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  • Writer's pictureArtCenter College of Design

ArtCenter Finds New Pathways to Recruit Diverse Students and Boost the Importance of an Art and Design Education

Photos courtesy of ArtCenter College of Design

This article was originally written by Solvej Schou and published on on April 9, 2024 under the title, "Paving New Paths."


On a fall day at ArtCenter’s Hillside Campus—with the rolling San Gabriel Mountains stretched out in the distance—high school senior Justin Arrieta checks his portfolio, which includes black-and-white graphite sketches of Spider-Man toys.  

Standing in a long line outside a classroom to talk to an ArtCenter Admissions counselor, he is one of more than 700 students who have come to campus for Los Angeles National Portfolio Day, an annual event in which prospective students meet with admissions counselors from 44 art and design colleges from around the country.  

“Being here gives me hope,” says Arrieta, a student with the community-based arts education nonprofit Greetings From South-Central L.A. “There's so much I can do, from storyboarding to graphic design. And I can get a job. That helps counter the idea, in my Hispanic community, that you can’t make it in art.”

Until a few weeks ago, Arrieta had never heard of ArtCenter, though he lives just 20 miles away, in South L.A. That’s when he and other Greetings students visited campus for an ArtCenter-organized workshop, Storyboarding for Animation, taught by alum Ainsley Dye (BFA 19), a storyboard artist at Disney TV Animation. For the Portfolio Day event, the Admissions Office provided transportation to campus for high school students from Greetings and two other local arts education nonprofits, Inner-City Arts and Las Fotos Project.  

ArtCenter alum Ainsley Dye teaching Greetings From South-Central L.A. students in an ArtCenter Admissions-organized Storyboarding for Animation workshop at the College. Photo by Juan Posada.

Given the end of affirmative action at colleges and universities—rolling back more than 40 years of race being considered in admissions—building these kinds of bridges from traditionally underserved communities to higher education is not just important, but essential.  

“The Supreme Court decision places even more emphasis on how important this work of community outreach will continue to be as we move forward,” says newly minted ArtCenter Vice President of Admissions Tim Campos, who previously served as the associate vice president of recruitment and outreach at the College. In his new leadership role, Campos defines himself as “a small statistic as a first-generation college graduate, Chicano and queer.”  

“How can we provide more opportunities and access for students from Latinx and Black communities?” he asks, in his office. “We want to ensure that lived experience is reflected in our applicants. We approach our outreach by focusing on cultivation of partnerships, developing recruitment programs addressing issues of access, and informing students from underserved communities about careers related to art and design.”  

The Admissions Office’s outreach efforts—such as alumni- and faculty-led workshops at nonprofit community arts organizations and schools in the greater Los Angeles area—provide access and awareness to students from underrepresented backgrounds and build a pipeline for prospective applicants. Such efforts have set a precedent for years to come, Campos says. Also essential is ensuring that prospective students are aware of and have access to potential financial resources to attend the College. ArtCenter administers more than $22 million in scholarships each year.  

There is much progress to be made when it comes to boosting representation of Black and Latinx students at the College. As of fall 2022, of ArtCenter’s students, 9% were Hispanic/Latinx, and just 1% were Black. According to 2023 U.S. Census statistics, L.A. County residents are 49% Hispanic/Latinx and 9% Black.  

In 2022 and 2023, Admissions—with support from the College’s Alexander and Adelaide Hixon Fund—hosted more than 40 outreach workshops focused on developing relevant art and design skills. These workshops were held on campus, on site, and online for community arts partners that included Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), Inner-City Arts, Ryman Arts, Self-Help Graphics and Las Fotos Project. And Admissions’ outreach efforts, workshops and partnerships stretch back for more than a decade, adds Campos.  

Alum Derek Ortega teaching California School of the Arts-San Gabriel Valley (CSArts-SGV) students in the ArtCenter Admissions-organized workshop Visual Storytelling for TV & Film Animation. Photo by Juan Posada.

“Through these partnerships, ArtCenter is able to reach students who might not typically have the opportunity otherwise,” says alum Derek Ortega (BFA 18), a visual development artist at Laika Studios (Coraline; Kubo and the Two Strings), who has been teaching workshops such as Visual Storytelling for TV & Film Animation since 2022 for such partners as Inner-City Arts and Ryman Arts. “I find it so rewarding getting to be a helping hand in demystifying what a viable art career looks like.”  

For alum Dye, who taught the storyboarding workshop and has been teaching workshops since 2022, diverse voices are critical to storytelling. “Some of the most exciting moments in these workshops are when students tell me how their brains are bursting with ideas for their own stories, characters and worlds, but they weren’t sure there was a career in it,” she says. “To tell them there is and to see their faces light up fills me with a joy I can't put into words.”

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