Our Leadership Class' Tour of California College of the Arts

Last week students of ArtEsteem’s West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project visited the California College of the Arts (CCA) Oakland Campus. The trip was led by CCA students of the Art in the Public Interest course, which is taught by professor Amana Harris. Harris is also the Executive Director of Attitudinal Healing Connection Inc. and every year brings in CCA students as interns for the organization.

Emerging slowly and rotating slightly, the black iron bar exited the orange glow coming from the mouth of the furnace. Punctuated by a lemon sized orange jewel of molten glass, Brett ( 22 year old glass student at CCA, and student intern at AHC from Amana Harris’ AIPI class) skillfully manipulated the iron bar out from the 2000 degree furnace, and with great care swung it around and brought it close to a large sand box in the middle of the room. The glass, if dropped accidentally could dissipate its heat safely in the sand.  From around the room, and standing behind the large red safety line painted on the ground, the class of the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership project, watched quietly and intently as other glass students from CCA watched listlessly as spectators of this fascinating spectacle daily, yet with a certain satisfaction observing the faces of others less fortunate to be so well acquainted with the process. Brett explained the challenges and joys of working with glass, especially the need to kiln some pieces for weeks on end to gradually reduce the temperature of the glass and ensure it does not explode.  This was just one of the first stops that the WOLLP class made on their recent field trip to the California College of the Arts campus.

The next stop was the ceramics studio where the group was greeted with warm lighting, dark wood shelving filled with varieties of sculpture pieces, as well as clay vessels in various degrees of completion. They were greeted with a welcoming attitude and beckoned in by CCA student Kelsey to first take a look at the 3D ceramic printer that the students have at their disposal.

In the far corner of the studio 10 professional electric pottery wheels were lined up and the students of WOLLP were treated to a demonstration by Yao, an upperclassman thrower who was fabled to be able to throw backward, facing away from the wheel, with his hands behind his back, although the group was unable to see such a feat on this visit.  He demonstrated the delicate control and subtle strength needed to first center a block of clay, literally thrown at the center of the wheel when starting a new piece, and then to guide it up into the elegant curves of a vase, bowl or cup.  Later the WOLLP students were able to get their hands dirty, and try to coax a recognizable form from their own shapeless mound of potential.  

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The trip to CCA culminated with a trip to the animation department where the students learned that artistic expression and creativity could lead them to a decidedly more technical world where powerful mac computers and 27 inch Wacom graphics tablets are the tools of the trade.  With our ever changing world becoming more digital, Grace and Kalista, our CCA animation majors who were chaperoning this leg of the trip explained to us how the traditional and the digital meet in front of the glow of a high resolution computer screen in a technique they all lovingly called “tradigital”.  That is traditional techniques done digitally.  

What trip to a college campus would be complete without a trip to the campus cafeteria.  After a long and intensive look at just some of the facilities available to students of CCA and a picture of what an art school education might look like in general, our students had worked up an appetite.  After a bite to eat it was time for us to pack up and return to our homes.  It is uncertain if what they saw and experienced might someday lead them down the path to an art school education, but one thing is certain:  CCA is an exciting and dynamic environment with the tools, the engaged student body, and the guidance from teachers for seemingly limitless expression of creativity.  We hope that that feeling will rub off on our students so that they can be the the next generation of active, expressive minds that believe in their limitless potential to change the world around them with their creative ideas, and that there is a place out there for them that is ready to offer support, and has the tools ready and waiting.