coast-robbo asked: hi, I just saw your post about that animation you made, and I heard that you are an LCAD alumni and I wanted to ask you about that. So how was your experience at LCAD? Where the teachers and courses superb? How was life there? I've been looking at quite a number of art colleges, and LCAD is one of my main choices. Mostly because I've seen how impressive senior work was, and how students got design internships. (also because the Laguna Beach area is really swank despite my dislike for the ocean.)
Hi Coast-robbo! I’m going to answer your question in-depth, so I’m sorry if this post is a little on the longer side. I’ll also make my post public, in case anyone else is wondering. Not sure if this is the best idea.
If I’m being honest, LCAD was/is a mixed bag. I absolutely LOVED the professors and the faculty (and still love them); the quality of the education you can get there is phenomenal. I also made a lot of amazingly talented friends. It’s (generally) a great, supportive community. Going here and being surrounded by all this talent basically forces you to improve.
That being said, LCAD has this awful problem I like to call The Administration. After getting 500 or so students to pay an absurdly high amount of tuition, you discover that (1) the teachers don’t actually get paid very much, (2) the facilities are awful, (3) there isn’t 24-hour access, and (4) there’s a mysterious lack of administration friendliness to students.
Basically, you’re going to run into problems. Lots of them. And all of these problems have nothing to do with the quality of the teachers, the faculty, or the students. Why?
Here’s an in-depth list of my problems with LCAD:
1. No 24-hour access
This one is huge! The buildings/workspaces are only open from 8:30 AM until midnight—on weekdays. They close early on weekends. What’s worse, the senior studios—which are integral for animation students—also have these limited hours. Literally every animation student and teacher has asked administration to extend these hours. The Administration, however, doesn’t really care.
Unless you’re exceptionally rich, working at the studios can be the only possible way to be productive. These limited hours, compared to 24/7 access, just…suck. A lot.
2. Useless facilities
Also huge! A lot of the money being spent in the animation program is being used on, contrary to the head of animation’s wishes, really expensive and pointless iMacs. The thing is, about 2% of the students use these iMacs. I used them to mainly check my e-mail.
3. It’s Tiny
Each year, the school accepts more students. The funny thing is, LCAD never physically expands. This is bad. There’s a limited amount of classes and teachers, and many students get screwed over simply because they couldn’t register for classes in time. These students are forced to stay at LCAD longer and have no choice but to shell out the cash.
4. Registering for classes is a pain in the ass and confusing
Sometimes, it doesn’t even work! Then, you have to e-mail the registrar to get you into classes. The best part is, the class date and time may suddenly change the day before classes start. The best best part is that you won’t get any notification whatsoever.
4. Laguna Beach is generally terrible
I’ve been to the beach maybe 20 times while at LCAD. Here’s what I have to say about it:
Your mileage, of course, may vary.
6. Classrooms are kinda sucky
AC/heating conditions are sort of on and off. You never know if it’s going to be too hot, too cold, or too leaky. This is an ultimately minor problem, but guest lectures get more and more crowded every year.
7. Every year, The Administration grows more powerful
This is a broad complaint, but the way everything is handled is pretty awful. I mentioned registering for classes, but be prepared for headaches when it comes to paying tuition.
We really have no idea where all that tuition money goes. More useless iMacs that get littered around the school, I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
8. There’s this mandatory class called Acting for Animators
And it’s the biggest waste of time. Everyone else really loves it though. It could be that it’s actually a great class and that I’m a horrible person. But maybe, just maybe, it’s actually an awful class and everyone else is a horrible person. I’d go more in-depth, but this is such a petty complaint that I really shouldn’t have included it on the list in the first place.
Okay, so there’s a lot of problems. And it looks like I’m really discouraging people from attending LCAD. But pay attention to the type of problems I have with it—notice how none of those issues have anything to do with the people who attend and teach at LCAD.
That’s because the people—students and teachers—are basically the best.
I’ll make a comparison to my previous school, MCAD. It had amazing, amazing facilities that were extremely accommodating to students. Friendly teachers, great city, and 24/7 access. It’s actually a perfect school for someone who is extremely driven and self-taught. Said person also has to be extremely well-practiced in the foundations of art, because MCAD really doesn’t teach that. If you’re anything like I was, I went into it not knowing how to draw. After 2.5 years, I still didn’t know how to draw. There was just no emphasis on the foundations of good construction and gesture drawing, and I really suffered for that. Despite all of those amazing facilities, attending MCAD was like ingesting artistic poison.
In my first month at LCAD, I gained more knowledge and skill than the 2.5 years I attended MCAD. I also learned humility. Pretty much everyone was way better than me at drawing, and I still think they are! You’d think there’d be this toxic competitiveness at LCAD, but all I saw was people being supportive and helpful. It was, first and foremost, about learning. (Again, your mileage may vary).
So here’s the thing you have to decide on. Will the education be worth it? You’ll be sinking a lot of time, blood, money, and sweat into LCAD. You’ll be immersed in awful facilities and will have to deal with The Administration in the same way that you deal with bird poop. But you’ll be taught by ex-supervising animators at Disney, Blizzard artists, major industry professionals, and one of the most well-known (and pretty frickin’ great) art teachers in Southern California. By attending LCAD, you’re guaranteed to improve…provided, of course, you put in the effort.
Is it worth it? I thought so. I still think so. I’m also in a lot of debt, looking for a job (and failing), and considered a massive failure by my family.
TL;DR - LCAD has the worst* facilities and administration, but it also has an amazing and deep art education.
*The worst is probably an exaggeration. Consider this: the community college in Walnut, Mt. SAC, has way better facilities than LCAD. It’s also 99% cheaper and has some really great teachers who also teach at LCAD. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯