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Chouinard Art Institute © by KC Moore

June 7, 2011

Chouinard was a unique school. It was started by Nelbert Chouinard, the only American woman to run an art school at that time in history. She was a graduate of Brooklyn’s Pratt Art School and saw a need for an equally prestigious art school on the west coast.   In 1921 she founded her school at 2606 W. Eight Street in Los Angeles, formerly a private home.

“I had a dream that I was in this big barn and it was filled with young people; everywhere I went there were young people and they were creating.  That was the beginning of Chouinard.”  Nelbert Chouinard

Eventually she became friends with Walt Disney and they struck an agreement – she needed students and his new animators needed to know how to draw. A perfect compliment!  This arrangement lasted many decades until the death of Walt Disney.

Some very famous names are connected with Chouinard legacy including teachers such as Millard Sheets, Rex Brandt, Donald Graham, Richard Haines and Dan Lutz.  Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros was also associated, in fact, the list is a veritable who’s-who of the art world.  Costume design was a major part of the Chouinard experience.  Theadora Van Runkle and the Academy-award winners Edith Head and Marjory Best learned or taught there.

“…Chouinard has a lively presence in L.A. art history because dozens of prominent artists worked or studied there.  Remembered as a free-wheeling environment that taught the basics and fostered creativity rather than promoting a particular style, the school inspired fierce loyalty.”  Suzanne Muchnic, Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2003

“The highest achievement of student and faculty has come from the independent art school.  Long before I was born, Chouinard instated programs that, at their best, have not yet been excelled.”  Walter Hopps, Critic, writer, historian.

Beyond its many years, it continues to impact the world of art.

KC Moore can be reached


From → Art News

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