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News . Feature Stories . New Affiliation Builds Bridge to Beijing


April 05, 2013

New Affiliation Builds Bridge to Beijing

CIA enters agreement with the Central Academy of Fine Art in China.

By Karen Sandstrom

An agreement between the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Central Academy of Fine Art (CAFA) in China will pave the way for a new cohort of Chinese art students to complete their degrees in Cleveland.

One of the premiere colleges of art and design in China, and well respected internationally, CAFA is under the direct charge of China’s Ministry of Education. It was named by Chairman Mao Zedong, and is renowned for its six divisions: a School of Fine Art, School of Chinese Painting, School of Design, School of Architecture, School of Humanities and the College of City Design.

CIA has joined a small group of art schools worldwide which accept for enrollment graduates of the International Foundation Course program at the Beijing-based CAFA. CIA could begin admitting CAFA’s international-program students as early as fall of 2013. "Increased global reach and international recruitment are part of CIA's strategic planning. This success in China is part of a multi-national effort that includes India and Brazil." said CIA President Grafton Nunes.

President Nunes announced this week the new partnership, which involved the efforts of many, and was forged by Christopher Whittey, vice president of academic affairs. Whittey traveled to China last year and met his CAFA counterpart, Xu Bing, through Professor Diana Chou, a scholar-in-residence at CIA. It was then that Xu Bing described the international foundation program at CAFA.

“This highly unique program is a one-year-long, intensive course of study in English and foundation studio skills,” Whittey said. “After that year, these students go out to complete a four-year BFA at partner art schools around the world. The Cleveland Institute of Art is one of only four colleges in the United States, and one of 11 total colleges around the world to have this relationship with CAFA.”

CAFA applicants will have to meet minimum grade requirements in a variety of disciplines and submit a digital portfolio. Waivers will be granted for certain CIA Foundation classes, but these must be replaced with studio electives.

CIA offers CAFA students a unique art education even as this affiliation enriches the Institute’s core student body, whose futures lie in a global world.

“It is our contention that being connected in this way, having our students engaged with the world while attending CIA as undergrads, prepares students for their vibrant art and design futures,” Whittey said.

Over the years, CIA has enrolled a number of students from China and elsewhere. But Whittey said the new relationship signals an exciting development in Cores + Connections, CIA’s mission to build on its relationships with schools, businesses and organizations locally and worldwide. 

That mission is a strong draw for prospective students, Whittey said.

“We were told that it might require three or four years to begin to see CAFA students enroll here at the Cleveland Institute of Art, but we are already — in the first year out — seeing a number of them apply,” Whittey said.

CIA recently has expanded recruitment efforts nationally and internationally, said Robert Borden, executive director of enrollment and financial aid. “These efforts help ensure a sustainable enrollment that is not over-dependent on the Northeast Ohio region alone,” he said, “and also help to continue to diversify the student body in many ways.”

Other American schools that have agreements with CAFA include the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, California College of the Arts, and the School of Visual Arts in New York.

“In the time I have spent at CAFA, I have seen that the work of these students is simply amazing,” Whittey said. “I relished how the entire floor dedicated to this International Foundation Course program is completely abuzz with creative activity. We are looking forward to having these budding artists and designers join the mix with our talented students at CIA.”

Above: Christopher Whittey, vice president of academic affairs, shakes hands with his CAFA counterpart Xu Bing in Beijing.

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