Struggling Vermont art college finds affiliate

April 3, 2024

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The Vermont College of Fine Arts, which has been seeking a buyer or partner to help it stay financially stable, will soon be affiliated with the California Institute of the Arts.

“The affiliation between our schools will strengthen both institutions and allow us both to continue to broaden the range of academic opportunities and creative collaborations available to artists,” Ravi Rajan, president of the California art institute, said in a press release Tuesday. “Together, we are expanding the arts ecosystem and supporting intergenerational learning that keeps artists at the center of all that we do.”

The affiliation agreement is expected to be formalized by July, pending approval from the institutions’ governing boards and accreditors.

Once it’s under the art institute’s umbrella, VCFA will be able to access shared administrative and student services as well as other institutional support and guidance. However, the two institutions will remain independent from one another and will maintain separate boards, admissions processes, faculty, degree programs and academic requirements.

“With our shared focus on supporting the development of diverse artists and fostering dialogue among disciplines, the mission alignment between CalArts and VCFA couldn’t be stronger,” Rajan said in a news release. “Our institutions share many values within arts education, including a commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, and access; generative artmaking; academic excellence; creative freedom; and artistic experimentation.”

Starting in January 2025, VCFA will hold its biannual, in-person residencies on the art institute’s campus in Santa Clarita.

VCFA, which is the only art school in the country exclusively for graduate students, has experienced an enrollment drop in recent years (from 340 in 2022 to 215, according to VTDigger) like many small colleges in the northeast. It sold off several of the buildings on its Montpelier campus last year and moved its two-week in-person residency requirement to Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

VCFA is not the only art college to have faced enrollment declines. Last fall, the Art Institutes, a troubled system of for-profit colleges, closed all eight of its remaining campuses after closing 20 locations in 2018 following a loss of accreditation.

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