The Institute Archives will be closed March 20 - October 1, 2015 due to a construction project on campus.
Welcome to the CalArts Institute Archives
Our collections contain documents, photographs, publications, clippings, programs, sound files, video recordings, posters, and miscellaneous items documenting the history of CalArts. There are also a small number of documents, primarily publications, from Chouinard Art School and the Los Angeles Music Conservatory, two institutions which merged in the late 1960’s to form CalArts.
Our mission is to identify, collect, arrange, describe, preserve, and make accessible records of enduring historical, administrative, legal, fiscal, educational, and artistic value which document the history of CalArts, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), the Center for New Performance (CNP), and the Community Arts Partnership (CAP). The Institute Archive serves as the institutional memory and final repository for official records generated by faculty, staff, students, academic programs, administrative offices, and campus organizations.
Currently, the CalArts cafeteria is undergoing a remodel that promises to accompany the colorful palette of communal activity that thrives within and from the people at CalArts with an equally varied dining experience that caters to wider persuasions of food eating characteristic to the Institute. In preparation for this construction, the offices and spaces just below the cafeteria were cleared out; their contents relocated either off campus or joined with other unaffected spaces that have room enough for temporary storage. The film library and its surrounding offices have had to be completely emptied, including a small room that houses the historical nucleus of the Institute, the CalArts Archives.
I assisted Kathy Carbone, the institute archivist, in moving some materials into a sister space, the Annex, that serves as another archival repository. During the summer, as part of the Research and Practice Fellowship initiated by the Provost’s office, we are processing some of these materials that we anticipate will be available for research and open for use to the Institute in the Fall 2015 semester. One such collection is that of Ed Emshwiller’s, who served as Dean of the Film/Video School from 1979 to 1985. The past weeks have been spent weeding through and organizing the extensive mass of papers, correspondences, press clippings, photographs, and notes that he bequeathed to CalArts.
Emshwiller’s professional career began in illustration for science fiction magazines and gallery paintings, but he also kept a growing relationship with film from very early on, buying a used 16mm projector when he was thirteen. Although his collection at CalArts does not include any illustration artwork, Luis Ortiz’s book, Emshwiller: Infinity X Two is a rich source of biographical information and includes in chronology many of Emshwiller’s art pieces. The CalArts film library holds DVDs and videocassettes of his film work, including compilations put together by the Anthology Film Archives, footage of televised interviews, and some restored versions of his films to the DVD format. All of the aforementioned are sources for his completed work, but his paper archive is a repository of beginnings, middles, and ends to just about everything he worked on.
Many of the materials I have gone through provide insight to his comprehensive résumé of accomplishments as well as his meticulous methods of organization. For many of his correspondences, he made copies of his replies, especially if they concerned legal or official matters like film distribution and compensation, and also marked and dated on the original letters when he sent his replies and related film material. Such attention to accountability allows the archivist to trace a unique chronology of events that lead to refreshing discoveries and pleasant realizations about the person behind the breadth of the collection.
Emshwiller applied and was awarded many grants to make films for various purposes including documentaries for the United States Information Agency, as well as presentations of his films at conferences and educational institutions. His practice took him to many corners of the world where he no doubt graced the place with his amicable presence and of course kept records of every proceeding. I find this practicality draws many valuable parallels for the active student artists at CalArts. Maintaining an organized portfolio of even the most minute and sometimes banal facets of a project is especially relevant to the project’s manifestation and enduring quality beyond its public appearance. Additionally, it lends itself well as another dimension of the artist as someone who has particular mirth and respect for the processes of their craft. In commune with other artists, this characteristic is simultaneously concealed in the nucleus of our thought processes, and its rare particularities can appear to furnish the rich and varied conversations that occur everyday, possibly supplemented, now, with a remodeled revision of food for thought.
Ed working with students on a film at CalArts, ca 1980
 Ortiz, Luis. Emshwiller: Infinity X Two. New York: Nonstop Press. 2007. P. 20.
New collections and exhibits
21 May 2015: As part of the CalArts Research and Practice Fellowship, we are currently processing the papers of visual artist Ed Emshwiller, former CalArts Provost (1981-1985), and Dean (1979-1985) and faculty member (1985-1990) of the School of Film/Video.