Vermont College of Fine Arts to Collaborate With California College | Education | Seven Days

click to enlarge Andrew Ramsammy at College Hall in Montpelier - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS

  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Andrew Ramsammy at College Hall in Montpelier

Vermont College of Fine Arts has joined forces with the California Institute of the Arts to start offering residency programs at the Los Angeles-area school. Under the new affiliation, VCFA will eliminate 10 local jobs and sell College Hall, its iconic building in Montpelier.

VCFA, which is devoted to graduate fine arts education, will hold its summer residency this year at Colorado College, as it did in 2023. Next year, it will begin offering its residencies at the Santa Clarita, Calif., college during that school’s winter and summer breaks.

No money will change hands as part of the affiliation, which starts in July, and VCFA will retain its board and academic independence, according to 

interim president Andrew Ramsammy. The partnership will enable the struggling VCFA to offer more student services, such as financial aid counseling and mental health services. And CalArts is set up for the kind of programs VCFA offers, such as design and visual arts, Ramsammy said.

“The campus at CalArts is world-class,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “There’s the smell of paint and sawdust in the air. They truly are makerspaces, and that will be exciting for us.”

CalArts, in turn, will be able to tap into VCFA’s accreditation, which allows it to offer its art courses online.

“What we bring to the table is a robust MFA program, and our accreditation from [the New England Commission of Higher Education] allows us to teach anywhere in the U.S.,” Ramsammy said.

CalArts said on its website that the arrangement will save both colleges money by allowing them to share services. The California school, which was founded in 1970, said it expects the arrangement to generate additional revenue for CalArts within a year or so.

click to enlarge Andrew Ramsammy - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS

  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Andrew Ramsammy

VCFA was founded in 2008 on the grounds of a former Civil War hospital.

Newbury College started operating there in 1834, and the campus buildings have been through many changes of ownership. The most recent was the purchase last year of several buildings by the Greenway Center for Equity and Sustainability, a new undergraduate engineering program.

The tall College Hall is the only building not under contract. While the building hasn’t been listed with a broker, Ramsammy said there is a possible buyer.

“It won’t be a surprise to folks,” he said of the buyer, whom he declined to name. “They already have interest in the surrounding properties.”

VCFA, which had 49 employees before the job cuts were announced on Tuesday, won’t leave Vermont entirely; the college plans to rent some office space from the new owner of College Hall. Ramsammy would like to see its enrollment, now 213, grow to 300, something he expects to happen over the next few years. CalArts has 1,400 students.

VCFA alumni and other stakeholders are active in a Facebook group and have watched closely as the college administration has sought to cut costs. Many sharply criticized then-president Leslie Ward after she announced in 2022 that VCFA would move its residencies to Colorado College and to Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.

The tone on Tuesday was largely accepting.

“I can live with the CalArts decision, but being Vermont College in California is just weird,” one group member wrote. “We’re pretty creative. Anyone have ideas for a new name?”

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