fine arts program supports the widest range of interdisciplinary and medium-focused practices. The faculty work in painting/drawing, photography, social practices, sculpture, media arts, glass, jewelry/metal, printmaking, textiles, wood/furniture and ceramics, and there are facilities dedicated to each of these areas. Discipline-based critiques offer extended dialogue within specific media and cross-disciplinary critiques address shared ideas across all media in contemporary art.


Nathan Lynch is a sculptor and performance artist and has been teaching at CCA since 2001. Collaboration and experimentation are major components of his practice. Since receiving his MFA from Mills College, Lynch has had residencies and studios at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass Village, Colorado; the Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California; and the Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, Vermont. His recent performance pieces have been held in New York, Oregon, Virginia and Scotland.

Left: “Albino Goose,” 32 in. (81 cm) in height, handbuilt ceramic with low-fire glaze, Douglas Fir, wire, 2006.

Adjunct ceramics professor John Toki has been teaching at CCA for thirteen years. Toki holds an MFA from California College of Arts and Crafts. He has lectured and conducted workshops all over the world and has served as an advisor to the European Ceramic Workcentre, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands.

Arthur Gonzalez holds an MA in painting from California State University, Sacramento, and an MFA in ceramics from the University of California, Davis. He is represented by the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, California, and has been an associate professor at CCA since 1991.

Left “Song of a Drunken Angel,” 70 in. (178 cm) in height, ceramic and leather on top of contemporary Iranian felt (by Melina Raissnia), 2007.

John DeFazio is an an adjunct faculty member in ceramics and interdisciplinary studies and has been teaching at CCA for six years. He earned his MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute and is represented by Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco, and Garth Clark Gallery in New York City.

Left: “Pop Tombstone,” 46 in. (117 cm) in height, cast and glazed earthenware with china paint and fired decals, 1996.

This post was excerpted from Graduate Programs in Ceramic Art: Profiles of Several Top Institutions for Obtaining an MFA in Ceramics, which is free to Ceramic Arts Daily Subscribers.

Graduate Students
naoko okabe
I chose CCA for its unique one-on-one studio practice system, its relatively large art community and its liberal attitude towards different media. Here, we are all in one big pot regardless of what medium we work with, and teachers encourage you to challenge yourself.
While in school, I find it’s almost impossible to pursue exhibition opportunities. I’m constantly behind in the required academic readings and in creating my work. There are a few students who are aggressively pursuing exhibitions. I don’t know how they do it! After graduation, I plan on opening my own art store. I will go back to graphic design if it is needed. I still enjoy that kind of work.
stacy martin
I graduated from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, in 1988 with a sculpture, emphasis in ceramics. Prior to admission into CCA, I worked in the newsroom at the San Francisco Chronicle, and still do occasionally write freelance art reviews for local media. I decided to go to CCA for several reasons; specifically, the lack of growth in my work and the need to be a part of a larger community of individuals directly involved in contemporary art in the Bay Area. CCA is historically one of the epicenters for ceramic art, notably in the 1960s and ’70s with the rise from craft to accepted art form. The supportive environment is a pleasure to be in and the facilities are wonderful. Even more important, however, is the push to further address issues and ideas being handled in the art world today, outside of the standard technical dialog that this medium can often have difficulty moving beyond.
julie ann travis
I went straight into graduate school after undergraduate. During my senior year I knew that I was not ready to leave school. I felt I was just getting to a place in my work that really mattered.
I have a couple of residencies lined up after school, and I am also in the process of proposing some site-specific pieces around the San Francisco area. I hope to always be learning and stimulated by my enviroment. Opportunities can present themself as a result of one’s own expression of desire to make art about the beliefs, experiences and curiosities they are most compelled by.
erik scollon
I liked CCA not only because of the strength of the faculty, but because of its dual emphasis on theory and practice. The conceptual and theoretical nature of the graduate program’s classroom studies along with the rich history of ceramics and amazing facilities at CCA made it an ideal place to explore not only the content of my claywork, but find strong support and critical discussion within an interdisciplinary framework.
I took ten years between undergraduate and graduate school. I always knew that I would come back to graduate school, but I thought it was important to wait until I was ready to get the most out of it.
I’d like to teach at the college/university level after graduation while simultaneously working on a slow but steady exhibition record.

Program Details
2-year program
450 total/30 ceramics applicants per year, 50 total/3-5 ceramics accepted
Three formal reviews, written thesis, and group thesis exhibition
Teaching Assistantships available
Highlights of the Facilities
180 square feet of private studio space for all graduate students
12 electric kilns, 14 gas kilns, 1 gas envelope kiln
spray booth
Dedicated glaze room, plaster room and slip casting area with automatic mixers, 2 clay mixers
12 electric kick wheels
Sandblasting booth


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